The Duncan Hines Dining Car

Duncan Hines Diner Car L&N #2799

In 1944 the Louisville and Nashville Railroad placed a rail car order with the American Car and Foundry Company for 28 aluminum, lightweight, streamline passenger cars. Metal shortages during World War II delayed completion of the cars, but they were eventually delivered to the L&N in October of 1946. The new cars were used to create America’s first post war streamlined trains, the Humming Bird and the Georgian.

This order of lightweight aluminum cars included four diner cars. One diner would be assigned to the southbound Humming Bird and Georgian and one each to the northbound counter parts.  The new diners were numbered 2796 to 2799. Diners and lounge cars were named as well as numbered. The first three diner cars continued with the name pattern of previous L&N diners, being named famous hotels and restaurants.

The fourth diner car #2799 was named Duncan Hines to honor the famous Bowling Green food critic, author and specialty food supplier.

The cars in the new lightweight fleet were constructed with corrugated aluminum sides.

The windows were set inside a painted blue band. Above the blue band was another shiny aluminum corrugated band, then a blue letterboard with the road name and car number in imitation gold script. A last aluminum corrugated band was topped with a gray roof. Diners and lounge cars also carried a blue car name board near the bottom of the corrugated aluminum sides.

The lower numbered cars were assigned to the Humming Bird and the higher number cars to the Georgian. Since the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad carried the Georgian over part of the St. Louis to Atlanta corridor the road name of these cars were lettered “L&N – N.C. & St.L.”  Cars on the Humming Bird carried the road name “Louisville and Nashville.” The new paint scheme was a drastic change from the L&N’s previous Pullman green passenger car paint scheme. The new colors highlighted the speed and comfort of the new streamlined trains.

The Duncan Hines diner was 85 feet long, ten feet wide and seated 48 people at twelve tables. It was assigned to the Georgian when service began on November 17, 1946. The cars were decorated with ivory walls and maroon carpeting, and featured upholstery in varying shades of red and brown. Full length plate glass mirrors formed partitions at each end of the car.

In 1953 the L&N received 22 new “Pine” series sleepers from the Pullman Standard Company. These new lightweight, smooth sided, steel cars were delivered in the familiar L&N colors with blue sides, gray roof with gold script letters and a gold stripe above the windows and another gold stripe near the cars’ base. At this time the lightweight corrugated aluminum cars were repainted to match the new sleepers, which helped to cover up and protect vulnerable areas of the car where corrosion often formed. Trouble areas could develop any place where steel and aluminum joined, occurring most often under the car where it was hardest to detect, and structural failures could be most serious.

In 1963 eighteen of the L&N’s lightweight aluminum coaches, diners, and tavern-lounge cars were rebuilt at the South Louisville Shop. This rebuild included the replacement of the brake shoes with new disk brakes for reduced maintenance and smoother stops. New heating and air conditioning systems were also added. This increased the reliability of the systems and the comfort of the passengers.  Permanent stainless steel steps replaced drop-steps in the vestibules. The cars were repainted inside and out for a final time.

By 1964 the traveling public had largely chosen other forms of transportation. In an attempt to maintain high passenger accommodations and reduce cost, all four of the L&N lightweight diners, #2796 through #2799, were remodeled into Diner-Lounge cars. This conversion saw four tables and sixteen chairs removed from each car and replaced with eleven lounge chairs. Several smoking/cocktail stands and magazine racks were also added. Drapes were also hung serving as a partition separating the diner from the lounge section. The Duncan Hines car was then returned to service on the Georgian.

Later the Duncan Hines diner was damaged in a derailment of the Georgian. On March 2, 1966 the Duncan Hines diner was located in Chattanooga, Tennessee awaiting a move to Louisville. There is no information of the extent of damage from this derailment; however, there is also no indication that the car was repaired after the derailment. This is supported in a May 9, 1968 memo from the L&N Passenger Traffic Manager, which states that diners #2797, #2798, and #2799 had all been damaged in derailments and were scheduled to be scrapped.

The Duncan Hines diner would escape the cutting torch until the Georgian was discontinued in January of 1969. Later that year the Duncan Hines diner was sold, as scrap, to the Louisville Scrap and Metal Company.

The one remaining lightweight diner number #2796, The Fiesta Inn was sold to the Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad. The car was painted yellow and served as a stationary restaurant until 1987 where it served “Choo Choo Chicken.” The Fiesta Inn then sat on a back lot until 1994 when it was sold as scrap.