The exterior design of American diners often brings to mind the silhouette of a train – an association that is not accidental. The term “diner” itself is rooted in the history of train travel, inspired by the dining car found on many trains. This history greatly influences various design elements within the diner, from the booth and counter seating to the open kitchen setup, all reminiscent of dining arrangements within a train’s dining car. Intriguingly, the earliest incarnations of diners were actually repurposed train cars set permanently on land.
The peak of train travel occurred in the 1920s when car ownership was limited to less than 10% of the American population. As the decades rolled on, the landscape started to change. By the 1950s, diners started to adapt their designs to people driving in cars.
In later stages, even the advent of space travel contributed to the diner’s evolution, reinforcing the diner’s status as an American icon that reflects the nation’s historical and cultural milestones.