The New York Times sort of summed it up on May 10, 2014: Since before World War II, when rail was king and Prohibition was dead, the rolling saloon has been a national staple — its contents relied upon to make the strangers less strange, the commutes less interminable. But over the years, the bar cars began to disappear: Chicago, one of the last holdouts, abandoned its bar service in 2008.
Connecticut can and cannot afford, it’s well known that this is a service that more than pays for itself. In the 1960s, the bankrupt New Haven had exactly one line of black ink on its ledgers: commuter bar cars! I can’t think of any reason why the economics of this are any different today.
The commuter bar cars were a post-war phenomenon. The New Haven began operating them in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Supposedly Wilfred Duprey, the NH’s dining car department superintendent, got the idea after observing the crowds of drinkers in grill cars employed on special excursion trains. However, in the early 1930s the New Haven operated what was known as a “breakfast bar car” for commuters. This car operated on morning trains running between Stamford and GCT. It may have actually served as the inspiration for the evening commuter bar cars. Regardless, it was the alcoholic beverages served in the commuter bar cars that kept the NH’s dining car service marginally profitable through the end, which is something that no other “modern” railroad was able to do.
Quote from Marc J. Frattasio Feb 18