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restaurant resembling the railroad dining car. In the mid-19th cent., the first dining cars that appeared on trains were nothing more than an empty car with a fastened-down table. George M. Pullman, who had begun producing sleeping cars in 1858, soon began designing a dining car. By 1868, Pullman had designed the luxuriously and meticulously appointed "club car." Roadside diners, however, evolved from horse-drawn lunch wagons, whose origins date to the 1870s. Such wagons became more elaborate in the late 19th cent., and many became roadside fixtures on empty lots. Although some railroad dining cars were sold and turned into roadside restaurants, most roadside diners were factory-built restaurants that were assembled on their permanent site. Instead of the tables and white tablecloths of the early dining cars, they commonly had booths along one wall and a long counter down the other. In the 1920s and 30s, the diners that served America's growing highway system became a symbol of automobile travel. Diners from that era were sometimes art decoart deco
or art moderne
, term that designates a style of design that originated in French luxury goods shortly before World War I and became ubiquitously and internationally popular during the 1920s and 30s.
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 in design, sleek and streamlined.


See study by R. J. S. Gutman (1993).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/


A restaurant with a long counter and booths, originally sloped like a railroad car. Diners were designed as stationary evolutions of the railroad dining car minus the wheels. They usually had a counter with stools and a row of booths opposite. They featured large windows around the exterior above the level of the booths.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved


1. a person eating a meal, esp in a restaurant
2. Chiefly US and Canadian a small restaurant, often at the roadside
3. a fashionable bar, or a section of one, where food is served
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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