Peter Herdic Transportation Museum will take diners back in time

Peter Herdic Transportation Museum manager Kyle Murphy knows quite a bit about the 1949 Pullman sleeper-lounge car, and he should – since 2008 Murphy has been manager of the museum where one of only two remaining Pullman “sleepers” in the country is on display.

On Friday, the museum, 810 Nichols Place, will hold its first ever “Nostalgia Night” from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., during which 20 diners will get the opportunity to spend an evening appreciating antique railroad cars from the 1940s and ’50s before entering the Pullman car – a revolutionary car that transformed its daytime seating into sleeping areas for its travelers – to enjoy a dinner taken from the car’s original menu.

“I was reading an article in Classic Trains magazine about signature dishes for different railroads throughout the country and how some of them are making a comeback, and I came up with the idea to re-create these original menu items,” Murphy explained.

After a brief presentation about the history of “Car No. 8416” – the one on display at the museum and the inspiration for the night’s menu – attendees will enjoy steak with asparagus tips, “Virginia” potatoes, tomato soup and shoo fly pie, an old-fashioned molasses pie, for dessert.

Just as when the Pullman car was feeding and carrying travelers some sixty years ago, capacity is limited to 20 passengers – only that many tickets are available for the event.

And while the car’s capacity never changed, its menu did, and Murphy plans to make the culinary aspect of the evening as atmospheric as the antique vehicles or the period garb.

“Each month an item that was listed on an original Pullman railcar menu will be featured and guests will be given a little bit of history each time,” he said. “For example, next month’s featured item will be Rufus Estes’ ‘Bird’s nest salad’ … (Estes) was born a slave in Tennessee and worked his way up to becoming a Pullman car private chef.”

Murphy said that the 1940s and ’50s theme of the event was chosen to reflect the car’s dates of operation, as it served on the Pennsylvania Railroad under a few names and numbers before making its way to the Peter Herdic Transportation Museum.

It was originally manufactured in 1949 and numbered 8416, and is one of two remaining of Pullman sleepers in the country.

After the end of World War II, the shortage of many restricted materials ended and the production of post-war replacement rail cars began in 1946.

In that same year, the Pennsylvania Railroad ordered eight cars, each with three bedrooms, one drawing room and one bar-lounge. Built in May and June 1949, these eight cars were named the “Colonial” series and used in general service as mid-train lounge cars.

The Pullman Company completed Pennsylvania Railroad car No. 8416, named “Colonial House,” on June 11, 1949.

In August 1955, the car was renamed the “Nicholas Firestone” and remained in service with the Pennsylvania Railroad until May 1964. It was then it was transferred to the Penn Central Railroad, reclassified as a “parlor” car and renumbered 7153.

It remained with Penn Central until 1971 and, at one time, serviced the Williamsport area, Murphy said.

While they prepare for Friday’s event, the museum staff will be selling Little League pins and showing off their antique car exhibit that rotates quarterly, including a 1930 Ford Model A that recently was brought in by the local antique car club, Murphy said. Employees also will be in period garb.

The entire museum will be a part of the evening, when diners take “clue cards” into the museum to search exhibits for the answers to their questions.

“It is a great way to get guests to read the information that is available inside at each of the exhibits,” Murphy said, adding that each correct answer “gets them a step closer to winning some cash prizes.”

The museum will hold subsequent “Nostalgia Nights” and already has the next two scheduled for Sept. 19 and Oct. 24.

Tickets may be bought at the museum or by calling 570-326-2500.