May 7, 2012

National Train Day - May 2012

May 10 is the anniversary of the golden spike ceremony joining the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railways.
RRCrossingSmalltrainThere are certain sights and sounds that instantly transport a person right back to her childhood. One of the sounds that does it for me is the distant sound of a train whistle. In my hometown there was a massive, curved, wooden trestle that loomed over the edge of the park. Oh, boy! What a marvelous racket the trains made as they barreled through. They were fast and powerful, and when my friends and I stopped playing long enough to watch one
pass overhead, we knew it was bound for someplace wonderful.


It was a train that brought me home from college my freshman year, pulling into the station at two in the morning,
where I knew someone who loved me would be waiting.
It was a train that first deposited 13-year old, California-born me in Grand Central Station,
and launched a life-long love of travel.
It was a train that carried my mother and me, twice yearly, into Jack London Square, just a short ride over the bridge to San Francisco. At the age of five, that meant I was headed for the zoo and the cable cars and Macy's Christmas windows. By the time I was 10, it meant visits to museums and tickets to the theater and dinners on the wharf. But every trip meant taking the train. When the train pulled out, I didn't have to wait for our arrival in The City to start my adventures. I could feel my vacation had begun right then and there, right at the point of departure.

On the return trip home, we'd visit the dining car. I can still taste the cherry pie.

PhotobucketAbove is a picture of the Southern Pacific Railroad's Shasta Daylight dining car. The Southern Pacific's Daylight was dubbed "The Most Beautiful Train in the World." It was the train I road and the dining car I remember.

This tablescape celebrates National Train Day, those San Francisco trips on the Daylight, and in particular, the visits to the dining car. DiningTrain2012

Upon sitting down, I saw more flatware than I'd ever seen in one place. To this day, I don't think I've ever been in a restaurant that had a bigger display of knives, forks, and spoons than that dining car had. The waiter would begin to ask my mother questions. "Would you like coffee, Ma'am?" "Will you be having soup today?" With each "no" from my mother, more items were cleared from the table. Our table would end up looking something like this, or more often than not, even more sparse.

The suitcase is the one I used as a little girl. It isn't a make-up case, but rather a regular suitcase sized for a small child. It has leather decorations around its edges and a bakelite handle.

The Daylight Menus were copied from ones I found on the internet.
You can see Mount Shasta framed between the trees.

DaylightRoundTheBendThe YouTube clip below is an ad promoting DVD sales. I only offer it as roundabout reinforcement of a story I heard as a child. My uncle was a railroad engineer (the guy who actually stands at the throttle). He said that Southern Pacific gave engineers poppy seeds to scatter along the tracks as they sped along. There aren't many patches of poppies left these days (The Golden Poppy is California's State Flower), but they were quite plentiful years ago. At any rate, look for the poppies about twenty seconds into the video.

She was a beauty!

Dinner plates, salad plates, stemware:: Moonspun (1968-1995), Lenox, wedding china
Sterling: Burgundy, Reed and Barton
Coffee server, creamer and sugar: M601, silver plate, Wallace Melford
Cruet set: No markings, gift

I 'm joining
PhotobucketA Stroll Thru Life
for the 115th Table Top Tuesday
100Between Naps
on the Porch
. . . off on my tangent . . . for Alphabe-Thursday's LetterY


  1. What a wonderful table and love the memories that you shared with it :)

  2. I too have wonderful memories of trains and I so enjoyed reading yours. I remember the wonderful smell of fresh coffee and food, the crisp white tablecloths and the politness of the waiters and conductors. It was like stepping into a new world. Oh, for those days again!

