Southern Pacific Lines

Coast Line Division 

“The Route of the Octopus”


General Information

Harriman Diner Roof Vents

  1. Jim Lancaster photo of a Harriman diner, taken from the dining room end.


  3. The two large protuberances on the roof at the near end are Air vents for the AC. The "protuberances" on the roof of the SP heavy weight arch roof diner in the photo provided by Jim Lancaster are air conditioning vents.This type was quite common on many SP arch roof air conditioned lounge and diners. A few chairs also had this type. Actually the angle of the photo makes them appear slightly higher than they actually were.

  4. There were several variations of this type installed on SP cars during their AC programs in the late thirties and early forties. Check SP Passenger Cars Volume I on Coaches and Chair Cars. You'll see some views of cars with them. Volume 4, SP Diners, Lounges, Cafe Cars, Domes Parlors have hundreds of photos of these cars and good roof views of the AC systems.


Underbodies Paint

  1. Underbodies and trucks were black originally, but after 6 months or so the Dark Gray was adopted for trucks and underbodies. 

  2. Jeff Cauthen

Interior Paint

  1. Dining car medium green walls with off-white ceiling. Upholstery S/B be dark leathers, dark green or blue cloth, maybe some medium browns and coral colors thrown in for variety.

  2. Jeff Cauthen

Lettering & Numbering

  1. Very few passenger cars made it to the end of 1947 with "Lines" lettering, at least for premium trains like the Daylight. Repainting was fairly prompt. Secondary and support cars may have taken somewhat longer.

  2. Tony Thompson   

  3. For a complete list see the bottom of      

Golden State Cars

  1. In 1952 thru 1954 all the Golden State (GS) cars were repainted Simulated Stainless Steel with Daylight Red letterboard stripes edged in black.

  2. The Sunset Budd cars were originally painted with Daylight Red letterboard stripes edged in black.


  1. Refer to Southern Pacific Passenger Cars Volume 4: Dining Service Cars, Chapter 7 for complete coverage of the Daylight triple-units. The Cascade and Lark cars will be covered in Volume 5.

  2. Jeff Cauthen

Dining Service

Dining Car Silver Service

  1. Southern Pacific silver serving pieces had one of several imprints. The older one was actually the Sunset herald. This came in several sizes. There was also the Daylight script, some with the ball and wing. Another style had simulated braided edges. Another imprint was a two-ringed circle with "SP" in the center.

  2. Reed and Barton provided silver serving pieces to both railroads. Its time frame for providing these pieces was 1928-1957. Each year had a discreet mark stamped onto the underside of the piece. Absent that mark, and absent one of the patterns described above, you would have to doubt the authenticity of the piece as being of railroad provenance. 

  3. More information can be found in "Silver Banquet-A compendium on railroad dining car silver serving pieces" by Everett L. Maffett, published in 1980 by Silver Press, PO Box 184, Eaton, OH 45320. There is no ISBN. The Library of Congress Catalog Car No. is 80-50121.

  1. The Espee was very oddly inconsistent in what silver service went on its dining cars' tables. Look at a lot of the publicity photos of the 1940s and '50s (and even some earlier years) and you'll see an array of cutlery and service patterns on the tables, although the china mostly matches. The earlier English colonial silverware will be sitting right next to the '40s moderne style cutlery bought for the Daylights, with other odd pieces added in (especially in the larger serving spoons, forks). Its also true for the glassware which often shows at least two or three patterns/forms on the same tables. It's pretty amusing if you stop to think about it. History knows little least that's true on the SP!

  2. Kevin Bunker

Dining Car Service China

Business Car China

  1. Produced for business cars and dining cars (for Business Diner SUP #290). China manufactured by Syracuse China Co., Syracuse, NY. Pattern is known as SUP- 8. It was named Monogram-Gold. Body color of china is white. A pinstripe around each piece and a logo “SUP” (at the top) are all in gold. 12 pieces in each set consisting of 5 various sized plates, 3 bowls, one coffee cup and saucer and one demo cup and saucer. Not back stamped. Circa 1984.

  2.                  (*see Dining on Rails, Pg. 335)

Dining Car Service China

  1. Prairie-Mountain Wildflowers dinner ware was a pattern manufactured for Southern Pacific by Syracuse or Onandaga Pottery Co. (a company absorbed by Syracuse) and Shenango Pottery Co. They were either Econo-Rim, or Rolled Rim.  It was used as the standard dining car service china from 1931 until the advent of Amtrak service.


Rolled Rim Prairie Mountain Wildflower pattern

  1. The best condition plain rim service was better than the latter day EconoRim stuff. The plain rim stuff naturally is harder to find at memorabilia events, in decent shape, but it still shows up. Keep in mind that some of the earlier pieces (the "rolled rim", as opposed to the Econo-rim" pieces can at best, only be guessed at, since most of these are undated.

  2. Kevin Bunker

Econo-Rim Prairie Mountain Wildflower pattern

  1. The EconoRim dishes were designed to save space on the smaller dining tables that were used when the narrower lightweight/streamlined dining cars were introduced in the mid 1930s. With the narrower cars, the aisle ways became smaller and the table sizes had to be reduced accordingly. Richard Lukin's book, "Dining On Rails" has a reproduction of an ad by Syracuse China (the manufacturer that patented the EconoRim design) showing how they marketed the space savings of their design.

  2. Pat LaTorres

  1. The latter day EconoRim stuff was also designed to hold up better in power dishwashers aboard trains.

How to read the codes found on the bottom of them?

