The 2004-2005
Great Lakes
Dining Car

Michael Engle
182 Speigletown Rd
Troy, NY 12182


Continuing to tell the story of the lunch wagon and dining car business that once prospered in the Great Lakes region.
With focus on the Great Lakes and neighboring states, and extra empathesis on Chautauqua County in New York.

[PAGE 2] Great Lakes Dining Car Wagoneer - 2003-4  [PAGE 2]


Focus on a Diner  -  3
  • Miss Port Henry Diner - Port Henry, NY
Focus on a Manufacturer  -  4
  •  Modern Dining Car Co.
In the News (Old)  -  7, 8
  •  Information gleaned from newspapers.
List of Manufacturers  -  2, 6
  •  The builders of the lunch cars.
In the News (New)  -  7
  • This year's news.
News from EBAY -  7, 8
  • Auctions of interest.
Research - 5, 8
  • Verified Diners we have learned about.


 My name is Michael Engle.  As a volunteer with the American Diner Museum I have learned about documenting the history of diners.  So, independently, I am researching the diners of the Great Lakes region to not only tell the stories, but save the history of these diners and the manufacturers.  During the 1920's and into the 1930's there was a dining car craze in this area, especially Chautauqua Co.  It even prompted one manufacturer to move to Dayton, Oh., in an attempt to introduce the dining car into Ohio and the Midwest.  This booklet is my attempt to help save the history of the owners and manufacturers of dining cars.

Dining Car Manufacturers

Ward & Dickinson Dining Car Co. -  Silver Creek, NY 1925-1938.  The most prolific builder of the region.  They started in mid 1924 building lunch cars in the open, and became a company in 1925.  Their motto was, "They're built to last."  Charles Ward left the company in late 1927

Closson Lunch Wagon Co. - Glens Falls, NY 1902-1912.  Westfield, NY 1912-1917? The first known builder of the region.  Albert Closson had his design patented in 1905.

Sorge - Silver Creek, NY 1940's

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[PAGE 3]  For more information, visit  [PAGE 3]

Focus on a diner  -  Miss Port Henry Diner

  The Miss Port Henry Diner, a Ward Dining Car built by the Ward & Dickinson Dinnig Car Co. in 1927, has seen a number of owners in its 70 plus years of operation.  Starting out in Glens Falls, NY as lunch cars were first meant to do, the diner was brought to the factories each day to serve the workers.  By 1932, the diner was sold, and moved to Port Henry.
  The Miss Port Henry followed the same path that the Miss Pittsfield(MA) Diner followed.  This diner was brought to a factory in Dalton, MA, before closer to New York.  The diner sat on US Route 20, just west of the heart of Pittsfield until a few years ago.  Fortunately, the Miss Port Henry Diner is still standing.
  The Miss Port Henry diner is one of only a handful of Ward & Dickinson diners that are still in business, and one of even fewer which are in such good shape.  Even if it is because of the restoration of the diner in 1996-7.  If you coould only visit one Ward & Dickinson diner, this is the diner to pick, hands down.
  Here is the skinny on the diner:  The diner opened up on Labor Day of 1933, owned by Wilford & Grace Tario.  They sold the diner on Oct 25, 1937 to Stanley Zelinsky, and he renamed it to "Stanley's Diner".  The diner was deeded to Leonard Bradley on Sept 10, 1963.  Pat & "Rose" Marie Capuano took over the diner on Aug 10, 1964 and renamed the diner, "Rose's Diner".  The name changed to "Laura's Diner" on Jan 22, 1982 when Laura Lehman took over the diner.
  The diner saw other owners and names until Linda Mullen & Hank D'Arcy took over the diner in 1996.  Through the hiring of Edward LeClair, a local carpenter, the diner was restored.  The first day of hte re-opening was December 16, 1996.  Initially, they were open 24 hours a day, but they eventually cut back the hours.
  On December 16, when the diner reopened, the owners brought back a special guest.  It was none other then Grace Tario, age 97, the original owner.  Grace was picked up in a White Limousine, and was given the honor of cutting the ribbon, officially re-opening the diner.  Another special guest was on hand, and again, it was another former owner.  Rose Capuano, who put in 14 hour days from 1964 to 1978.
  As the 21st century started, the diner saw a successive number of new owners and minor alterations.  Some of them include, repainting the exterior and interior and cutting larger openings in parts of the diner.  To a diner purist, these changes are nothing short of a pure shame.  The good news is that currently, the diner is back open once again.  Here is hoping that the new owners will have a prosperious business, while also caring for one of the most original Ward & Dickinson diners still around.

