Diners evolved from night lunch carts first manufactured in Worcester, Massachusetts by T. H. Buckley in 1890. A 1921 edition of The World’s Work named Buckley the original ‘lunch wagon king,’ deeming him “a scarcely appreciated genius who built the first really noteworthy wagon.” By 1957, the Worcester Lunch Car Company had turned out 651 lunch cars that eventually found homes all over the world.
By the late 1960’s, the fast food boom had put a vast number of American diners out of business, but Worcester’s factory workers kept the home of WLC true to its roots. In 1974, four Clark University students published a booklet called “Living it Up in Worcester” that proudly stated, “Diners are not just places to eat. They are multimedia. Indigenously American art forms.” By the 1990’s, restaurateurs in Europe took to shipping Worcester Lunch Cars overseas to serve up “authentic” American cuisine including malted shakes and burgers. Today, only a fraction of the original WLC lunch cars remain, a handful of which are still lucky enough to call Worcester home.
Ralph’s Chadwick Square Diner (Car #660)
was manufactured by WLC in 1930. According to the National Register of Historic Places, this diner operated at at least three separate locations throughout the city before settling at 148 Grove Street. Ralph’s tile and wood finishes represent common interior design prior to the popular use of stainless steel. The space offers a full length marble counter with fifteen stools and a full bar. A sign out front still reads, “Chadwick Square Diner and Tables for Ladies.” The diner was originally a popular spot to gather after big band dances, but these days Ralph’s is known for live music, burgers, and chili.
Miss Worcester (#812)
was delivered to 300 Southbridge Street in 1948, to replace the Star Diner which stood at the same location prior to its arrival. Miss Worcester sits below the elevated tracks of the Providence & Worcester Railroad, directly across from the factory where it was constructed. The design features original porcelain enamel wall panels in pale yellow with light blue detailing. Miss Worcester opens on weekdays at 5 a.m. (weekends at 6) and still gets creative with French Toast after all these years.
Boulevard Diner (#730)
at 155 Shrewsbury Street offers the signature barrel roof design that WLC became known for. The Boulevard has been praised by everyone up to and including The New York Times for serving up comfort food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Patrons can order breakfast anytime of day, but The Boulevard also offers Italian American cuisine as is characteristic of its neighborhood.