COBWEB CORNERS: The Midlandís coffee cups
By Mel McFarland
I was recently talking to a waitress at one of my favorite dining spots about coffee cups. Those used in restaurants and on trains are heavier than the average cups. Thay have to be, or else they won't survive! I learned that years ago when I worked at Hibbard's. The information returned years later.
I was interested in the Colorado Midland railway, and had not even started thinking about doing a book when I learned more about china. There is a book about South Park. In it is a picture of 11 Mile reservoir with the old grade of the Midland quite visible sticking out of it. It was taken in the 1950s when the lake was really low. I watched for it to happen again, and it did a bit in the 1970s. I went out to walk it if I could. I had started to walk as much of the Midland as I could in the 1970s. When I walked the old grade, I saw a bit of white with "Midland" on it. It was a piece of broken Midland dining car china. As I walked other sections, I started finding more. I now have a couple of shoe boxes of pieces; plus, I know more about the china.
Trains threw their trash out as they rolled along, including broken china. I found most of the Midland china on one side of the track, so I figured the door it was thrown from was always on that side. The Midland used two patterns regularly and others when times were bad. Other railroads did the same, as well as the Pullman company. You can still find pieces in many places.
Fine china was not used on trains because of the fragility. Cups, however, have a different reason for being heavier. Coffee or tea stays hot longer in a thicker cup. Most restaurants use heavy china, and the pattern is often uniform.
I often found some strange cups. Here and there were parts of cups with their handles broken off, but some cups obviously had none! I finally realized that was intentional. These were cups used by the railroad crews. I have even seen pictures from World War II ships' dining halls of cups without handles! In the Air Force, we had handles.