It was the Chesapeake & Ohio’s first luxury passenger train – the Fast Flying Virginian, or F.F.V. It debuted on May 11, 1889, shortly after the Ohio River Bridge between Covington, KY and Cincinnati opened, and it ran daily between New York, Washington, and Cincinnati. Any Virginia aristocrat of the era would’ve instantly recognized C&O’s not-so-veiled reference to the “First Families of Virginia.”
The F.F.V. was electrically lit and was the first C&O train to provide dining service. The C&O laid over two diner cars every night at Hinton, WV. The railroad company served meals on a schedule both on this train and later on its other luxury trains The George Washington and The Sportsman.
The F.F.V.’s two diner cars were only on the trains during meal times, which for westbound trains would have been just after the 7:30 AM departure from Hinton. No doubt there were plenty of grumbling stomachs among passengers who’d been on the train for 24 hours since boarding at New York City’s Pennsylvania Station!
Laying the diners over at Hinton permitted the C&O to service eight trains (4 east and 4 west) with seven diners, and permitted the diner crews to sleep at night off the railroad.
The two diners were stored on a short siding near the station and next to an icehouse; they were iced via its top loading bunkers. The diners were switched in one car ahead of the train’s rear.
This F.F.V. breakfast menu from May 1900 offers up meals for a dollar that include such choices as: Baked Apples and Cream, Broiled Sea Fish, Sirloin Steak, Spring Lamb Chops, Shirred Eggs, and Saratoga Chips (we know this 1853 kitchen innovation from Saratoga Springs, NY as potato chips).
Wilbur Wright may very well have eaten from this menu in September 1900, when he traveled on the F.F.V. transporting most of the components of the first Wright Flyer out of Cincinnati en route to Kitty Hawk, NC.
Wright would’ve also known the train that carried him to Old Point Comfort, VA, as “the Vestibule Limited.” His train consisted of a “…combined car, day coach, dining car, Pullman sleepers and observation car, assuring all the creature comforts, and affording unobstructed views of the magnificent scenery along the route.”
The May 1900 menu mentions that “Our table water is from the celebrated Healing Springs of Virginia.”
“The Healing Springs of Bath County, VA are a short distance north of the Chesapeake & Ohio R.R.,” according to Appleton’s Illustrated Hand-book of American Summer Resorts, “and are unrivaled by any others yet discovered in Europe or America. The waters of this spring are stated to be almost identical in their chemical analysis with the famous Schlangenbad and Ems waters of Germany.
“Their temperature is uniformly 84 degrees Fahr., and the water is regarded as highly beneficial in cases of scrofula, chronic thrush, obstinate cases of cutaneous disease, neuralgia, rheumatism, ulcers of the lower limbs of long standing, and dyspepsia, in some ‘hopeless cases’ of which it is said to have worked cures.”
By 1948 travelers on a “coach budget” could order more humble fare in the F.F.V. diner car. They’d find Stewed Prunes with Cream (30¢), Breakfast Figs in Syrup (35¢), a Jelly Omelet (65¢), or two Poached Eggs on Toast (50¢). The Griddle Cakes with Syrup were 45¢ (a dime more with honey); as were French Toast with Marmalade. Milk Toast (25¢), RyCrisp (10¢), and Doughnuts (10¢) were also on the menu. Coffee and tea came by the pot (20¢), and milk by the bottle.
Eastbound F.F.V. service was discontinued in 1962, and on May 12, 1968 the F.F.V. made its final run.
Appleton’s Illustrated Hand-book of American Summer Resorts, 18th edition, D. Appleton & Co., New York, 1893