A Dish on a Train
The true story of the Syracuse Roxbury Red bread and butter plate is entertaining. In fact, every dish has a story to tell; if dishes could only talk.
When I find an interesting dish, or set of dishes, at a second hand store, I always wonder who owned it? Why did they get rid of it? Did they die, leaving behind relatives that were ignorant of its value?
When I found a set of 8 Syracuse Roxbury Red Econo Rim bread and butter plates, I didn’t know anything about Restaurant Ware or Hotel China. I did like the way the plates felt when I held them in my hand.
They have a nice design around the edge of the rim, and a red floral pattern in the center. In my opinion, the Roxbury Red pattern looks kind of like the red version of the Blue Onion (my daughters disagree with me on this point). An entire blog post could be dedicated to Blue Onion pattern. Most likely originating in China, the “onions” were actually peaches or pomegranates.
The European version of the Blue Onion, or “Bulb” pattern was produced by Meissen (Germany) porcelain in 1740. With peonies and asters winding around bamboo stalks, different versions have been sold by Wedgwood, Pyrex, and other companies as well.
I knew the Syracuse plates were made for restaurant dining, but I didn’t know they were originally used by the New York Central Railroad in the 1940s, until I noticed the name of the eBay buyer that purchased those plates.
The 20th Century Limited
One of the best things about The New York Central Railroad was its 20th Century Limited express passenger train.
It ran from 1902 to 1967. Railroad buffs (and the New York Times) have referred to it as “The World’s Greatest Train.”
The train traveled between the Grand Central Terminal in New York City (GCT), and La Salle Street Station in Chicago, Illinois. It took the train around 16 hours to travel the 958 mile distance. Exclusive and sophisticated, this posh train literally rolled out a red carpet for its passengers in New York City and Chicago. Famous passengers include J.P. Morgan, Kim Novak (she is my dad’s favorite female movie star) Theodore Roosevelt, and William Jennings Bryan.
If you want to see how the 20th Century Limited looked in 1958, there is a scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest where Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant are in the dining car. You can even prepare a 20th Century Limited Valentine’s Day Meal using this link: http://www.thepastonaplate.com/2013/02/north-by-northwest-dinner-for-two.html
I’m definitely going to watch that movie again, and when I do, I’m going to look and see if Eva Marie Saint is sipping coffee from some type of Syracuse cup.
The Kansas Belle Dinner Train
Maybe the Syracuse Roxbury Red plates were used on the 20th Century Limited express train. Maybe they were used by another dining car on the New York Central Railroad. I can’t be positive about their past, but I do know they were bought by the Kansas Belle Dinner Train.
The Roxbury plates sold on eBay yesterday. When I saw the buyer was the Kansas Belle, I did some research. That’s when I discovered the specific origin of the plates. Of course! A dinner train would especially want to use authentic railroad dishes from the 1940s! The Kansas Belle Dinner Train takes you on a 22-mile, 3 hour trip through Kansas farmland. Featuring a fully-restored 1940s depot and 4 different authentically restored train cars, their dinnertime ride provides a 5-course meal (they also offer a 3-course meal in the afternoon). As the train travels at a leisurely speed of 11 mph, big band music plays quietly in the background while passengers enjoy conversation at tables for 4. It costs $68 per adult for the dinner ride, and $58 per adult for the afternoon ride. For an additional $21 per adult, you can watch a murder mystery, USO, or holiday show.
Who knows what famous person might be eating from the Syracuse Roxbury Red Econo Rim bread and butter plates from South Carolina? Maybe someday I’ll get to take a romantic ride on the Kansas Belle Dinner Train myself. If I do, I will definitely turn the plates over, and look for the maker’s name on the bottom.
To read another post about restaurant china, use this link: https://lovemylittlecottage.com/when-youre-eating-in-a-restaurant-do-you-notice-the-dishes/
If you’ve ridden on the Kansas Belle Dinner Train, or The 20th Century Limited express train (you’ll be dating yourself if you admit to riding the Limited train), I’d love to hear from you!
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