162  ·  Representative Documents:  Artifact Collection Descriptions
Northwestern University
Guide to the Ira Silverman Railroad Menu Collection
Ira Silverman Railroad Menu Collection, 1943-1993
http://findingaids.library.northwestern.edu/catalog/inu-ead-archon-1380[12/10/12 1:44:59 PM]
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Guide to the Ira Silverman Railroad Menu Collection
Collection Title: Ira Silverman Railroad Menu Collection
Dates: 1943-1993
Identification: TL003
Creator: Silverman, Ira, 1946-
Extent: 238 Items
Language of Materials: English, French
Abstract: The Ira Silverman Railroad Menu Collection consists of 238 items: 227 menus and eleven
pamphlets. 35 United States and Canadian railroads are represented in the collection. All
menus were issued by their respective railroad.
Conditions Governing Access: Researchers wishing to review the physical collection must contact the Transportation
Library at (847) 491-5273 for appointment.
Preferred Citation: Ira Silverman Railroad Menu Collection
Repository: Northwestern University Transportation Library
Northwestern University Library (Level 5, North tower)
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL,
URL: http://www.library.northwestern.edu/transportation
Email: trans@northwestern.edu
Phone: 847-491-5273
Biographical/Historical Information
Ira Silverman is a commuter railroad executive and railroad enthusiast. He was born October 1, 1946 in New York City. Mr.
Silverman received his B.S. in Economics at New York University (1964-1968) and completed course work for a M.S. at the
Transportation Center at Northwestern University (1968-1970). His professional career began at the Illinois Central Railroad
(1970-1975), where he worked as a Financial Analyst and Assistant to the Senior Vice President, Operations. He continued
as Manager, Operations Planning and Equipment, Route Manager Eastern Routes and Director, Route Marketing at Amtrak
(1975-1995). In 1995 Mr. Silverman became the Chief Transportation Officer and Manager Transit Strategy at Commuter
Rail, MARC, the Maryland Area Regional Commuter, a regional rail system administered by the Maryland Transit
Mr. Silverman began frequent train travel in his native New York City as a high school student. His interest in and collection
of railroad menus began while he was a student at Northwestern University in 1968. He, along with other students, would
travel outside Chicago to have dinner on the returning evening train, on railroads as diverse as the Burlington, Milwaukee,
Rock Island, GM&O, Santa Fe and Illinois Central. His collection of dining car menus began with these trips. Mr. Silverman
went on to ride trains in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and all of Western Europe. Mr.
Silverman is a resident of Rockville, Maryland.
Scope and Content
Scope note adapted from the Mr. Silverman's description of the collection:
In the last decade of the privately operated passenger train (1960-1971) over half of the passenger trains east of the
Mississippi had a terminus in New York City. Historic Penn Station was on a death watch to be replaced by an anonymous
office building and sports arena. But trains of the Pennsylvania, Atlantic Coast Line, Seaboard Airline, Southern, Norfolk and
Western, Chesapeake and Ohio and New Haven could all be found on the tracks in the bowels of the station. Across town
Grand Central Terminal hosted the remains of the New York Central’s fleet including the 20th Century Limited as well as
the New Haven’s trains to New England such as the Merchant’s Limited. Hidden across the Hudson in Hoboken were the
Erie and Lackawanna.
Dining car service in the 20th Century was one of the primary methods of competition among the railroads for passenger
business. Railroads often had special dishes that they were known for, like the Northern Pacific’s Great Baked Potato and
the Baltimore and Ohio’s "help yourself" salad bowl. Dining car service always lost prodigious amounts of money which was
considered a cost of the business. By the 1960’s the Pennsylvania, New York Central and New Haven were staggering
under large passenger deficits and declines in freight traffic. But even those two railroads maintained a measure of luxury
on their two famous streamliners to Chicago, the Central’s 20th Century and the Pennsy’s Broadway Limited (one of the
last all sleeping car trains in the US). The two railroads serving Florida (the Coast Line and the Seaboard) and the Santa
Fe still believed that their major streamliners could make money and were considered the champions of the passenger train.
Depending upon their financial condition and type of passenger service levels ran the gamut in between. Some carriers like
the Lehigh Valley had already abandoned all service with more to follow. Unfortunately the decision of the Post Office to
remove mail from the railroad in 1967 was the kiss of death for many trains.
Most menus could be found reflecting the traditional values but also slimmed down to a more basic menu to serve the
discretionary travelers who represented the bulk of the passengers. Inevitably a steak, fish and chicken entrée were
standard with less adventuresome appetizers and desserts. Interestingly an omelet often showed up on the evening bill of
fare. The Gulf, Mobile and Ohio offered the GM&O special sandwich, a gargantuan club sandwich complete with caviar.
Rocky mountain trout could be found on the Denver and Rio Grande and fried apples on the Norfolk and Western. The
Illinois Central offered a five course Kings Dinner. With Amtrak taking over all of the long distance passenger trains starting
in May 1971 (the Rio Grande, Rock Island and Southern initially held out) the day of regional variety was largely dead.
Amtrak would take one step forward and then inevitably two steps back in their dining car menus. As of 2011, twelve
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