TEXT VERSION of the 2005-2006 Wagoneer.
Silver Creek News - 3
Ward & Dickinson finds
Focus on a Manufacturer - 4
General Diners - Oswego, NY 1939-1940?
In the News (Old) - 5, 8
Information gleaned from newspapers.
Building Permits - 5
How they have helped in the research of diners.
List of Manufacturers - 2, 6
The builders of the lunch cars.
In the News (New) & Research - 7
This year’s news.
Discovered on-line - 7
EBAY and other web-sites
www.NYDiners.com - 8
What is on the website.
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. The lunch wagons had monitor roofs and tables for two inside the wagons. Also wired for electricity.
Sorge - Built Ward like diners in Silver Creek, NY in the late 1940's.
News from Silver Creek.
This year saw a presentation on diners, an increase in the collection
of photos at the Hanover Historical Center in Silver Creek, NY and a ledger.
Michael Engle, who maintains www.nydiners.com, presented a slide show on the history of lunch wagons and diners in New York State. Starting out with the Closson Lunch Wagon Co., Engle showed how lunch wagons became lunch cars, and how they came to be built in Silver Creek. Some of the people who attended brought pictures, or other information. Some of the highlights included a picture of a W&D from Canandaigua and a picture of a National Diner being hauled away by a truck.
The biggest find, though, was found accidentally by Town of Hanover Historian, Vince Martonis. Mr. Martonis was in Buffalo interviewing a former Silver Creek resident when she mentioned that she had a friend who was the niece of Lee Dickinson and had a ledger that contained information about the first 100 W&D diners built. For as long as W&D was owed money on these diners, the ledger kept track of the current owner, and the location of the diners. For example, Tom Sullivan brought a diner to Schenectady in Sept. 1927, and the ledger noted that in Feb. 1934 the diner was sold to Robert Fulton of Johnson City, NY. Another diner was bought by Walter Plum with cash. Although this diner was moved from its Silver Creek location after only one year of use, the ledger did not follow the move, as the diner was already paid off.
Included with the ledger were some pictures probably taken by one of the sales representatives of W&D. About 50 pictures taken of Ward Dining Cars all over the Northeast, and beyond, including Providence, RI, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Michigan. Perhaps the most interesting was an “old dining car” from Ravenna, Ohio. This was a wooden diner built by Earl Richardson.
It will be awhile until the information from these pictures and the ledger can be placed into a database, but until then, here are some of the other highlights.
More Silver Creek diner pictures can be found at http://www.silvercreekny.com/gallery/
Silver Creek Historian Louis F. Pelletter has placed some diner pictures online, from the village’s collection. Included are a picture of the Kendall Diner being moved, the Oak Hill Diner and Steve’s Diner, at different times.
General Diner Company
The power of the internet is immense, especially now that some people
are placing digitized and searchable newspapers online. This is what
Tom Tryniski of www.fultonhistory.com has done. Mr. Tryniski is from
Fulton, NY and came into possession of a digital scanner, and put it to
good use. “It’s been running 24/7 since I got it,” he added.
Obviously, the words “diner”, “lunch wagon” and “lunch cart” became necessary
searches. This lead to the “re-discovery” of the General Diner Co.
The skinny on the company goes like this: In 1939, Arthur H. Halladay of Oswego and M.H. Whitehouse of Watertown came together to start building diners. Their first two diners were built in Watertown, after which, their third was built in Oswego. They were unsure where they were going to continue the company, but did decide to keep the company in Oswego.
Their diners were sectional. General Diners built the whole diner at the factory on West First St. in Oswego, knocked the diner down into sections, and shipped the sections to the location. The diner was reassembled, "in hours", by the "tightening of a few bolts", and came fully equipped. The company could even furnish a short order chef to get started, if necessary.
Starting in the summer of 1939, the company was up to 20 employees
by August of 1940. The Oswego Palladium-Times reported that as many
as 5 diners a week were being built by General at their factory, “which
occupies the former building of the Oswego Tool Works, West First street.”
In line with pre-fabricated buildings, Mr. Whitehouse added, “A diner was erected in Syracuse recently... and in about a week from the time the diner has been erected it can be placed in operation.”
General Diners were 16 feet wide, and could be built to accommodate 42, 44 or 54 customers. They also built a diner for Ray Goetz of Utica, which could seat 62 people. The size, fifty feet long.
Does a General Diner exist today?
We believe that the two diners in Watertown are both General Diners. As of November 2005, both diners are closed and for sale. The diner on Court St. has bathrooms inside the diner, which is what newspapers said is a General Diner trait. The other diner on State St. is also probably also a General Diner.
