The Silver Cuisine was one of three cars ordered by the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad in March of 1951 from the Budd Company under JOB 9624-112. They were delivered in October and November of 1952. The three cars were named; Silver Cuisine - No. 198, Silver Inn - No. 199, and Silver Manor - No. 200.
Built for Zephyr Service
The three cars were built for the Kansas City Zephyr, and the Aksarben Zephyr and California Zephyr pool. The Silver Cuisine was essentially a spare for the California Zephyr but was regularly assigned in a turn between the California Zephyr and Aksarben Zephyr.
The cars featured a three-section dining room with tables for four seating 32 passengers in the main section and on either end of the main section were separate seating areas for 8 additional passengers in each section for a total of 48 passengers.
Seating and Decor
The seating was either in Semi-private nooks partitioned off by etched glass panels etched in a vine pattern, or in the main, center section of the car. The steward's space, which was in a horseshoe shape that was quite unusual for a dining car. The buffet also had etched glass behind it featuring ducks found along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The chairs were upholstered in a rose-red leather. The chairs contrasted pleasingly with the pale green carpeting. The venetian blinds were also green, while the drapes combined green with red and cream.
Originally, the kitchen contained separate refrigerators for dairy products, meats, fresh fruits, and vegetables. The stoves burned propane gas and a unique feature of the car was the "air curtain" between the pantry and the dining area. This kept the hot air and odors originating in the kitchen from permeating the dining area.
While in service on the California Zephyr, the Silver Cuisine, routinely began each run with each dining car taking on thirty different kinds of meat totaling 630 lbs. Sixty types of fruit, vegetables, and dairy products, 130 individual grocery items including canned goods and bakery supplies, and 30 cases of liquor. Cars leaving from the West might feature regional fare such as Salmon and cars leaving from the east would feature Walleyed Pike. This was done to provide variety to the patrons of the CB&Q and was just another of the unique features of the California Zephyr.
When new, the CB&Q staffed the car with four cooks, six waiters, and one steward. During the off season when travel was lighter the cars would be staffed with Three cooks, four waiters, and one steward.
Different Road Numbers
The Silver Cuisine had three different numbers in its service life. The original number being No. 198 while in service on the CB&Q. In 1971, when acquired by Amtrak, Amtrak began a general sequential re-numbering of its equipment and the car was assigned No. 8053 and operated with that number until 1979 when the car was equipped with HEP (Head End Power). At that point, the car was re-numbered to No. 8502. In early years as No. 8502 the car carried both the number and the Silver Cuisine name. In later years, only the number.
The Amtrak years
When the Silver Cuisine was acquired by Amtrak it primarily operated in the area in which it had been by its original owner. In the case of the Silver Cuisine, it assigned to the Denver Zephyr section of Amtrak trains Nos. 5 and 6 running from Chicago to Denver.
Between 1973, and 1975, and portion of 1976 the car was assigned to the San Francisco Zephyr section of Amtrak Trains Nos. 5 and 6 running from Chicago, IL to Oakland, CA. For a short time in 1976 the car was assigned to the Reno Fun Train running from Oakland, CA to Reno, NV every other weekend. While in service on Amtrak's western trains the cars maintenance base was at the Burlington Northern 14th Street yard in Chicago.
In the late 1970’s and early 1980's as Amtrak was receiving new Superliner equipment to re-equip its western line trains, the Silver Cuisine was one of many rebuilt dining cars often rotated on Amtrak's eastern trains such as its Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Crescent, Lake Shore Limited, Capitol, City of New Orleans, etc.
As Amtrak began accepting delivers of their oft-delayed Viewliner II dining cars, in 2015, they began the process of retiring the remainder of their heritage diner fleet. The Silver Cuisine continued in service until 2017 when it was finally retired and placed in storage in Chicago, IL.
Acquired by Heart of Dixie
On November 28, 2018, Amtrak announced it was making 99 passenger and baggage cars available for sale or donation. In this mix of seemingly ordinary baggage, refrigerated express and crew dormitory cars were probably the most unique group of equipment: 19 heritage dining cars.
During the first week of December the same year, Amtrak made the equipment available for inspection at the Beech Grove Heavy Maintenance Facility near Indianapolis, IN. A HoD inspection crew was present to evaluate the possibility of acquiring one of the heritage diners. An offer was extended on more than one car with the bid for the Silver Cuisine being accepted.