Restoration of a 100-Year-Old Restaurant on Wheels

Union Pacific Railroad

Dining Car No. 369

36 Seat Diner – Built 1921

Dining Car no. 369 was one of fourteen identical cars built for the Union Pacific Railroad in 1921 by the Pullman Car and Manufacturing Company. The car has table seating for 36 people as well as a full kitchen, complete with wood-fired range, steam-table, iceboxes, hot and cold running water, and even a charcoal broiler for grilling steaks. The dining room is paneled in rich Mexican Mahogany and sported individual electrical outlets at each table (a big deal in 1921). Known to railroaders simply as a “36-seater”, this car, and hundreds of others like it, represented the standard on American railroads from the 1880s through the late 1940s – and with some later modernizations, a number of these cars remained in service into the 1960s.

The 369 entered service in July 1921, joining a pool of similar cars running in the fleet Union Pacific’s first class passenger trains. The car’s initial assignment was probably as part of the posh Los Angeles Limited running between Chicago and the West Coast. The car was later assigned to another of the U.P.’s premier trains, the Portland Rose. In the 1930s, diners of the “300” series were renumbered to “3600” series – our No. 369 became 3669. The car was air conditioned in 1936, and two years later, with the advent of new streamlined trains, No. 3669 was refurbished at Omaha and assigned to “Coffee Shop” duty as part of The Challenger fleet – a Union Pacific train service aimed at economy-minded travelers. The beautiful mahogany interior was painted over and linen tablecloths gave way to paper placemats. In subsequent years, many of her sister cars were structurally “modernized” to look more like the newer streamlined cars; however, the 3669 was never rebuilt and still retains her original structural appearance.

After World War II, the 3669 probably spent its final years of service back in the consist of the Los Angeles Limited, by then a slow, secondary train. In 1954, with her non-modernized sisters relegated only to “troop train” service, No. 3669 was retired and donated to the newly-established Travel Town Museum for use as a venue for children’s birthday parties. Fortunately, the car’s interior was left intact – including the kitchen. Restoration efforts now underway at the Museum are returning the 369 to its pre-war, first class appearance.


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