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 http://www.ngslgazette.com/issue.htm

Worcester Lunch Cars No. 821 thru 828

Following up on last weeks post, I decided to show the next group of Worcester Lunch Cars. As I said at the end of the last post, Worcester Lunch Car No. 820 the former Stadium Diner of Everett, Mass. (aka the Miss Everett) was destroyed in the early 1970’s. But WLC No’s. 821 thru 828 are still in existence although not all are close to original condition or serving food.

Miss Adams Diner, WLC No.821


Miss Adams Diner at its only operating location, 53 Park St., Adams, Mass.

The Miss Adams Diner was delivered to Joseph Wilusz on December 7th, 1949 and it is still being used as a restaurant. When I first found it in the early 1980’s, it was known as the Peir 53 Restaurant. It had already gained its stone facade (instead of the porcelain steel panels) at that point. The interior was fairly original though. It has since operated under various names and had its interior trashed to a degree in the intervening years but recently went back to the original name since the property was sold. We are hopeful that new operator Philomene Rivard will return some of the lustre to this late model Worcester out in the western part of the Bay State.

Carmen’s Diner, WLC No. 822


WLC No. 822 now operating as the Computer Exchange on U.S. Rte.1,
728 Washington Street in Attleboro, Mass.

Originally known as Carmen’s Diner, it was delivered to its first operating location on Mechanic Street in Leominster, Mass. on November 1st, 1949. Sometime later it made it down to its current location in Attleboro, where it was known as the Mayflower Diner. When I first spotted this in the early 1980’s it was being used as a Ceramics Studio. Later it was a clothing store known as Bogie & Bacall’s. It is now a computer store and the interior is completely gone. You can also see from the above photo that the barrel roof is hidden.

Miss Mendon Diner, WLC No. 823


The Miss Mendon Diner, located on Rte. 16 in Mendon, Mass

Regular readers of this blog know that the Miss Mendon Diner in Mendon, Mass. was reopened this past January after being in storage for a number of years. Originally called the Miss Newport Diner, it was delivered to Noble Croft on May 16th, 1950 at its first operating location on East Main St. in Newport, VT. It operated there until it was moved in 2003 to Salisbury, Mass. where it was being stored. Kevin Meehan, owner of Imperial Cars bought the diner in 2008 and started the process of bringing this beauty back to life.

Ann’s Diner, WLC No. 824


Currently operating as Pat’s Diner, it is seen in this shot prior to the porcelain steel panels being removed by the current owner.

Ann’s Diner is now Pat’s Diner. Delivered on April 14th, 1950 to James F. Evans, it replaced an earlier monitor-roof Worcester Car that had been here for 2 years on U.S. Rte. 1 (11 Bridge Rd.) in Salisbury, Mass. It has a unique interior set-up, there is the typical counter and stools with 4 booths on the right-hand end of the diner with a partition just to the left of the front entrance. There is a large pocket sliding door in this partition to access a dining room that houses 6 booths. After Pat Archambault purchased the diner a few years ago, she removed the exterior porcelain steel panels and replaced them with t-111 wooden panels. other than that the diner is probably 90% original inside and out.

Bluebonnet Diner, WLC No. 825


Bluebonnet Diner at its only operating location 324 King St. (Rte’s. 5 & 10)
in Northampton, Mass. (Delivered May 12th, 1950)

The Bluebonnet Diner is the first of 3 diners that were built with this interesting configuration. It was built with 5 windows flanked by a door at each end of the front facade. The other 2 that were designed like this were the Miss Beverly Diner (No. 828) and Arthur’s Diner (No. 830). Eventually the owners of the Bluebonnet Diner wanted more room and decided to add onto the diner. They did this rather ingeneously by removing the left end wall and swinging it out to be level with the front facade. Then they made the addition behind this new front section. You can get a feel for what was done by looking closely at the details behind the windows in the wooden entryway as seen in the above photo. The diner not only has the added dining room but also a large function facility behind.

Jigger’s Diner, WLC No. 826


Jigger’s Diner, 145 Main St. (U.S. Rte. 1) in East Greenwich, RI
The diner was delivered here on June 21st, 1950 to Leonard Boren.

Jigger’s Diner during a small stretch in the 1980’s was completely gutted and used for storage by a neighboring paint store. It looked like this could be the end for this in-town diner until Carol Shriner got her hands on this and actually brought it back to life. Only someone with a trained eye could possibly see what is original and what is not. Carol has since moved on to other ventures but the diner is still going strong. Ordering the johnny cakes here is certainly a treat.

Peterboro Diner, WLC No. 827


Peterboro Diner as it currently looks. The original windows have been replaced. Located at 10 Depot St. just off School and Main Sts. in downtown
Peterboro, the diner was delivered on September 20th, 1950.

When I first visited this diner in the early 1980’s, it was still being run by Edward Fontaine, a brother of the original owner, Milton Fontaine. The diner was a perfectly preserved stand-alone lunch car. It was built with a partitioned-off kitchen on the right-hand end of the building as well as having the grill behind the counter. Within a couple of years the diner was sold to new owners who immediately made changes. They removed the partition and auxiliary kitchen, added new booths in this section and a large addition off the back of the diner. The large addition had room for a new kitchen, restrooms as well as more seating. They removed the grill and adjacent work station and cut a door to the new kitchen. Since then they upgraded to newer generic booths and have more recently changed the windows. I was intitially appalled at the changes, but as the years have gone by, I have mellowed my feelings and now think this place has a great small-town diner ambience.

Miss Beverly Diner, WLC No. 828


The Miss Beverly Diner as Buffalo Bill’s Roast Beef located at
386 Cabot St., Rte. 1A in Beverly, Mass. It has since been changed to a Subway Sandwich Shop. This diner was delivered on December 14th, 1950.

I recall when the Miss Beverly Diner was still the Miss Beverly Diner. This was back in the early to mid 1970’s. I never went in there although I’m sure I had plenty of opportunities at that time, as my sister lived right around the corner then. By the time I was photographing diners in 1980 the place had become Buffalo Bill’s Roast Beef. As seen in the above photo, the exterior was bricked-up under the windows and a mansard roof was built covering the original roof. Other than that the exterior changes could have been reversed. The interior was better as they still had the counter but just like Beachmont Roast Beef  (from the last post) the counter was raised to be a take-out type sevring counter. The stools were also removed and I believe the booths were changed also. It stayed this way until a few years ago when it had been closed for a short time. Then unfortunately, Subway Sandwich Shops bought the building and completely gutted the interior! If this had not happened, the place could have easily been brought back as a working diner.

This ends this series of consecutively numbered Worcester Lunch Cars as No’s 829 and 830 no longer exist. No’s. 831 thru 835 are extant, No. 836 is probably gone. No’s 837 thru 839 are still around while No. 840 is not. It is like this thru the 840’s where some are still with us and some are not. The last Worcester Lunch Car out of the factory was No. 850, currently the Route 104 Diner in New Hampton, NH.