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Focus on a Manufacturer  -  Modern Diner Co.

   [Editor's Note]  This story was written by Jim Pickup.  His father ran Pickup's Diner in Olean, NY.  In telling his story to the local newspaper, it came to be known that his father invested in what was called the, "Modern Dining Car Company", which has previously not been heard of.  The other two diners have not been pinpointed.  The Batavia diner might have been the Blue Bus Diner.  The possibility of an East Aurora diner currently does not mesh, time wise, so more research needs to be done with respect to East Aurora.

  The diner was built prior to 1929. Dad had invested in the "Modern Dining Car Company" back in the 1920's when he was operating a grocery store in East Olean.
  The company would build the diners and put them on location and sell them. It ended up that he had 2 partners in the business and his partners were tapping the till until the company went broke. The diners were built in Dunkirk, NY and when the company went belly up, he was left with 3 Diners on location. One each in Batavia, East Aurora and Brooklyn. In 1929, selling the Batavia and East Aurora diners was no problem. Selling the diner in Brooklyn was another story. One which has several tellings but the “family tale” was the most interesting.
  With the "Mob" ruling the Brooklyn area, telling you with whom you would do business, no one wanted to buy that diner. No company would move the Diner until he found one company that went in at night, (talk about a "Midnight Requisition") jacked it up, transported it to the freight yard and loaded it on a flat car to ship it to Olean. And as the records show, the diner was first put on location at 322 West State Street and was known as the State Grill.
  Here is an excerpt from 1954 Sesqui Centennial Edition of the Olean Times Herald that said that Dad "bought" the diner in Brooklyn and had it moved to Olean.
  "Estes Pickup, Sr. although born in Springville, New York was raised and educated in Little Valley, New York and came to Olean in 1917. For three years he worked as watchmaker and engraver for Otto Miller and Son, Jewelers. In 1920 Mr.Pickup purchased a grocery store at 649 East State Street which he operated until he became interested in the manufacture of Dining Cars in Dunkirk, New York, at which time he had in operation dining cars in Batavia and East Aurora. In 1929 he purchased a dining car in Brooklyn, New York which was moved by flat car, to 322 West State Street, Olean. This diner was called the State Grille (and incidentally is part of the restaurant today (1954)). At that time only four persons were employed, three during the day and one at night."
  "In 1932 the Diner was moved to the site now occupied by the addition of Montgomery Ward's store and an annex build on the south side of the diner. Seven persons were then employed."
  "In November 1937 Pickup's Restaurant was moved to its present location at 242 North Union Street and a new, modern air-conditioned dining room was added to accommodate their fast growing clientele. The seating capacity of the restaurant today is 100 persons and during the peak seasons as many as twenty persons are employed."

