Model building magazine features story on Peterboro Diner

The Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette (a wonderful bi-monthly magazine about scale modelbuilding) features a short but interesting story on the Peterboro Diner of Peterborough, NH. The story was written by Peter Tuttle who lives fairly close to the diner in the nearby town of Dublin and frequents the establishment regularly accompanied by his wife Edith.

Cover of the Nov/Dec issue of Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette

Here is a little background I have on the Peterboro Diner from my own archives….. The Peterboro Diner is Worcester Lunch Car No. 827 and was delivered to its one and only operating location at 10 Depot Street on September 20, 1950. The original owners Milton and Barbara Fontaine ran the diner completely unchanged right up until the early 1980’s.

The first time I visited  the Peterboro Diner & photographed it was Aug. 30, 1982, and I found it in completely pristine condition. I knew of its existence from notes I had obtained (probably from Dick Gutman and possibly the Worcester Historical Museum) as well as word of mouth. Making the trek from my hometown of Medford, Mass. up to Peterborough to go looking for the diner, I recall driving in from Route 101 along Grove Street toward the downtown area of this picturesque New Hampshire town.

Not knowing the exact address, I followed Grove St. all the way to Main St. which hooks around to the right. As I took the right I went about 1 block on to the corner of Depot St. I looked down Depot and saw this great little neon sign hanging on a pole by a parking lot. The sign said “DINER” and had a neon arrow pointing across the street. As the diner itself was not visible, being blocked by an adjacent building, this sign situated across from the diner really did its job in directing someone like myself to the place.

“Diner” sign across the street from the Peterboro Diner. August 30, 1982
photo by Larry Cultrera

As I said, the diner was pretty much unchanged at this point,  as the following photos will attest……

Other than the aluminum flashing at the roof’s edge and a replacement front door, the Peterboro was certainly pristine. August 30, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

At that time there were parallel parking spaces perpendicularly placed
in front of the building.  August 30, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Also, there were no additions to the original structure. It was a self-contained diner!  August 30, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Well, within a short time of my first visit, the Fontaine family sold the diner and the new owners immediately decided to make some changes. They took out the factory-installed kitchen that was partitioned off from the diner on the right side (the last 2 windows on the right front). They also removed the partition.

They then built a large addition to the rear of the diner that housed a new kitchen, rest rooms and additional dining room. With the new space for more seating, they needed additional booths with tables. I believe they brought in a local craftsman who duplicated the wooden benches and tables very closely matching the ones that Worcester Lunch Car Company had built. I was totally impressed with that detail!

Unfortunately, on a visit a few years later, all those booths/benches were gone! Replaced by a generic newer style of furniture. I was totally disappointed! In fact I have to say that soured my attitude about this diner for quite a few years! It wasn’t until sometime in the late 1990’s that my feelings changed. Maybe I mellowed a little and also the diner’s atmosphere had possibly evolved and settled in those intervening years, giving the place a great small-town flavor that really appealed to me.

A more recent photo showing how the street-scape has changed. Also a small portion of the added-on building behind the diner is visible as well as the picnic tables and fence out front. Note the replacement windows too!

Well anyway, to get back to the Peterboro Diner story in the Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette, last week I got an email from David Brown who lives in the United Kingdom. His email mentioned Peter Tuttle’s article on the Peterboro Diner (first I had heard of it). Here is what David said….

Hi Larry,
Having read Peter Tuttle’s article on The Peterboro Diner in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette, I checked out your Diner Hotline weblog and will have lots of catching up to do now!

I live not far from the UK city of Peterborough and one of our favourite eateries is the US-style OK Diner, just off the A1, north of Stamford. The attached pic shows my 1972 VW Bay camper parked outside the OK Diner. of course, we have our own brand of roadside eateries here, often referred to as ‘greasy spoon’ transport cafes.

Having recently returned from an all too brief trip to California, Arizona and Nevada, I am missing the sort of food served up in American diners – I’m missing the Californian temperatures too!

Best regards,
David Brown

David Brown’s VW Bay Camper parked outside the OK Diner in the UK

After reading David’s email, I responded and asked him if in fact Diner Hotline was mentioned in the story and he answered yes. So I did some investigating and to make a long story short, I obtained a copy of the magazine locally.

I subsequently read the story entitled….  The Peterboro Diner, Booth Heaven by Peter Tuttle, which gave a little synopsis on diner history and had some photos associated with the article including a photo of Worcester Lunch Car No. 549 which preceded the Peterboro Diner (then known as Ryan’s Quick Lunch) and period photos of the Peterboro Diner being delivered as well as Tuttle’s own photos of the Peterboro Diner today.  More importantly a dimensioned drawing drawn by Edith Tuttle was also included, one that a model builder could use if they were interested in making a scale model of the Diner for a model railroad layout.

I looked Peter Tuttle up in the White pages and gave him a phone call. I identified myself (I knew he would know me) and we had a long conversation. I told him how I found out about the magazine article and he informed me we had actually had some contact (thru Diner Hotline) in recent months! Seem’s he is an avid reader and fan of my Weblog!

I asked him to send an email with info on how he came to write the piece for Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette and he sent me this…

Thank you so much for your offer to mention my Peterboro Diner story published by the Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette in your Diner Hotline Weblog-  and for your call yesterday evening- it was great talking with you.

You asked how my diner story ended up in the Gazette- well, it’s a magazine for people building models of (mostly) backwoods railroads, buildings and industries.  I was building scale models (they’re kind of a language all their own) before I learned to write or take pictures, and I first published a piece in the Gazette almost thirty years ago, so it seemed like a natural for the Peterboro Diner story.
I’ve spent my life writing, including a translation into contemporary English of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales- the greatest road book in English- for a Barnes and Noble edition, and my own 200-page road poem, Looking for a Sign in the West, about the year and 100,000 miles my wife, Edie, and I spent roaming the American West- from cafe to cafe- and all the people and places we met and saw in between.  Cafes are to the West what diners are to the Northeast- so it was natural, once we moved back east, to be drawn to diners.
In any case, thank you again for your enthusiasm for the Peterboro piece.  Holy Grill!  Larry Cultrera, Renowned Diner Guru, called me!
Peter mentions at the end of the Peterboro story, Richard Gutman’s American Diner Then & Now (as the authoritative book on Diner History) and goes on to say…. You can google Larry Cultrera’s “Diner Hotline Weblog” – a great source of contemporary diner news, diner history, and lore. I want to thank David Brown for letting me know about the magazine story and especially Peter Tuttle for writing it and mentioning Diner Hotline. I also want to acknowledge Bob Brown the editor and publisher of Narrow Gauge & Short Line Gazette for running the story (and for sending me a magazine)!
You can check out the magazine at