As the weather really starts to cool down, we thought we’d share the recipe for Old Fashioned Navy Bean Soup from the Denver & Rio Grande Western. Before we share the recipe, we are going to share the history of the soup itself.
Navy Bean Soup, also commonly referred to as Senate Bean Soup, seems to have originated in the 20th century. The recipe calls for navy beans, a white bean indigenous to the Americas. They are called navy beans as they were a staple ration of the United States Navy beginning in the 19th century (containing high protein and fiber while being low cost). Soup was a convenient way to serve these beans, prepared with ham bone or ham stock commonly. The U.S. Navy Cook Book from 1902 calls for a large portion of tomatoes in its version of the soup, which came to be considered the “old fashioned” form of the soup, hence the name of the recipe we are sharing today.
The recipe also became a principal fixture in the United States Senate cafeteria starting in the 20th century, though accounts disagree on which senator called for a bean soup recipe, either Senator Fred Dubois of Idaho (a Democrat) or Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota (a Republican). Whichever Senator requested it, Navy Bean Soup has remained on the Senate menu ever since the early 20th century.
Before we share the recipe, let’s discuss the history of the D&RGW. The Denver & Rio Grande Western succeeded the Denver & Rio Grande company beginning in 1921. First organized under the Western Pacific Railroad, the D&RGW reorganized in 1947 after bankruptcy, free of Western Pacific control. The railroad extended west to California through Colorado, Utah, and Nevada and extended south into New Mexico.
One of the more popular passenger trains offered was the California Zephyr which was jointly run by the Chicago Burlington & Quincy, the D&RGW, and the Western Pacific. This train began operation in 1939 under the name Exposition Flyer and then changed to the California Zephyr in 1949. With the change to the California Zephyr, and the years following, the equipment changed from conventional steel passenger cars which were pulled by steam locomotives then pulled by diesel engines, then finally to streamlined passenger cars. Two of the Museum’s locomotives were built in 1955 for service on the California Zephyr; D&RGW Locomotive Nos. 5771 and 5762. These two locomotives matched the sleek look the California Zephyr had established. Though the California Zephyr officially ended its service in March 1970, the D&RGW continued to run its section from Denver to Salt Lake City, Utah under the name Rio Grande Zephyr.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our brief history of the Old Fashioned Navy Bean Soup and the Denver & Rio Grande Western. If you try this recipe, as always, please let us know on our Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, or in the comments below.
Past Dining on the Rails Posts:
Dining on the Rails October 2022: Apple Cider
Dining on the Rails September 2022: Peach Cobbler
Dining on the Rails August 2022: Barbeque
Dining on the Rails July 2022: Mountain Trout
Dining on the Rails June 2022: Eat like a Hobo!
Dining on the Rails: May 2022 – Mother’s Day Shirred Eggs
Dining on the Rails: April 2022 – How about a nice Old Fashioned?
Dining on the Rails: March 2022 – French Toast, Anyone?
Dining on the Rails: February 2022 – A Chocolatey Valentine’s Treat!
Dining on the Rails: January 2022 – Western Pacific Pork Tenderloin
Dining on the Rails: December 2021 – Cranberry Sauce
Dining on the Rails: November 2021 – Oyster Stuffing!
Dining on the Rails: October 2021 – Chicken Pot Pie
Dining on the Rails: September 2021 – Chili
Dining on the Rails: August 2021 – Pullman “Tom Collins” Cocktail
Dining on the Rails: June – How about a salad?
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
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