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  The History Highway, Dining Cars Cafe (Page 2)

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Author Topic:   The History Highway, Dining Cars Cafe
the poor mans museum
Active Member

Posts: 1650
From: Solvang, CA, USA
Registered: Oct 2004

posted 03-11-2006 09:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for the poor mans museum   Click Here to Email the poor mans museum     Edit/Delete Message
The Buellton Speedway at the Dining Cars Cafe

One of the more interesting ideas proposed to Mullenís came in 1950. It didnít involve the dining cars, but the property behind them, although it held promise for improving business at the diner.

The Lompoc Model T Club, along with some Buellton race drivers persuaded Mullenís to lease them his land for an oval race track. The club had been sanctioning races in Lompoc since 1936 building race tracks where ever they could convince landowners to let them run for a season.

With the return of the young war veterans, the old T cars fell out of fashion as the young bucks started building hot rods out of the 32 and 33 Fordís with their flathead V-8ís. In addition to the faster cars, series racing had become increasingly popular in California and the T-club wanted to create their own series of central coast tracks. Several of the Buellton boys had been running their cars over to Lompoc so they were happy to participate in the development of a track in their own backyard.

From this grandstand view the Dining Cars are in the upper right side of the photo. The straight line running across about the top third of the picture is Highway 101. This location is about a mile north of Buellton on the west side of the highway in Santa Barbara County, California. You may be able to find it on Google Earth.

We're not done yet so stick around!

[This message has been edited by the poor mans museum (edited 03-11-2006).]

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Hemibird
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Posts: 282
From: Colorado Springs, CO
Registered: Oct 2005

posted 03-13-2006 02:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hemibird   Click Here to Email Hemibird     Edit/Delete Message
Curt,
Can't believe there was so much history right in my back yard while I was living in Lompoc! Thanks for bringing us a snapshot in time.
Chuck

------------------
Chuck
:)
Sign Wishlist: Sunset, Clipper, Habor, Indian motorcycle, Powerlube

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the poor mans museum
Active Member

Posts: 1650
From: Solvang, CA, USA
Registered: Oct 2004

posted 03-13-2006 09:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for the poor mans museum   Click Here to Email the poor mans museum     Edit/Delete Message
The Beginning and the End

Mullen's tried and failed at the Dining Cars even as the a highway expansion began in Buellton in 1948.

By 1955 another entreprenuer was willing to give it a try, this time with the addition of a Seaside Service Station. George "Jack" Chester was an experienced service station owner, but was new to the diner business. He hoped that gasoline would attract diner business when he advertised "Eat Here, Get Gas". Unfortunately all he heard was the wind blowing throught the mostly empty diner.

With more plans for highway expansion in 1955, the California State Highways Department all but ended the prospects of success at the Dining Cars Cafe when they blocked access from the access road that was the earlier Highway 101.

The barrier stopped the traffic and ended the decade of the Dining Cars in Buellton, although they would stay parked at the siding for years to come.

What has happened to the Dining Cars today?

[This message has been edited by the poor mans museum (edited 03-17-2006).]

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Bob Richards
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Posts: 473
From: Longview, WA
Registered: Feb 2005

posted 03-17-2006 10:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob Richards   Click Here to Email Bob Richards     Edit/Delete Message
Okay Curt, I've held my breath long enough, What the **%! happened to the dining cars? LOL. Between the rain,sleet&sun here,now making us wait atleast four days to get the answer is way over the top. Have a good one, buddy.
Bob

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Pablo
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Posts: 481
From: Sugar Land, TX
Registered: Jan 2005

posted 03-17-2006 01:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Pablo   Click Here to Email Pablo     Edit/Delete Message
Hey Curt,
Great series!! I've been past that dining car cafe many times. Once a few years back we stopped to check on a secluded restaurant just up a ways on the same frontage road and also checked out the dining car joint. I could tell it had been out of use for some time but never knew the history. It was still there last July.

Keep up the good work!! Thanks again.

Paul

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the poor mans museum
Active Member

Posts: 1650
From: Solvang, CA, USA
Registered: Oct 2004

posted 03-17-2006 06:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for the poor mans museum   Click Here to Email the poor mans museum     Edit/Delete Message
Sorry Bob. I just had to make sure you guys were still awake out there in cyberspace.

