The history of the Boston & Albany – Railroad Worcester Lunch Car
By Glenn R. Parker, Contributing Writer
The smoke continues to rise from the Oct. 12, 1917, fire that destroyed the Westborough Trunk & Bag Co. (formerly the National Straw Works), the Hassle Lace and Curtain Co. and the residence of George Barnard (formerly the Westborough Inn). Flames then leaped over Union St. and destroyed the Staples Block, leaving nothing but ashes and rubble on East Main Street.
Although firefighters from surrounding communities as well as Worcester and Framingham responded to the scene they were only able to stop the conflagration from spreading across East Main Street and then to High and Summer streets. If not for a deluge of rain and shifting winds, the entire downtown may have burned to the ground.
This Bower photo is the Quick Lunch car built by the Worcester Lunch Car Co. which like many others, was owned by the Boston & Albany Railroad. The cars were located near a retail, business district or busy railroad crossing and were the forerunner of the Worcester City Diners. The car appeared in downtown Westborough as early as 1911 and is photographed at the railroad siding on East Main Street. When the massive fire broke out in 1917, the car was moved from its location between the Staples block and the railroad spur and returned after the fire to resume business.
The etched glass windows on this Westborough lunch car were the trademark of the Worcester Lunch Car Co. established in 1906. The company introduced its first custom built car in 1907. The early cars had a kitchen area with a carriage window for take-out (first drive-up window) to the left separated on the inside by a bar with stools and a small dinning area. The sliding entry door in the middle of the car allowed patrons to enter and sit at the bar or a table. The early cars were custom built, decoratively painted with colorful scenes, monitored roofs and named the American Eagle Café. These cars had handsomely appointed hard wood interiors, a monitor roof and were numbered, beginning at 200. The Westborough car appears to be a standard model with two obvious exceptions, the etched glass windows and decorative corner molding. Otherwise it was plainly painted, no visible numbered and did not have a monitored roof. The car was open for business every day and early evening hours and offered sandwiches, eggs, coffee, milk, pie and cigars.
As part of the downtown redevelopment program in 1930, the railroad was asked to remove the aging lunch car to make way for redevelopment. Although the car is long gone, the site later became that of Dacey’s Diner.
References: Worcester Lunch Car Co. Richard Gutman, Westborough Chronotype
Glenn Parker is a former member of the Westborough Historical Commission and the author of “A Cornfield Meet - A history of the trolleys of Westborough.” He is also the former Westborough Chief of Police, retiring from active duty in 2012 after 42 years with the department.
Parker and his wife Mary Ellen have four children and six grandchildren.
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