The Possible Link Between Seattle's Orient Express Restaurant And FDR

While the terms "train car" or "railcar" are often applied to diners, typically these are just referencing a certain vintage style. The reason for this is that many old diners were designed to remind patrons of eating in an actual train car at a time when these offered a far more deluxe experience than is typically provided to the modern traveler. (Pardon us for a brief, yet heartfelt digression: Amtrak, please, please, please bring back dining cars on your east of the Mississippi routes!) One very special diner, however, is housed inside a real train car, and one with a pretty interesting provenance, at that.

The Orient Express actually encompasses seven different rail cars, but one of them is said to have been used by former POTUS Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1944 when he traveled across the U.S. giving campaign speeches for what would prove to be his fourth (and last) term in office. Photos of FDR and company still adorn the walls, while you can also still see the button he used to summon his staffers (as opposed to the Diet Cokes Donald Trump would order via a similar method some 70+ years in the future).

The FDR car is a later addition to the diner

The Orient Express has been a fixture in Seattle's Industrial District neighborhood since 1949, a time when the Roosevelt administration and WWII were still fresh in people's minds. In those days, however, it was known as Andy's Diner and occupied just a single rail car. The food must have been pretty good, though, since over the years it added a few more cars, with the FDR one being purchased for $18,000 back in the '80s.

At some point subsequent to this purchase, the diner closed its doors for a time. The original owners were dead and the heir didn't want to run it, but eventually, new owners were found and they re-opened it in 2008 under the current name. The Orient Express, no surprise, specializes in food from China and Thailand, and it offers a karaoke lounge right in the railcar where the 32nd president could conceivably have hummed a few bars of "Chattanooga Choo Choo." As the words of the Glenn Miller Orchestra's 1941 hit go, "Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer," and if you're eating at the Orient Express, you might find yourself singing the same song.