Happy spring! For this month’s posting we decided to feature fruit salad, the Union Pacific’s Fruit Salad Dressing, and railroad scenic rides, as what is better for the changing weather than scenic train rides through the Rocky Mountains?! Though the recipe this month comes from Union Pacific, it was not the only railroad to provide fruit salad and cocktail options for its passengers, as we will see below.

Before we talk about scenic rides, let’s talk about the history of fruit salad. Sources differ on the origin of fruit salad, some suggesting ancient Greeks and Romans, while other say 17th century England. Fruit salad consisting of mixed fruits and a salad dressing was introduced to America in the early twentieth century. Fruit cocktails are similar to fruit salads but different in that they consist of diced fruits, sometimes canned, versus the larger fruits that go into fruit salads. Both variations were prevalent options for railroad passengers through the twentieth century.

Railroads have always been used to get passengers to their destinations, however, some lines were marketed not just as a way to get passengers to their destinations, but often as a destination in and of itself. Denver & Rio Grande, later the Denver & Rio Grande Western, had several examples of this. One was its Royal Gorge Route.

Figure 1 Map of the Rio Grande scenic lines, circa 1930s.

“Every vacationer will want to see The Royal Gorge, America’s best-loved travel wonder, reached only by the Rio Grande” states one of D&RGW’s promotional brochures from 1939—see figure 3. Not only was the Royal Gorge a beautiful location (featuring a marvelous suspension bridge!), but also passengers could only see it by traveling on Denver & Rio Grande’s Royal Gorge Route.

The D&RG and D&RGW promoted the fact its lines traveled “Thru the Rockies, not around them.” Another feat of engineering that became a destination route was the Moffat Tunnel. Like the Royal Gorge Route, the Moffat Tunnel was one way for a passenger to get to Utah, Salt Lake City itself, through some incredible scenery. The same promotional brochure touting the Royal Gorge Route from 1939, also made sure to mention that the Moffat Tunnel Scenic Shortcut goes through Glenwood Canyon, another gorgeous spot.


Figure 2 Denver & Rio Grande dining car menu featuring the Royal Gorge, 1909.


Figure 3 World's Fair brochure from 1939 showcasing the Royal Gorge Route on the left, and the Moffat Tunnel Route on the right.

The allure of these routes lasted well into the twentieth century. In figure 4, a menu commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Moffat Tunnel, there is a lot of information on building the Moffat Tunnel and the allure of traveling through it. The railroad made sure to prominently display its catchphrase “Thru the Rockies—Not Around Them.”

Figure 4 1978 Fiftieth Anniversary D&RGW menu describing the history of the Moffat Tunnel.


Figure 5 D&RGW menu cover picturing Glenwood Canyon, 1967. The monument pictured now lives at the Colorado Railroad Museum, in front of the Denver Garden Railway Society layout.

Fruit salads and fruit cocktail proved to be quite frequently offered as a menu choice for passengers not only on the Denver & Rio Grande and Denver & Rio Grande Western, but also on the Union Pacific. The Union Pacific, as we saw on last month’s post for coleslaw (click here if you missed it) also did its part to promote travel over its routes. Fruit salads and fruit cocktails became essential offerings for both UP and D&RG passengers.

Figure 6 Union Pacific menu with fruit plate with cottage cheese, 1970.


Figure 7 Denver & Rio Grande Western menu with a fruit salad option, 1967.


Figure 8 D&RG menu with fruit cocktail option, circa 1919.

This month’s fruit salad and fruit salad dressing recipes come from the Union Pacific. As always, please let us know on any of our social medias if you tried the recipes, or in the comments below!

Union Pacific’s Fruit Salad Dressing
Adapted from Dining by Rail by James D. Porterfield
This dressing, intended for an assortment of fresh fruit, goes just as well on a cold vegetable salad.

1 clove garlic
½ Tbs. sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. dry mustard
Jucie of 1 lemon, strained
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 egg
1/3 cup olive oil
½ cup salad oil
¼ cup chili sauce

Slice a garlic clove in half and rub the lower half of the bowl with both halves. Place the sugar, salt, paprika, and dry mustard in the bowl and mix thoroughly, stirring around the bowl to absorb garlic flavor. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, and egg and beat vigorously with a whisk or beater until well blended. Continue beating as you slowly add the olive oil and salad oil, alternating a little of each at a time, and blend well together, beating about 15 minutes. Add chili sauce and whip until thoroughly mixed. Place in container and chill until ready to serve.

(To be made in main pantry) Canned fruit salad may be used or available canned or fresh fruits. If canned fruits are in halves, use four pieces, one each of four varieties. If in quarters, use eight pieces of the different assortment in the can. The fruit should be served neatly on lettuce leaves on a cold dinner plate around a mold of cottage cheese. Portion of cottage cheese 3/4 pudding mold full. Fruit should be chilled previous to service. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. A more elaborate garnish may be used by adding two segments each of orange and grapefruit, carefully celled and free from membranes, to be alternated on the plate. Finger sandwiches when featured with this item to be made with 1 slice of whole wheat and 1 slice of white toast bread. Butter with soft butter, trim and cut into 4 strips. When served place alternately on plate with whole wheat side up and next with white side up, etc. Listed salad dressing to be served in sauce boat on the side.

Section K-6
Table d'Hote only
(To be made in pantry) Use canned fruit, as shown for Fruit Salad Bowl, except portion to be one-quarter only of four varieties of fruit. Instead of bowl, serve on cold tea plate, placing mold of fruit in center on crisp lettuce leaves. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and the designated salad dressing should be poured over.

Fruit salad recipes from Union Pacific Dining Car Cook Book and Service Instructions.


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Past Dining on the Rails Posts:
Dining on the Rails March 2023: Union Pacific Cole Slaw with Peppers
Dining on the Rails February 2023: Bourbon Toddy
Dining on the Rails January 2023: Cinnamon Toast and Children’s Menus
Dining on the Rails December 2022: Harvey Girl Special Little Thin Orange Pancakes
Dining on the Rails November 2022: Old Fashioned Navy Bean Soup
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!
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Dining on the Rails: September 2021 – Chili
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