Diner-Car Diners Lake Effect

6 Authentic “Dining Car” Diners Around Rochester

There are several specific features that make diners a unique type of restaurant. The name itself–diner–is a combination of “dining car” because they intentionally resemble a dining car on a train. Diners were modular–manufactured in one place and moved by rail to the final location. Diners were designed for mobility, much like tiny houses today.

Dining-car Diners: Penn Yan Diner
Penn Yan Diner

A brief history of diners

According to American Diner Museum, as the automobile became the prime mode of transportation, “decommissioned railroad passenger cars and trolleys were often converted into diners by those who could not afford to purchase a new diner. They took on their classic Art Deco appearance utilizing stainless steel and neon in the design.”

Atlas Obscura points out that “as with train cars, diners were manufactured with mobility in mind. Trains took on a chrome, streamlined look in the 1930s, epitomized by the glorious design of the 1934 Burlington Zephyr train. Diners followed suit.”

From Paster Magazine, “After World War II, diners implemented Formica counter-tops, porcelain tiles, leather booths, wood paneling and terrazzo floors. The look of the diner changed as it spread to the suburbs, implementing stainless steel exteriors, large windows and wall decor. In the 1970s a revival took place and many diners were built with a retro look.”

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6 “dining car” diners we love!

Dining-car Diners: Highly recommended restaurants Highland Park Diner
Highland Park Diner exterior
Dining-car Diners: Highland Park Diner interior
Highland Park Diner interior

1. Highland Park Diner

Rochester
1948 Orleans Manufacturing Company
In 1986, the diner reopened on its original site, having been closed for twelve years. Highland Park Diner has been restored as close as possible to the initial design. From Dream Diner: Orleans Manufacturing Company in Albion, NY only built 3 diners, including Dauphin’s Superior Diner of Rochester, NY. Dauphin’s is still operating today as the Highland Park Diner on it’s original location. Learn more about Orleans Manufacturing Company

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Classic Dining Car Diners: Hunter Dinerant
Hunter’s Dinerant exterior
Dining-car Diners: Hunter Dinerant
Hunter’s Dinerant interior

2. Hunter’s Dinerant

Auburn
1951 O’Mahony
The present diner building replaced an earlier one at the same location. The diner is perched on pillars over the Owasco River.  From Dream Diner: Starting in 1913, in Bayonne, NJ, Jerry O’Mahony was the leading manufacturer for decades. O’Mahony gave many diner builders their start in the industry. Many classic diners from the 40’s and 50’s that survive to this day were built by O’Mahony. Learn more about O’Mahony

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Dining car diners: Strong Museum of Play Bill Grays Skyliner Diner exterior
Bill Gray’s Skyliner Diner exterior
Dining car diners: Strong Museum of Play Bill Grays Skyliner Diner interior
Bill Gray’s Skyliner Diner interior

3. Skyliner Diner

Rochester
1956 Fodero Dining Car Company
The Skyliner is located inside The Strong National Museum of Play, but before the admissions desk, and serves as one of the restaurant options available to patrons. You can dine at the restaurant without going into the museum itself. The original location was it Pennsylvania and was transported here with the hopes of restoring it. When efforts failed, in 1995 The Strong acquired it and restored it to the beauty you see today. From Dream Diner: Joseph Fodero started out at P.J. Tierney Sons in 1922.and later for Kullman before starting his own company in 1933. Fodero built some of the more stylish designs in the industry and is noted for its famous winged clock. The Agawam Diner in Rowley, MA is an excellent example. Learn About Fodero Dining Car Company

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Diner-car diners Swan Street Diner exterior
Swan Street Diner exterior
Diner-car diners Swan Street Diner interior
Swan Street Diner interior

4. Swan Street Diner

Buffalo
1937 J.B. Judkins Company

The Swan Street Diner is a Sterling Company Streamliner diner car (no.397). It was originally operated as the Newark Diner, located in Newark, N.Y. In 2013 it was relocated to Buffalo, NY and restored to its original magnification glory, opening once again to customers in 2017. From Dream Diner: John B. Judkins Co. built carriages from 1857-1910, motorcar bodies from 1910-1936 and then entered the diner-building business. The most famous model Sterling built was the streamliner with one or both ends configured in a bullet shape. Learn About J.B. Judkins Company

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Classic Dining Car Diners: Penn Yan Diner
Penn Yan Diner exterior
Classic Dining Car Diners: Penn Yan Diner
Penn Yan Diner interior

5. Penn Yan Diner

Penn Yan
1925 Richardson Dining Car Company

The Penn Yan Diner is always busy so they use Yelp texting service to message you when your table is ready. Perfect if you’d like to wander through the village a bit while waiting. Learn More About Richardson Dining Car Company

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Diner-car diners Lake Effect exterior
Lake Effect Diner exterior
Diner-Car Diners Lake Effect
Lake Effect Diner interior

6. Lake Effect Diner

Buffalo
1952 Mountain View Diners Company no. 446

Moved from Pennsylvania to Buffalo in 2001 and beautifully restored. Lake Effect was also featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri.  From Dream Diner: Mountain View Diners outsold most all of the other manufacturers in the 1950’s with an aggressive marketing campaign, sending their units all over the country. While attempting to go public in June, 1956 the company foundered and went out of business shortly thereafter. Learn more about Mountain View Diners Company

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Dining-car Diners: Connies Diner
Connie’s Diner exterior

More to explore!

Auburn Diner 1926 Bixler / Auburn

Modern Diner 1946 Ward & Dickinson / Wellsville

Connie’s Diner 1965 Manno / Waterloo

Smokin’ Little Diner 1955 Paterson Vehicle Company / Depew

Debi Bower

Born, raised and living life as a digital designer in Rochester, NY! I am also a day-tripper, writer & photographer, exploring the nooks and crannies that make our part of New York State so special.

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