The actual date of the company closing is unknown. The last newspaper mention was Oct 1940. They reported a shortage of workmen in July of 1940. With World War 2 looming, it’s presumed the war shortages of men and materials brought the end of the company, which was never started back up, after the war. Even more, it has been difficult to follow the lives of both Mr. Halladay and Whitehouse after they closed shop.
Diner researchers are always looking for new ways to research
diners. Building permits have helped home owners, when remodeling,
or trying to make general maintenance. So why couldn’t building permits
be used to research diners?
In Albany, NY building permits have been an incredibly valuable resource. Albany’s Hall of Records stores an index of building permits and is currently indexing the actual building permits. The index is a microfilm list of filed building permits that includes address, owner, builder and type of building. Obviously, when you see, lunch wagon, diner, dining car or even portable restaurant, as what appears in the 1940s, you know you have a diner. In Albany, some companies left blueprints, others did not. Sterling and Fodero are two companies who did not give the city of Albany a copy of the diner’s blueprints. On the other hand, Ward & Dickinson, Brill and O’Mahony left blueprints, when their diners were being placed in the city of Albany.
Currently the staff at the Hall of Records are about a third of the way into the enormous job of placing the individual building permits into their database. Fortunately, though, the city of Albany has enough vision to have a Hall of Records, where important documents like these, will be preserved. Most other cities do not have a similar department like Albany’s Hall of Records.
What has been found so far?
Sometimes the indexes lists the actual company that manufactured the diners. Besides a mysterious, “Fort Diner Co.” other companies mentioned were: Tierney, Brill and W&D. But the best finds were the actual blue-prints. So far, blue-prints for W&D, Brill, Silk City and two 1942 O’Mahonys have been found. The W&D blue-prints also came with 4 promotional pictures on linen lined paper, and the Brill came with two pictures.
What other cities have their old building permit records open for research? Let us know!
In the News (Old)
Closson blurbs from the Westfield Republican: Two wagons were sold to a Meadville, PA party, one to Erie, PA and three to NYC. F.A. Hall installed a wagon in Indianapolis. Westfield residents moved to Emporium, PA to run a Closson wagon. Wagons possibly went to Racine, WI and Wilkes Barre, PA. The company was judged a bankrupt on Sept 21, 1916.
Adirondacks blurbs - Grover James, who ran a wagon in Westport,
bought it in either Schenectady or Albany. There were at least 7 mentions
of lunch wagon fires, in different towns. In 1972, a steam boiler blew
up in an Ogdensburg theater and the outside wall of the theater fell on
the diner next door. The Diner was demolished. The Miss Saranac
Diner was an O’Mahony purchased in 1929 for $10,500. The diner was
shipped by R/R, mounted on wheels and towed to its location. Afterwards,
the wheels were returned for a $400 rebate. The Coach Diner in Norwood,
still stands, and was an old rail car. Henry Fountain had a Closson
in Malone. Watertown’s last lunch wagon was moved to South Colton
in 1946. William Ragatz bought a Tierney diner in 1923. It
was called the “Clinton Diner” making it one of the earliest use of the
term “diner”. R.H. Hanna of Plattsburgh was asked by T.H. Buckley,
who built White House Cafes, to run his kiosks at the Pan-American Expo
in Buffalo, in 1901. He declined.
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. His son Raymond took over the business in 1925 after Earl’s death.
Liberty Dining Car Co. - Clarence, NY 1928-1930? Owned by Charles A. Ward, who was previous part owner of W&D. The company had offices in Buffalo, NY.
Silver Creek Dining Car Co. / National Dining Car Co. - Silver Creek, NY 1923-31+ First ran by a Dr. Fitzpatrick, later by a Dr. J. J. Sharp who changed to the National name. National built barrel roofed diners.
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? Probably the first company to add metal to their diners in the Lake Erie region. They previously built car bodies and horse drawn vehicles.
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 in Gowanda.
G. C. Kuhlman Car Co. - A Cleveland, Oh. interest. They built diners for Brill. Brill has plants in Springfield, Ma and St. Louis, MO.
Dag-wood Diner - Toledo, Oh., late 1940's Made kits called Dag-Wood Diners that were boxy rectangular diners. Rumor has it that they only made half a dozen kits.
General Diners - Built sectional diners in Oswego, NY in 1939-1940. Diners were installed on location in hours.
Ellis Omnibus and Cab Co. - Made at least one lunch wagon in Cortland, NY in 1896.
Classic Diners - Lansing, MI. Stainless steel diners being built today.
