Figure 1 A Union Pacific chef prepares a Chef’s Special Salad Bowl aboard a dining car galley.

For this month’s posting, we are welcoming summer with several cool salad recipes for those upcoming hot summer nights. Every railroad dining service seems to have a big salad of some kind. Whether it was a Chef’s Salad, a Big Salad Bowl, Help or Serve Yourself Salad Bowl, or Special Salad, railroad companies promoted their salad and salad dressing recipes via advertisements, on dining car menus, and on little cards at tables in dining cars.

One item we have in the Colorado Railroad Museum’s collection is this lovely Union Pacific card featuring a Chef’s Special Salad Bowl, with “French” or garlic salad dressing. The little 3” x 3” card, pictured in Figures 2 and 3, was likely an addition to the menu on a Union Pacific dining car, or was simply placed on the table for guests to take home as a souvenir. This card dates to the late 1940s and could have been distributed aboard our Union Pacific Diner 4801. We know its approximate date because Harry Adolph Hansen, the author of the card, was the Manager of the Dining and Hotel department at the Union Pacific from 1940 until at least 1949.

Figure 2 Union Pacific Chef’s Special Salad Bowl with French dressing. Colorado Railroad Museum collection.

Figure 3 Cover of Chef’s Special Salad Bowl card. Colorado Railroad Museum collection.

This Chef’s Special Salad was also a prominent feature in Union Pacific advertisements, like the one below.

Figure 4 Advertisement including Chef’s Salad Bowl. Circa 1950.

Some version of the Chef’s Special Salad was made for several years aboard Union Pacific diners, as evident by the earlier recipe in Figure 6. We know the date because Earle C. Webster was the Manager of the Dining Car and Hotel Department from 1935 to at least 1940.

Figure 5 Union Pacific Salad Dressing, circa 1935.

The Union Pacific was not the only railroad that was proud of its special salads. Southern Pacific also heavily advertised their salads. The Cascade, which traveled from San Francisco to Seattle, mentioned a big, crisp salad in one of its ads from the 1920s-30s. In fact, the SP even advertised its salad on matchbooks, as you will see in Figure 8.

Figure 6 Cascade advertisement from the Southern Pacific with mention of “crisp salad”.

Figure 7 Southern Pacific matchbook with salad ad.

Figure 8 Southern Pacific salad bowl ad from 1930s.

It may be that part of the reason salads were so heavily advertised as dining car features from the 1920s to the 1940s was because refrigeration of boxcars had come a long way since the early days of railroading. Transporting perishable materials without them spoiling was a point of great pride, as seen in the ad from Southern Pacific in Figure 10. It is interesting to note that the Chef’s Combination Salad on the luncheon menu from the Sunset Limited (Figure 11) is not only a prominent entrée, but also the second most expensive meal on the menu, just behind the veal cutlets. This again may be due to the perishable nature of the salad, and how diners on the Sunset Limited were guaranteed nice, crisp, fresh vegetables and unique dressings.

Figure 9 Southern Pacific refrigerated car ad. Date unknown.

Figure 10 Southern Pacific’s Sunset Limited Luncheon menu. Dated 1956.

Last but not least, we have an interesting salad dressing recipe from the Southern Pacific. We hope you enjoy trying it or one of the Union Pacific recipes. If you try any of these recipes, please let us know how it turns out via our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter accounts.

Southern Pacific Railroad Dressing
1 tablespoon of English mustard
1 teaspoon of salt
¼ cup white vinegar
½ cup currant jelly
2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup catsup

Stir mustard and salt into the vinegar until dissolved. Add jelly and stir until smooth. Mix in the mayonnaise and catsup. Store in an airtight container. Makes 3 1/3 cups dressing. Lasts up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

In 2021 the Museum is operating socially distanced train rides each Saturday! Follow us on Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.

Past Dining on the Rails Posts:
Dining on the Rails – Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ham!
Dining on the Rails: CRI&P’s New England Boiled Dinner
Dining on the Rails: A Sweet Treat for your Valentine!
Dining on the Rails: Black Eyed Peas!
Dining on the Rails: Eggnog
Dining on the Rails: Happy Thanksgiving!
Dining on the Rails: Union Pacific Apple Pie
Dining on the Rails, August 2020
Dining on the Rails, July 2020
Dining on the Rails, June 14, 2020
Dining on the Rails, June 7, 2020
Dining on the Rails, May 31, 2020
Dining on the Rails, May 24, 2020
Dining on the Rails, May 17, 2020
Dining on the Rails, May 10, 2020
Dining on the Rails, May 3, 2020
Dining on the Rails, April 26, 2020
Dining on the Rails, April 19, 2020
Dining on the Rails, April 12, 2020


Come Hitch a Ride

15-acre railyard with over 100 locomotives is waiting for you to explore. 


17155 W. 44th Avenue
Golden, CO 80403

Office hours

Open Daily
9:00am – 5:00pm

Call us

(800) 365-6263

Let's get connected

Come Visit Us