  (continued on page 8)

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Diner Research


  Oneida Diner - Syracuse, NY.  Mulholland.  From Arcadia's Syracuse book.
  Blue Bus Diner - Batavia, NY.  This might be a Ward & Dickinson, or it might be a Modern Diner.
  Galeton, PA - On EBAY, there is a dim picture of a diner squeezed in between some downtown buildings.
  Portageville, NY - Right outside Letchworth State Park.  This matchbook has a drawing of a barrel roofed diner.  Unfortunately, no-one around Portageville remembers a diner being there.
  Bolivar Dining Car - Bolivar, NY.  This diner was known, but this year, a picture of the interior of the diner was found in the local Pennysaver, at the historical society.  It is highly believed to be a Richardson, without any transom windows.
  A postcard of North Tonawanda shows Henry Smith's National built diner to be a barrel roofed diner, which is consistant with the Oak Hill Diner once of Silver Creek, NY, which is also a National, built by Dr. J.J. Sharpe.
  Mickey's Diner - Ilion, NY.  Ward & Dickinson.  The Ilion library has a picture of this diner poking out from behind a neighboring building.
  Parkway Diner - Brooklyn, NY. Ward & Dickinson. Matchbook
  Boulevard Diner - North Bergen, NJ.  Ward & Dickinson. Matchbook
  Diner in Palmyra, NY. Ward & Dickinson.  A postcard shows more of a drawing of a Ward & Dickinson poking out from behind neighboring buildings.  The local historical society has the postcard. No-one remembers the diner.
  Queens Village Diner - Hempstead Ave @ Springfield, Blvd.  Bixler.  In a picture historical book of Queens.
  Modern Diner - Schenectady, NY. Ward & Dickinson.  Two different pictures were found in a historical book of Schenectady.
  Central Diner - East Aurora, NY.  Mulholland.  A picture was found at the local historical society.
  Woodlawn Diner - Either built by Sharpe or Ward & Dickinson.  David Reis, owner of the current on site Woodlawn Diner has a few pictures of this diner.  You can not tell if it is barrel roofed or not, due to a sign on the roof.  It was replaced by an on-site building around 1950.
  Bailey's Diner - Buffalo, NY.  David Reis also has a picture of this diner, with large recesses found in early to mid 1920s lunch cars.
  S&B Diner - Watertown, NY. Ward & Dickinson.  From the Arcadia book of Watertown.  This diner was once on Court St.
  Carthage, NY. Mulholland.  A picture in the local newspaper, from 2004, shows a photograph of the diner in 1934.
  Carlisle Diner - Carlisle, PA. Ward & Dickinson.  A business card was seen on EBAY.
  Bea & Jerry's Diner - 7 miles north of Fresno, Ca.  Matchbook shows a W&D diner.
  Al's Diner - Monroe, MI.  I was told that this diner was a rare Mahony.
  Twin Diners - Charleston, WV.  A Matchbook show two W&D styled diners, perpendicular to the road.

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Dining Car Manufacturers (continued from page 2)

Rich Dining Car Company - Silver Creek, NY 1921-1926.  Dayton, Oh 1926-1929.  Earl Richardson came from Westfield, NY in 1909 and ran a lunch wagon until he started building them as a business.  Supposedly, his original lunch wagon was self built.

Liberty Dining Car Co. - Clarence, NY 1928-? Owned by Charles A. Ward previous of W&D.

Silver Creek Dining Car Co. / National Dining Car Co.  - Silver Creek, NY 1923-?  First ran by a Dr. Fitzpatrick, later by a Dr. J. J. Sharp who changed to the National name.

Orleans - Albion, NY 1940's  Built 3 diners, one being the Highland Park in Rochester, NY.

Rochester Grills - Rochester, NY 1936-?  Like Bixler, they built diners that were pieced together on site.

Mulholland - Dunkirk, NY 1920's?  The first company to add metal to their diner in the region.

Bixler -  Fremont & Norwalk, Oh Late 1920's-1935 The first company to build diners that were assembled in 4 ft sections.

Goodell - The Goodell Hardware store in Silver Creek, NY also built dining cars in 1927.

Guy E. Russell - Ripley, NY late 1920's.  He is listed in the 1930 census as a "diner builder".

Peter Schneider - Gowanda or Silver Creek, NY ?  Only one blurb in the newspaper mentions him building a dining car in 1922.

