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We’re Better Together!


ABOVE: When the Lion Gardiner arrived back in New York it was in rough shape, as seen in 2006. OPPOSITE TOP: The Lion Gardiner, a dining car that once ran on the 20th Century Limited, sits at the end of operable track on the Catskill Mountain Railroad. OPPOSITE BOTTOM: It may be pretty banged up, but much of the dining car infrastructure remains in the car. ERNEST E. HUNT PHOTOS

THERE ARE MANY PERILS in owning rolling stock. One of the often-overlooked perils is storing your equipment on land you do not own. Property can change hands with little warning, and new owners may demand that equipment be moved on very short notice. Expansion plans by the property owner can also require equipment to be moved quickly. Such is the peril faced by the ex-New York Central dining car Lion Gardiner, which is now looking at a very short deadline to raise money for movement to a new home. Built by Pullman during the “Gothic

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period” of heavyweight cars, the Lion Gardin- er served on the NYC’s finest trains, includ- ing the 20th Century Limited. Inaugurated in 1902, that train remained an American icon until its last run in 1967. Today, its tailsign can be found in the Smithsonian Institu- tion. Lucius Beebe wrote: “…as an all-Pull- man, extra fare, deluxe convenience for the affluent and powerful of a well-ordered world, it became with time, a national institution, a way of life and its owning carrier’s most radiant showcase and advertisement.” It was arguably the U.S.’s premier passenger train, and the Lion Gardiner was a highlight of the fleet that comprised it. The Gardiner came to the NYC in 1914 as

car number 450, lot number 857, as part of the road’s re-equipping of the Century. The car was built to a design of steel dining cars on the NYC that spanned several construction lots during the middle teens, built first by Barney & Smith, and later by Pullman. Each lot of cars featured only minor variations in what was otherwise a uniform exterior configura- tion, painted Pullman’s distinctive green with black roof and gold leaf lettering. Between the World Wars, this class of dining cars formed

one of the largest fleets in the country. The car’s patrons enjoyed unsurpassed

cuisine prepared onboard. Beebe, a gourmand and bon vivant if ever there was one, says flatly, “… in the years when the best food in America was being served and eaten on rails, [the Century’s] dining car service was second to none.” All the butter in the early years came from the family farm of Dr. William Seward Webb, a Vanderbilt in-law. The New York Central felt that if its dining service “took in 50 cents for every dollar it cost, the showing was highly creditable.” Passenger trains were a railroad’s best advertisement, and dining service was the best way to win, or retain, shippers as well as travelers. Even after another round of re-equipment

bumped it off the 20th Century Limited, No. 450 remained in service for decades. It was rebuilt by the New York Central in 1936, and renumbered 518 at the same time. As time passed, its interior was updated to meet changing food service requirements and passenger tastes. Newer, streamlined, lightweight cars also

began joining the fleet; only two years after the car was rebuilt, the NYC unveiled the 20th Century Limited as an all-new lightweight streamliner. U.S. railroad passenger service had been contracting since World War II, as air travel grew in popularity and as more Americans purchased automobiles. First-class railroads began selling older equipment since it was no longer needed; other, cash-strapped railroads sometimes took advantage of the bargain prices that this used equipment offered. The Delaware & Hudson, still operating with wooden cars forming a significant portion of its passenger fleet, seized the opportunity

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