U.S., Illinois Central History: A Menu Saying Thank You to the Military With Free Meals

By J. Bruce Richardson, Corridor Rail Development Corporation; January 6, 2021

We are well into the 2021 new year and have left the holiday season behind, but here is a short menu that has just popped up and is well worth taking a moment to appreciate. This is the Illinois Central System’s Christmas Dinner menu for 1944, when World War II was still raging around the world.

The history of America’s railroads during the war is well-known; everything it took to win the war – from members of the military to armaments to foodstuffs – moved by train. The Illinois Central found an unique way to pay homage to America’s fighting men and women who were traveling on IC trains over the Christmas holiday:

Hey Solider*

If you are travelling on your own then dinner is on the house. Sorry you can’t be at home – but thanks for what you are doing and a Merry Christmas to you!

Christmas Dinner

Hearts of Celery, Mixed Olives

Cocktail of Fresh Gulf Shrimps

Cream of Tomato, Croutons

Roast Tom Turkey
Oyster Dressing, Cranberry Sauce
Escalloped Potatoes, Green Peas

Orange Sherbet

Chopped Green Salad
French Dressing

Hot Tea Biscuits, Vanilla Muffins

Hot Mince Meat Roll, Brandy Sauce

Cluster Raisins, Salted Nuts

Coffee, Tea, Milk

*or member of any branch of our Military Force

J.W. Stevenson, Passenger Traffic Manager, Chicago, Ill.
N.L. Patterson, Superintendent Dining Service, Chicago, Ill.

With this simple, inexpensive gesture by the railroad, how many lifetime passengers did they gain from military men and women and their families, grateful for recognition while away from home on a holiday and also living on modest military pay?

It’s innovation like this that is barely seen today.

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