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Special Travel Issue | poppy crock

Dining Car Dish

Side Trips: Travel Tips, Trends and Tools

October 13, 2002|RENEE VOGEL

Railroad enthusiasts have been collecting discontinued dining car china for years, often paying steep prices for historic dishware. There's plenty to choose from: In the glory days of train travel, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, most companies (and even individual routes or trains) had dining ware patterns, and the rugged pieces have held up well over time.

These days there are more reasonably priced alternatives, thanks to reissues of classic railroad china. The California State Railroad Museum Foundation in Sacramento recently introduced a replica line of the Santa Fe Railway's California Poppy china. The pattern, based on the California state flower, debuted in 1892 for Santa Fe's premier "California Limited" train and remained in service until Amtrak took over in 1971. It didn't take market research to settle on the product. "We have a permanent exhibit called 'Dinner in the Diner,' '' says Paul Hammond, director of marketing and development. "It's a Super Chief dining car, and each table is set with different styles of china. Most people point out the California Poppy pattern and ask where they can get it."

The museum hired Rich Luckin, an expert on dining car china, to help authenticate and oversee the reproduction. The microwave and dishwasher-safe ware, manufactured by Buffalo China, is a hit, Hammond says; the first lot sold out three weeks after its debut last year. A place setting (dinner plate, side plate, fruit dish, cup and saucer) retails for $99.50. Larger settings are available, with additional pieces due late this fall.

The museum store also carries replicas of the Santa Fe Railway's original Mimbreno china from Pipestone. The stylized Southwestern pattern based on ancient Mimbres Indian pottery motifs was introduced in 1937 aboard the luxury Super Chief.

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Poppy and Mimbreno china are available at the California State Railroad Museum store, 111 I St., Sacramento; (800) 417-7245, www.csrmf.org/store.

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