Maybe this will wake you up?

Dining Cars Derailed?

For nearly fifty years the almost abandoned Dining Cars have sat at the side of an empty highway. When Mullen's sold the unique property it was bought by the Smith family. Mrs. Smith was a hairdresser. She opened a hair salon in the small house next to the cars where they resided. Many women from Buellton made their way to the house next to the cafe to have their hair done and swap the local gossip.

A For Lease sign sat in front of the cars for many years with the hope of finding an enterprising entrepreneur to take a chance on the Dining Cars again. Unfortunately, the site violated the three basic rules of real estate, "Location, location, location" and no one was willing to risk it. Occasionally a film crew made use of it, but nothing of widespread fame or notoriety.

Even into the eighties the abandoned gas pumps graced the empty parking lot until some local petro-holic made off with them for their collection. More recently a developer began building houses behind the Dining Cars on the property where the Buellton Speedway once ran. Local rumors suggest that the Dining Cars may be moved soon to make way for more houses and finally leave the station in Buellton.

In the meantime, my friend, and owner of our local tool and party rental company persuaded the owner to allow him to use the dining cars to celebrate his wifeís birthday. The cars had been unused for fifty years and needed a thorough cleaning, but one of the biggest surprises was the neon ceiling; it still works!

I helped him with the 50's props by supplying the car hop, a juke box and other little things. He supplied the real waitresses in period costumes.

For one night the Dining Cars lived again in Buellton. People were so stunned to see them lit up that they actually pulled off the freeway and back tracked to see what was going on.

I'm featuring the dining cars on our Buellton History website right now so if you'd like to know more click on the link.

www.buelltonhistory.org

[This message has been edited by the poor mans museum (edited 03-17-2006).]

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Bob Richards
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Posts: 473
From: Longview, WA
Registered: Feb 2005

posted 03-17-2006 08:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob Richards   Click Here to Email Bob Richards     Edit/Delete Message
Curt, the wait was worth it. I'm hoping that someone will step in and turn the cars into a going enterprise again, before another look into our past is gone. The story as always was/is perfect. Thanks!

Bob

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the poor mans museum
Active Member

Posts: 1650
From: Solvang, CA, USA
Registered: Oct 2004

posted 03-24-2006 05:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for the poor mans museum   Click Here to Email the poor mans museum     Edit/Delete Message
Check out these prices.

Personally, I'd go for the #4.

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+Chris Holt
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Posts: 2211
From: St. Clair MI USA
Registered: Mar 2002

posted 03-26-2006 07:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for +Chris Holt   Click Here to Email +Chris Holt     Edit/Delete Message
Nice job Curt, I hope the cars servive . It would be great to see them restored . Thanks

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kwilal
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Posts: 105
From: Lockport, Illinois USA
Registered: Feb 2004

posted 03-28-2006 08:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kwilal   Click Here to Email kwilal     Edit/Delete Message
Thought I'd give this post another bump back to the top while also posting a pic of Mike's Bar & Grill I took the other week while out shooting pics for "Found Along The Way".

Nice little place serving food but then what would you expect to find in an Illinois town named "Sandwich"?
Ken

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Steve Schell
Member

Posts: 1
From: Long Beach, CA, USA
Registered: Dec 2006

posted 12-30-2006 09:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Steve Schell   Click Here to Email Steve Schell     Edit/Delete Message
Curt, I just stumbled on to your marvelous posts with a Google search. I have stopped to admire the Cafe Dining Cars several times after first spotting it in about 1992. At that time there was a for sale sign out front. When I got home I called the number and spoke with a gentleman who told me that the parcel was large, and the asking price was high enough to crush any idle thoughts of buying it. I noticed the new homes out back on my last visit a year or so ago, so it looks like it eventually sold.

It is great that you were able to bring the place back to life for a day! If this ever happens again I would love to be there for the event.

After my last visit I dropped an email to Huell Howser and sent him a picture or two of the cafe; I never heard back. I think I will write again and send him the link to your thread. Seems to me that the cafe would make an interesting stop on one of his programs.

Curt, thanks to you we now know the history of Mr. Mullen's enterprise, the dates of operation and other fascinating stuff. Thanks so much for sharing all of this.

Steve Schell
stfrsc@juno.com

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