By Justin Franz
PORT JERVIS, N.Y. — The Dining Car Society has announced that it will move from its long-time home in Scranton, Pa., to the new Port Jervis Transportation History Center in Port Jervis, N.Y. The move will include a number of historic Erie Lackawanna cars and is expected to occur before the new transportation center’s grand opening over Memorial Day Weekend.
Previously known as the Erie Lackawanna Dining Car Preservation Society, the non-profit group has spent the last 15 years based in the Scranton area, gathering and restoring a collection of historic dining cars. The collection includes two dining cars, Lackawanna 469 and EL 741, that ran through Port Jervis between the 1920s and 1970s.
The Port Jervis Transportation History Center was founded in 2020 and is setting up shop in the former Erie Railroad yard there. The group is spearheaded by the same people who run Operation Toy Train, an annual holiday toy drive in New York and New Jersey.
“Our partnership with the Port Jervis Transportation History Center allows us to display our cars and host meals year-round, as well as use them for special events off-site,” said Dining Car Society President Paul Cappelloni. “This is a fantastic opportunity for our organization to increase public visibility and education regarding the history of railroad dining operations.”
At least one of the Dining Car Society’s cars, Lackawanna Railroad 470, will be staying in the Scranton area and has been transferred to the Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad. The car has historic ties to that part of Pennsylvania, officials said.
“Our deal with the Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad gives us the best of both worlds in support of our mission,” Cappelloni said. “With historic dining cars located in both Scranton and Port Jervis going forward, a much wider audience can be exposed to the history of the railroad culinary experience.”
Two other cars have also been eliminated from the group’s collection, both 1970s-era commuter cars that were deemed surplus from the society’s main mission. One of the cars has been sold to the New York, Susquehanna & Western Technical & Historical Society and the other has been acquired by the main Port Jervis group.
Equipment arriving at the Port Jervis Transportation History Center in 2021. Photo by Jon Berkemeyer.
The cars will make their public debut in Port Jervis during the Memorial Day Weekend event from May 28 to 30. Dubbed the Port Jervis Transportation Festival, the weekend-long grand opening celebration will include meals served aboard the Dining Car Society’s historic dining cars for an additional fee. Lunches sold during the festival will be first come, first served, while authentic railroad dinners hosted in the evenings will be reservation-only. Dinner reservations for the festival dates will be available at www.diningcarsociety.org/events starting on Friday, March 18.
Additional displays are expected during the event including an operational Bethlehem Steel TUG railcar mover and a function steam calliope, both courtesy of the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem, Pa. More visiting exhibits will be announced in the coming weeks. Tickets will be $5 per day for those 12 and up and can be purchased in advance at www.pjthc.org/festival.