The present R & R Family Restaurant in Dana, Ind., does not reveal the passenger train car which composes a portion of the business. (Special to The Prairie Press)

Railroad car in disguise

Just outside of Edgar County, two miles east on U.S. Route 36 on a junction with Indiana Route 71, sits the R & R Family Restaurant. 

The restaurant is a survivor of the past. From the outside, it appears as a normal building. But once inside, visitors are treated to a real surprise. When you enter, you can see the remnants of the interior of a passenger railroad car. 

The first clue about the rail car is the little rectangular windows running on both sides of what was the roof of the car. On one side, the rectangular windows that used to be the side of the car are now a divider between the old car and an adjoining eating room. 

On the east end is a door used to go to the old car’s restroom. On the north side of the old car are two smaller dining rooms, a kitchen and storage. That is the way the restaurant appears today, operated by Roland and Lee Anne Kummerer. 

The idea for a railroad car to be used as a diner in Dana started about 80 years ago thanks to Gene Hess. He  bought a C & E one passenger car No. 232 and placed it on a lot owned by “Mex” Tomey. It was originally placed running north and south, but has been moved several times after the initial placement. 

Hess also had a diner in Bainbridge, Ind. He called them both Bon Ton Diners. Mrs. Darling, Hess’ mother, managed it with a long time helper named James Whitaker who worked there for 35 years. It eventually was sold to Buster Roberts who moved it to Clinton, Ind. 

When it made its way back, it was turned east to west and an addition was added on the north side. At that time it was operated by Pete Stull and his wife, Kricket. They called it the “Chow Diner.” Tomey also owned the business for several years, leasing it to several people.

The diner also was owned by Sen McConnell who later sold it to Jim Whitaker who knew it well. At one time, the building served as a home when Roy Southard from Scottland, Ill., owned it. Whitakers owned it in the 1970s, calling it Whitaker’s Diner. 

The restaurant eventually ended up in the hands of the Kummerers, who purchased it a year ago and renamed it the R & R Junction Family Restaurant. Several items of historic value were removed from the diner before the present owners purchased it. Even some of the old fashioned top windows had been taken out when different owners relinquished the business. 

While Rosie and I visited the place a couple of times, we can attest  the pork chop and ham dinners are home cooked and very tasty. We also noticed there were travelers from Indiana and Illinois frequenting the place besides those from the Dana area. 

The restaurant is a good place for a meal for anyone planning to visit the Ernie Pyle Museum in Dana — which is open for visitors once again as well as those who are traveling to the Newport Hill Climb. Rosie and I had also eaten there when it looked very much like a train car in the 1950s and 60s. It is a real historic memory of an eating place with many owners and a little different appearance, but still a good place to eat and observe the flavor of the old train car.

R & R Family Restaurant is open for business Monday through Thursday 6 a.m. until 2 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The food is all home cooked with special desserts of homemade pies and cakes made by Lee Anne Kummerer as well as daily specials. It is a popular spot for the breakfast crowd and is well staffed — a homey old-fashioned setting.

The Prairie Press

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