  1. Cups and saucers come with the codes on the bottom (i.e. 7 FF, 8 W, and 12 AA.). These are all date codes used by the manufacturers of the china. In the examples that you list, they all appear to be Syracuse China and the number indicates the month (7=July, etc.) and the letters indicate the year of manufacture.

  2. A through J are 1920 -1929; K is 1930, with two options for January, depending on which plant manufactured the piece;

  3. L through Z are 1931-1945;

  4. AA through NN are 1946-1959;

  5. January 1960 is OO.

  6. There is more info for post January 1960.

  7. Other manufacturers use various combinations of letters and numbers,.

  8. Pat LaTorres


Coffee cup & Saucer

  1. It is generally much easier to find a cup and saucer set in the larger size than a matched set of demitasse. I've seen coffee cups (both with and without saucers) showing up on eBay. I know of two different styles of coffee cups (one of which I have only seen once), one style of tea cup.

  2. For full size saucers, I have seen both rolled rim and econo-rim. For a saucer, you will probably be looking at an econo-rim piece -- MUCH more common -- with, or without a back-stamp.

Demitasse Cup & Saucer

  1. I have not seen much in the matched demitasse sets showing up on Ebay. I know of two different styles of demitasse cups. For demitasse, I've again seen rolled rim and econo-rim saucers.

   Pat LaTorres


  1. Prices for Prairie-Mountain-Wildflowers (PMWF) china can be all over the place, from bargains to insane. If you have access to some sort of sniping program, it makes it easier to get the lower prices). They are out there at good prices, one just needs to be patient.

   Pat LaTorres

Coffee cup and Saucer

  1. Coffee cup and saucer tend to run a LOT less expensive than the demitasse sets. I have never spent more than $45.00 (U.S.) for a set of the coffee cup and saucer -- in both cases with a full railroad back-stamp. Without the RR back-stamp, I've gone as low as $25.00 (U.S.) for a coffee cup and saucer set.

  2. I've seen coffee cups (both with and without saucers) showing up, with asking prices running from $9.00 (U.S.) -- quite reasonable -- up to $90.00! If you want one without a RR back-stamp keep in the $25.00 (U.S.) price rang, or less. For a saucer, you will probably be looking at an econo-rim piece with, or without a back-stamp anywhere in the $15.00 to $20.00 (U.S.) price range.

Demitasse Cup

  1. The least expensive demitasse cup that I ever bought ran me $65.00 (U.S.).   


  1. Probably the best book on this (and one of the best on RR china in general) is Douglas McIntyre's, The Official Guide to Railroad China, this information is towards the rear of the book. This book has good coverage of the date codes used by Syracuse, Shenango and Sterling China. You can find this book fairly regularly on Ebay (under: Collectibles; Transportation; Railroadianna; China), or check your local library and they may have access to a copy. There is another book by Richard Lukin, "Dining On Rails", that has much of the same information. If you would like specific information, please contact me off-list and I would gladly offer any help that I can in your search.

  2. Pat LaTorres

Meals In the Diner

  1. SP had full table service in a dining car. Early years of service in a dining car could be very elaborate. Table settings got streamlined as time marched on, so it can depend on your era. There were detailed rules about every service procedure in SP dining cars. SP had coffee shop service, which wasn't quite so fancy as dining car service, mainly the item selections were less in number. Then came hamburger grill service, very much reduced number of food items and service. Of course, the automat car was total lacking in railroad china and had very limited food items and service (one car attendant).

  2. Richard Lukin wrote "Teapot Treasury and Related Items" and "Dining on Rails, An Encyclopedia of Railroad China". SP did have many different china patterns over the years and they are all listed in Lukin's books.  Many for trains, some for boats, hospitals, and hotels. I've seen the service book for lounge cars and it's quite detailed.  Maybe CSRM has some of these books in their collection.
    Jeff Jeffrey Alan Cauthen

  3. The S.P. (and most other major railroads of the day) had a variety of rule books covering dining car and other passenger services. Two that I happen to have readily at hand are a November 1912, "Special Recipes For Guidance of Chefs on Dining Cars" and an August 1928, General Instructions Covering Service by Dining Car Waiters". The first of these has a wide range of special recipes, which also includes serving instructions (which would include what type of china would be used). The second rule book is more specific regarding rules applicable to waiters in all areas of dining car service, which would again include specific instructions on what type of serving dishes were to be used with certain menu items. While both of these rule books are relatively small -- the first at 51 pages and the second at only 20 pages -- I also have a Union Pacific book of instructions for dining car service which is much thicker and includes such items as how to set up the place setting on what type of car (lounge, coffee shop, regular diner, dome diner, etc.), many dining car recipes and how to serve or present the food to the public. Going beyond these basic instructions, what china patterns were used would be influenced by what train is being discussed and at what time period in the railroads history.

    All of these books (and many others) can some times be found on Ebay of at various railroadianna events (such as Winterail) and occasionally at antique dealers and at other on-line dealers of railroad items. It probably would also be worth your effort to contact the CSRM Library -- I am often surprised what sorts of S.P. paperwork they have available. As with most other old and long out of print railroad paper, it just take s time, effort and often more than a bit of luck to find this stuff. I've been collecting railroad china for over fifteen years and I am sure that there is still a LOT of dining car paper that I haven't come across yet.
    Pat LaTorres

Dining Car Menus


    Found on NY Public Library website:


    Warren Weiss

Southern Pacific Lines
Steel Dining Cars
General Information
= Harriman diner roof vents
- Dining Car Silver Service
Dining Car Service China
Dining Car Menus

Lettering & Numbering