Besides the helper cook, there was one other cook in the kitchen. which was very small. There was no fresh air, other than what could be provided by a small vent in the ceiling. There was no fan. To see outside, there was one small window in the wall. Although the space was very compact, it was possible to provide much food. There was some freezer space, which was kept cold with the use of large chunks of ice. The cook would prepare food for thirty or forty people sometimes more for one sitting. All fresh steaks were cut by hand and then cooked over charcoal.
The cook did all of the ordering of food. He made a list of what would be needed for the next cook and submitted that. If he should run short on a trip, he used another product that he had in stock as he had to make up something. On occasion, he would make a quick trip to a store en route, if the length of stop permitted it.
The cook worked all day before he could have some sleep, also in the dining car. At night, the tables were stripped and the chairs were cleared out. Little mattresses were placed on cots along the walls, and then hidden by large curtains as in a sleeping car. People walking through at night did not realize that crew members were sleeping there.
About 1955 when the Canadian began operation, the crew car became a part of the consist. It was actually partly for crew and partly for baggage. Here, the crew had bunk beds in three levels. Bunks were assigned by seniority with low seniority having top bunk. There was another room which had better facilities. Because this car was located at the front of the train, Peter found it difficult to sleep as he could hear the whistle throughout the night.
Peter performed every job in the kitchen, worked as waiter, and on up to conductor. The customers in the dining car were not picky. As long as the waiters gave good service, there was no problem. The crew had been well trained. Normally, there were five waiters plus the dining car steward. He rose at 5:00 a.m. and was often still serving at 11:00 p.m. There were five sittings and only one diner then. They served about 38 to 44 persons per sitting. The dining car steward was constantly rushing his staff as he was considering other sittings yet to come. Peter felt as though he were rushing people. All the waiters performed the best that they could.
Until the early 1970s, there was silver cutlery on the tables for every meal. Each morning after breakfast, it had to be polished because eggs caused it to turn black. The creamers and the teapots were also silver-plated. All silverware bore CN or CP decals. Because of the cost of replating worn articles and replacing stolen articles, the railways switched to using stainless steel items without decals.
Customers provided waiters, but not cooks, with tips. Although cooks received higher wages, the waiters on one train pooled each day’s tips and shared with the cooks at night.
In the 1970s and 1980s, there were sleeping and dining car inspectors to insure that all service was the very best. They all had nick names, for example, the hang man.