The Christopher Railroad China Collection grew from a personal passion for riding trains as a child with my family. The collection began in 1990, when I received as a gift a plate that was used in a railroad dining car. This gift triggered my fond early memories of dining on the rails.
My parents took us on the train everywhere on vacations when we were young. We could not wait to get on the train at Union Station in Chicago and start our rail adventure. The highlight of those trips was eating meals in the dining car, served in style by the dining car porters as the mile markers passed by. The sounds of the dinner chimes ringing down the coach aisles announced the opening of the dining car for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We would scurry from car to car in search of the dining car and the table in that car with the best view, and we would sit and watch the scenery pass.
The tables were set with gleaming china plates, water glasses, and polished silver serving pieces. The porters in their white starched uniforms swayed back and forth down the crowded aisles with their trays, delivering orders without spilling a drop. My favorite meals were always French toast and orange juice in the morning; a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich with a Coke at lunch; and roasted turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and a glass of cold milk at dinner, with hot apple pie and ice cream for dessert.
I would like to think that these experiences I describe were not that long ago, but in fact the days of the elegant dining car are extinct. As you walk through the exhibition, you will see a variety of china designs and patterns that represent the various railroads and their characteristics. Much thought went into these designs and the selection of motifs. Viewing these pieces transports us back to a time when life seemed to move at a slower pace. The railroads brought grandeur and luxury to travel and strove to provide on wheels the comforts of five-star hotels.
All these great childhood memories of dining on rails were brought back to life when I discovered a passion for collecting the dining car china that reminded me of the china I used as a child. We hope that as you browse our exhibition of railroad china it will bring back memories for you of your own train travel experiences.
Jay Christopher, Collector
The Christopher Transportation China Collection