G. C. Kuhlman Car Co. - A Cleveland, Oh. interest.  They built Brill diners.

Dag-wood Diner - Toledo, Oh., late 1940's  Made kits called Dag-Wood Diners that made boxy rectangular diners.  Rumor has it that they only made half a dozen kits.

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News from around the Country (NEW)

  Addison, NY had a diner, but it was a barrel roofed New England styled diner.
  Thanks to David Ries, the owner of the Woodlawn Diner, for the pictures of the former Woodlawn Diner that was a Silver Creek built diner, possibly by Dr. Sharpe and the picture of Bailey's Diner, which was located in the south part of Buffalo.  Bailey's is probably a Richardson.
  The new Cecil's Trackside Diner is now open.  It is in a brick building, but it still has the same charm.
  Thanks to the Bolivar Historical Society for locating a picture of the Bolivar Dining Car.  This diner was most likely built by Richardson.  It was removed in 1988.
  The owners of Bacarella's Diner in Erie, Mi, have a picture of the diner when it was original.  This diner is a Dag-Wood.
  A small calendar for Barbara's Dinor, which showed a picture of a Ward Dining Car, has been pinned down to Erie, PA.  This was found during a trip to the Erie County Historical Society.  They also had a picture of a small diner that might either be a Richardson or a Closson.  They were celebrating the Park Dinor being placed on National Register of Historic Places.
  Wolff's Diner, a 1940's Fodero, was saved from demolition in October.  It is on its way to Texas.  The diner was first located in Albany, NY and then was located near the Saratoga State Park on US Rt. 4.
  The Trolley Diner, which was located on US Rt 20, east of Caledonia, NY, was destroyed.  No one had a clue on the maker of this diner, and currently, a former owner is attempting to research the place.
  The Gate House Diner, near Dayton, Oh., was a Sterling Diner
News from research (Old)

   Former Truck & Tractor Building Leased For New Purpose
  Amherst Bee - Feb 16, 1928

Outlook is Bright For Thriving Industry For Clarence
  The Liberty Dining Car corporation has leased the former Buffalo Truck & Tractor building in Clarence, now owned by the bank of Clarence, and will open the pplant for the manufacture of dining cars.
  C.A. Ward, formerly with Ward & Dickinson of Silver Creek, known all over the country as manufacturers of dining cars, and with John L. Heider of Kenmore, an attorney with offices in Ellicott Square, Buffalo, are at the head of the concern.  They have taken a three year lease on the place with a buying priviledge.
  The buildiing is well adapted for the manufacture of the dining cars, as the size will permit construction to go on in large proportions.  The car to be put on the market will be probably similar to those now in use in Williamsville, which came from the Silver Creek Company.
  Clarence is glad to have the plant in operation again for it adds to the business life of the town, and hopes that success will attend the efforts of the corporation.
  Operations have begun at the plant, and it is expected that one of its products will soon be on the market.  employment to twenty-five men will be given when preliminary arrangements have been completed.

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Addditions to the lists

   At, there is a listing of diners/lunch wagons for each manufacturer, plus a list of diners which we are unsure of the make.   The lists are split up as follows : Ward & Dickinson list is at ; Richardson list is at ; Closson Lunch wagons are at ; and the rest of the companies are located at
  Currently, we have documented 19 Clossons, 119 W&Ds, 17 Richardsons (plus newspaper article mentions 26 were built in one year in late 1925), 14 Mulholland (one sales agent said he sold 32), 7 Liberty, 2 Goodell, 1 Sorge, 2 Orleans(Superior), 8 Rochester Grills, 3 Dag-Woods, 4 Dr. Sharpe's / National (He/they built at least 7) .

(continued from page 5)


"In September 1945 Frederick L. Jenks came to Olean from Buffalo to assume the managership of the restaurant. In September 1947, after being discharged from military service, Estes Pickup, Jr. became a part of the management.

"During these past 25 years Pickup's Restaurant has built a reputation for serving the very best in foods."