  3. Oh what a great post. I love trains, they are so fascinating. Your trips sound fabulous and such sweet memories. The video was so interesting. Your tablescape is perfect. Great history and such elegant dining. Thanks tons for joining TTT. Hugs, marty

  4. What a wonderful tribute to "riding the rails". I too loved riding the train as a child. My grandparents lived in a small town and used the train to go to the "bigger" town to shop. I always listened for the train whistle when I went to bed--such a lonesome sound in the night--and I would try to imagine what wonderful places it might be going to. Who would have known the young saior I married would eventually end up being a train engineer. Alas, not on the pretty trains like this one, but hauling every kind of freight imaginable for 30 years! Because of his postion as a local chairman for the union, we were invited to take a trip on one of the old, elegant passenger trains from L.A. to Santa Barbara. We got to stand on the outside platform of the caboose and wave at people as we passed by. Then we were served dinner in the dining car much like you have shown here. Elegant woodwork, crisp white tablecloths, and very attentive, helpful waiters. Thank you for bringing back such a pleasant memory. Your tablescape looks perfect, and I loved hearing your story and seeing the little suitcase that you've kept all these years. Love how you used it for the centerpiece. Thanks for sharing. Kay

  5. Oh, I wish I could have ridden a train in their heyday, with a wonderful dining car! Your table is spot-on -- really perfect. I was also pleased to see MY crystal, as I also chose Moonspun as a bride almost 40 years ago. I really enjoyed your story and wish I'd kept my childhood suitcase -- the one I always packed when I decided to run away!

  6. Elegant table settings! I didn't have a lot of train rides, ...and when I did they weren't this quite this awesome!

    (Coming to you from Jenny Matlock)

  7. what wonderful memories and what a fabulous way to travel!

  8. Oh I love this post!!! I adore train travel!! I used to travel between Chicago and home (upstate NY). It was a long trip but so nice and I always met lovely travelers. Also the ride from my home city to NYC is beautiful all along the Mohawk and Hudson rivers. I haven't taken that trip in a very long time (now the train goes to Penn Station instead of Grand Central):-( We have a lovely old station here.

    The table really looks like something from the Orient Express. Everything is beautiful and I just love all of your silver! Thank you for a wonderful post!!

  9. That was interesting. I like trains but am so glad we don't live near one!

  10. We took Amtrak once, from Tucson to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Yes, that dining car was nice, but there were NO tables for two, so we had to eat with strangers. One time, it was with two "free spirits" who chose to have sex in the bathroom adjacent to the lounge. We could hear everything, and wondered if they had washed their hands afterwards. We shared another meal with a mother and her child who ate with his hands. We did have a couple of nice meals--one with an ADA from Los Angeles, who was an interesting conversationalist, and another with a couple from New Zealand who were also traveling to Mardi Gras. Since we know New Orleans like the back of our hands, we offered to set them up with the best place to watch the parade. They were grateful, and we even kept in touch with them for a couple of years.

    I have heard that the best trains on the continent are in Canada. We would NEVER take Amtrak again. The dining car was the the nicest thing we saw on that trip.

  11. We traveled by train when I was a child! I loved those days! This was wonderful. Thanks for sharing. My link is broken at Jenny's so if you want ot visit I am

    Happy Mother's Day to all!

  12. Your mention of Grand Central Station here in NY reminded me of my mom. When there was lots of activity, kids running in and out she would remark it was like Grand Central Station.
    Nice memory for you, I have never eaten on a train! Well, maybe some chips! :)

  13. I really enjoyed reading this -- I found you via the Tablescape Thursday link.

    I have very wonderful memories of traveling on the Southerner Crescent to New Orleans in its heyday when I was a 19-year-old bride and for a few years after when I would return home to Alabama to see the family. The dining car was wonderful, very similar to the one you have shown.

    Sadly the glory days are over, but I wish they could be resurrected -- seems like a good train system could solve a lot of problems in this country, don't you think?

  14. Absolutely gorgeous. How very creative and beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
    Much love,

  15. Wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing such great memories.

  16. I love your tablescape! I love the red and the silver and the simplicity of it. And the thought of being on the train is so neat!

  17. OK...I'm following you!! Any woman who can come up with the idea of a dining car tablesetting is a woman I want to follow! Love it! And I not only love your little suitcase, but how you used it is so great! Lovely table; can't wait to dig into your other posts! Thanks to Susan at BNOTP for featuring your post! ~Zuni

  18. Wow. What a funderful tablescape! You are incredibly creative.

    I've always wanted to rent a traincar for my whole family and travel across the country. There's a train yard here where you can do that. Now I just need to win the lottery so I can afford it!

    Thanks for a lovelY link to the letter 'Y'.



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