Great Lakes Dining Car Wagoneer Text Only Version.

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Optical character recognition, usually abbreviated to OCR: Wikipedia defines it as, “computer software designed to translate images of handwritten or typewritten text (usually captured by a scanner) into machine-editable text.” When it comes to researching lunch wagons and diners, OCR has been a great help. While still not perfect by any means, it allows you to search any scanned newspaper by key words. How many times have you scanned a newspaper, day by day, or even week by week, to find one single article. Just a few issues can take hours. OCR is making painstaking research feasible.

Quality: The quality of the newspaper that is to be scanned and digitized is easily the most important aspect. In our example. You can pretty much read the original copy. Though it is not the easiest to do. When it is digitized, that is a whole different story. The larger text comes out perfectly fine, but the smaller the text or the lighter the print, that is when the program has problems.

Not all newspapers come out this bad, but many do. You can see the possibilities for omissions in results if you were to search under certain words. If you were to search under the last name of “Ragatz” you would miss out on this article. Also, if you tried “Clinton Theatre”, again, you wouldn't find this article. If you were searching via “lunch wagon” you would find this article, because one of the two times the phrase is used, did come out correctly. But again, you can see the possibility of missing many articles.

Still, not knowing when articles were published, the possibility of just doing a keyword search vastly outweighs the negatives currently occurring with OCR. In due time, hopefully the software will be enhanced, and less errors will occur.

What is available? As reported last year, is still adding newspapers weekly to their collection. A list of scanned newspapers include: Oswego, Fulton, Syracuse, Buffalo, Auburn, Cato, Moravia, Utica and Boonville. All located in New York State.

Also in New York State, focusing on Northern Adirondack towns is The currently have 21 titles from various years. All the way from Ogdensburg to Elizabethtown.

Some of the pay genealogy sites have scanned in various newspapers. One site claims to be “The largest newspaper archive online.” They add one new page every second. For the most part, they focus on the 50 states, but do have some in other countries.

Utah has their own program located at

A few of the very large newspapers have already digitized their own newspaper. The New York Times is available through many libraries, completely searchable.

The Monroe County Library System has digitized city directories for the city of Rochester, NY on line. These directories are also searchable, or you can just look at them page by page. They are available under the Local History link at their website With respect to lunch wagons and diners, these city directories are not that valuable without the use of Sanborne maps, as they do not specifically call places “lunch wagon”, instead, they often use the word restaurant to be any place that serves food. This is typical of many directories/

Recently rediscovered information.


* Henry's Diner in Edinburg, IN and Dinner Bell at 114 W. Bronson in South Bend, IN both have a diner drawn on their matchbooks. Thusly, they might be diners.

* V&T Truck Stop in Carson City, OH

* Cubby's Diner Service in Dennison, OH

* Martin's Diner on Vernor Highway near Ballpark in Detroit, MI

* Myer's Diner on Grand River, one mile west of Novi, MI

* Dixie Lunch #2 at 214 E. Main in Danville, IL

* The Covington Diner was a Ward & Dickinson in Mansfield, PA

* Smith's Diner at 172 South St. in NYC, shows a drawing of a W&D diner.


* Gordon Tindall was shown a picture of a Ward & Dickinson in Canton, PA that came from Mansfield, PA.

* The Bixler Co. actually did a respectable job of selling diners in downstate New York. Pleasantville and Ossining once had Bixlers.

* The Classic Diner Co. of Lansing, MI sent diners to Montana and Connecticut this year.

* White Kitchen, A Valentine in Kalamazoo, MI

* York Diner at 37 N. George St. in York, PA was a double Ward & Dickinson

* Penn State Diner on College Ave. in State College, PA Ward & Dickinson double diner.

A Valentine in Gardiner, Maine in 1965.

Ward & Dickinson Ledger (Diners 1-100)

Most of these diners, we do not know much about. Diners went to 1532 E 55th in Cleveland, 891 E 152nd in East Cleveland, Toledo, 6 West Michigan in Indianapolis, Kalamazoo to Lawton, MI, Anderson, IN from 1927-1935, Steubenville, OH, 113 Wooster St. in Dover, OH, two in Pontiac, MI, Auburn, IN, Lorain, OH, Detroit, Flint and Hillsdale, MI.

Blurbs: (Can you give us some information on these places?)

* Guy Russell's Diner was moved to NorthEast, PA from Ripley, where he built it, in 1930.