Postcard of the Starlite Diner in Westfield, NY - W&D
Crown Diners in Connecticut, matchbook, are possibly Libertys
Two trolley diners in Fort Wayne, IN. Kintz and Vienna
Paul’s Diner in Pittsburg, matchbook shows a W&D
Irving, NY menu shows a W&D drawing
Nick’s Best Diner in Greenville, S.C., matchbook shows a W&D
Fry’s Turkey Ranch, North of Williamsport, PA shows a W&D peeking out.
A Closson called the Auto Lunch, between Lake George and Glens Falls
A Closson in Whitehall, NY called the “Ivanho”
Matchbook for the Hi-Way Diner in Smyrna, DE shows a W&D
In the News (NEW)
Gordon Tindall has opened up his Red Rose Diner in Towanda, PA
The Classic Diner Co. of Lansing, MI has reported selling diners to parties in Monroe, Charlevoux and Saugatuck, MI
and one to Montana that will be clad in logs.
There was a Dag-Wood Diner in Wyandotte, MI
The Wyandotte Library has a newspaper clipping about Rich’s Dining Car, a Richardson which was partially owned by
Raymond Richardson. It includes a picture.
The Crescent Diner in Ogdensburg was a W&D
Dimitri’s Drive-In once of Toledo, Oh was a Valentine.
Howard Wesler tells us that the diner that Ray Wesler ran in Kalamazoo, MI was moved to Lawton, MI
DeCatur, IN had a diner at 105 W. Madison in the late 1930s
Willoughby, OH had a diner called the Willoughby Electric Diner in the late 1920s
Pontiac, MI had two W&Ds and possibly two more diners on unknown make.
South Bend & Mishawaka, IN had two short lived diners in the 1930s. Besides these, there was a Little Chef in South Bend,
and the Al-Ruth Diner in South Bend lasted into the 1990s. The Al-Ruth is a twin to the mystery diner still standing in West Lebanon, NY.
The diner that was once in Randolph, NY is believed to be a National.
Paul Sperry ran diners in Erie, PA and Ann Arbor, MI at different times.
There are many resources pertaining to diners and lunch wagons
in the Great Lakes region.
Below is a list of the web-pages, and a brief description of what is currently available.
www.nydiners.com - The main page includes links to the different
parts of the site. You can view different diners that are currently
standing in New York State.
www.geocities.com/cornwallace55/ohio.html - Is the current Ohio Diner web-page. Mostly, there are mentions of diners that
different people have told me about.
www.nydiners.com/history.html - The index page for the history part of the site. From here, you can go to these areas:
Listing of the Great Lakes Region of Diner manufacturers. Besides a brief introduction to each manufacturer, there are links to
the company’s web-page, a list of verified diners built by each company, and diner related newspaper blurbs from the Silver Creek, NY area.
Databases from city directories from over 50 locations. These contain owners, locations, and years of operation.
Some more specific diner information from the Capital District of New York.
Diner Exodus page, which lists diners that once did business in New York State, but were moved to another state.
www.nydiners.com/michigan.php - The Michigan Diner web-page. Partially up and running, future plans include a list of current
diners in the state, and a database of past diners.
About this newsletter:
This newsletter is created yearly by Michael Engle and is a chance to update interested parties into the recent discoveries and
news about the former diner industry in the Great Lakes Region. It is our hope that this newsletter will pique the interest of historians
and they will share their local knowledge with us.
For 2006, we do have some plans in the works for research and the website. In the history section of www.nydiners.com we hope
to soon place web-pages that include a static database of possible diners in Ohio and Indiana, mostly based upon Sanborne map research.
We also hope to be able to put all the information from the W&D ledger into database form. This is a huge resource which will obviously lead to new finds.
Oswego/Fulton (NY) blurbs - The Jordan Diner of Jordan, NY was moved to Fulton in 1984. The former Grimlow Diner of W. Genesee St. in Syracuse was moved to Oswego in 1964. In 1937 a diner was brought to Mexico, NY, by Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Stevens. Shortly afterwards it was bought by Enos Lamb and possibly moved to Phoenix, NY. The first lunch wagon in Fulton was in 1896. Ephraim Hamel of Lynn, MA who built lunch wagons, placed one in Auburn, NY in 1894. A 1907 ad for the Chas. Morenus’ Crystal Palace Lunch Wagon in Fulton stated, “the goods are right and cooked in sight.” The W&D in Fulton, known as the Green and White Diner was placed in town in June of 1928. There were 4 lunch cars in Fulton in 1916. In February of 1913, Watertown’s Common Council refused to grant licenses to lunch wagons.