* Ginny's Diner was brought to Portsmouth, OH in March of 1928. It was located on Gallia St. There was also a lunch wagon in Portsmouth. 1910ish

* There was a diner in Circleville, OH. 1933ish

* The Sandwich Shop (New Lunch Car Deluxe) 627 N. Illinois in Indianapolis.

* “The Ritz”, formerly the Pullman Diner next to the Sinclair Station at the corner of Lincolnway and Washington in Valparaiso, IN in 1939.

* National Lunch Car in Decatur, IL in 1928, also a lunch car for sale at 402 N. Broadway.

* Owl Lunch Car in Wisconsin Rapids, WI 1920ish

* Lew Earle's new Dixie Lunch Car in Sandusky, OH in 1916.

* Lunch car on W. Milwaukee St next to YMCA in Janesville, 1910ish

* Newell Lunch Car on N. Academy in Janesville, 1920ish

* Aldrich & Benwitz opened “DeLuxe Lunch at c. High & Milwaukee in Janesville in Oct 1919.

* Millard Lunch Car Next to Orpheum Theatre in Madison, WI 1919ish

* Uneeda Lunch Car in Grand Rapids, WI

* Mike Corwin, owner of the Diner 23, A Starlite in Waverly, OH tells us about the Valentines his father owned, including the Red Castle in Waverly, two in Columbus and one in Delaware, OH

* Norman & Sons are the people who built the Smethport (PA) Diner in 1937.

* Dunkirk Dining Car Co. placed Mulholland diners in Mansfield and Marion, OH.

Dagwood Diners. - Very little is known about this company once located in Toledo, Ohio. A former owner of the most famous Dag-Wood in Ann Arbor, Michigan states that the company went out of business before sending all the parts for his diner. He had to get the final parts on his own. More importantly, he stated that they company probably only made half a dozen diners. Four diners have been verified, all being known as “Dag Wood Diner” when they first opened. A fifth is rumored to have been in the thumb of Michigan.

The company was started by Albert C. DeCatur, Jason A. Coughlin and George H. Burrows. Mr. Coughlin also ran a company that where the "Creators & designers of bar fixtures of distinction, a complete service, bars, back racks, ...". Their first diner, put together quite quickly, was intended to be used only as a demonstration model for a trade show in Chicago. Two owners later, the Weiler's bought the diner and related the story of this diner. They talked about how the roof needed to be fixed with tar paper frequently. This diner only had 9 stools, similar to many Valentine diners. Also, this Dag-Wood Diner had the ability for 6 stools to be placed outside of the three windows, in summer time.

The two Dag Wood Diners that exist today, in Ann Arbor and Erie, Michigan both have room for booths/tables, besides the counter, and grill behind the counter. As with all Dag Wood Diners, they were sold as kits, that were put together on site. The other known Dag Wood was in the southern suburb of Detroit, Wyandotte. This diner only lasted into the 1960s. It's rather interesting that if the company did only produce 6 diners, that five of them would have been sold between Toledo and north of Detroit. George Burrows was located in Cleveland, and they went to a trade show in Chicago. Only time will tell if they built more than 6 diners, and where that 6th diner ended up.

Mulholland Co. - The Mulholland Company of Dunkirk was best known for producing car and truck bodies, especially ambulance bodies. In 1925, they decided to also produce diners, following the minor trend starting in the region. A 1926 newspaper article related that they were producing a diner a week, in a style quite similar to Ward & Dickinson. That article included a picture showing 4 diners on flatbed train cars, with one going to Olean and the others to points south. These diners still had spaces for wheels to be placed on the diners, though Mulholland would only place them on temporarily, for moving into location once they arrived in the destination city.

Mulholland had a unique support system in selling their diners. The Dunkirk Dining Car Co. formed in September of 1925, with the purpose of selling Mulholland diners. At the height of sales, they had 6 salesmen going through the country, looking for locations to place their diners. Sometimes, they would place the diner on location, and run it with a hired manager. This was done in Mansfield and Marion, Ohio. They also placed ads in newspapers announcing they had a salesman in town, like they did in Zanesville, Ohio.

The standard Mulholland diner had 9 transom windows. Besides being clad in steel panels, their roof lines were curved on the ends, unlike any other diner manufacturer in the Chautauqua County area. They did build at least one barrel roofed diner, that had little curve to the roof. This diner still exists, though greatly remodeled, in Brocton, NY as the Green Arch Restaurant.

With all the talk in this newsletter about places of the past, it is good to know that there are many great diners you can still visit in the Great Lakes region outside of New York and Pennsylvania. Below is a list of just some of my favorites.

Southern Ohio

Kim's Classic Diner - 303 W. Washington St., Sabina. This diner started out life in New York state on US Route 6, just east of Port Jervis. There, it was known as the Greenville Diner. Al Sloan bought the diner and moved it to Alpena, MI in 1992. The diner was moved to Sabina in 2002 and opened to the public less than a year later.

Kim's Classic Diner is open 6am to 7pm from Tuesday to Saturday. Their food typifies diner/drive-in food that people come to expect to find in the middle of the country. Many items come in baskets, with fries. If this is the food you're coming for, then you can't go wrong at this diner. Besides the food, they often have cruise ins and classic car shows in the warmer months.

Diner 23300 West Emmitt Ave., Waverly. This diner built by Starlite has only been around for less than 10 years. Open Monday through Saturday from 7am to 9pm. The owners were looking for a place with homestyle cooking and an atmosphere where people feel that we're part of the community. Mike Corwin adds, “My wife Sharon makes noodles from scratch every Monday for our special Chicken & Noodles. She also makes our meatloaf, chili, vegetable soup from scratch; I make the French Onion Soup.”

The community found at Diner 23 will remind many people of the small village diners often found in New England. “We have a lot of older widowed people come in every morning and every evening. If they don't show up, we call and check on them. A lot of them will tell us when they're going to be traveling so we won't worry about them. Every Thanksgiving, we have a carry-in dinner where locals and travelers come in and share Thanksgiving with us.”

White Lotus Cafe and Diner 327 E. 3rd St., Dayton.

This former Yummy Burger in downtown Dayton is not actually a diner, but was a White Tower at one time. For photographers, it sits within view of a Wympee Hamburger stand, a classic diner turned nightclub and a block away from another former White Tower. Besides serving the burgers that taste as good as their name, the current owners have expanded the menu to include Thai food. Their hours are: Monday through Friday from 8am to 6pm and Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

Starlite diners seem to be popular in southern Ohio. With the company out of business, the remaining Starlites have more nostalgic value as a reminder of the 1950s. You can find other Starlite diners in these locations: Court St. Diner in Athens; Classic's Diner in Hillsboro; Howie's Diner in Piketon; Caddy's Classic Diner in Wheelersburg and Cruiser's Diner in Seaman.


From Sanborne Maps – Indiana and Ohio

User created list of diners once in Ohio.

City directory databases searchable by city or by name. Over 50 cities available.

Michigan Pages:

Lists of past and present diners by region.

Photos of current diners in the state

Roadside related links for the state.

Information on Manufacturers of lunch wagons and diners in the Great Lakes region, including partial lists of diners that the company has built.

2007 Website Plans

  • Restructure list of Ward & Dickinson diners, with the typing of the first 100 diner list and all other new info gleaned.

  • Look into creating web pages dedicated to Ohio, similar to the Michigan Web Presence

2007 Research Plans

  • Buffalo, NY – continue city directory work, check into building permits and see if any place in the city is interested in hosting an exhibit on diners.

  • Continue work on Illinois Sanborne maps search for diners.

About this Newsletter:

This newsletter is created yearly by Michael Engle as a chance to update interested parties about any recent discoveries and news about the former forgotten diner industry dotted around the Great Lakes region. It is my hope that this newsletter will find its way into the hands of historians and historical societies who can share their local knowledge, and to remind them of the social importance diners played in their respective communities.

Project - Great Lakes Diner Book - Project


Richard Gutman's book, “American Diner – Then and Now” is the ultimate authority on diners. But still, it barely touches the minor, but significant history of the lunch wagon and diner in the Great Lakes states. A combination of builders and owners made the lunch wagon and diner an important social aspect of a majority of communities throughout the region from the 1910s to the 1960s. While there is a great amount of history lost, the good news is that there are still diners out there today in the Great Lakes.

I see this book almost as an addendum to Mr. Gutman's book, an important piece of history in the history of diners.

How you can help:

I have a good deal of information, but any picture, story or recollection can only add to the whole picture. Plus, you get to see your communities' diner in writing. Think of all the residents whose daily lives revolved around partaking of a meal with their second family at the diner.

If you have information, or are just curious to how it is progressing, please write to:



Michael Engle

182 Speigletown Rd

Troy, NY 12182