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The distinctive blue B&O dining-car china that made its debut in 1927, designed by Olive Dennis, is now, or at least one piece of it, available in a paper reproduction.
The distinctive blue B&O dining-car china that made its debut in 1927, designed by Olive Dennis, is now, or at least one piece of it, available in a paper reproduction. (Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad dining-car china, still considered one of the nation’s most beautiful china patterns that dates from the golden age of railroad travel, is back.

Well, at least one piece of it is back, and it’s paper.

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The brainchild of retired CSX executive E. Ray Lichty, who, with his wife, Judy, collects the actual thing, and whose personal collection could probably outfit an actual dining car, came up with the idea of reproducing a piece of the fabled china as a fundraiser for the nonprofit Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Historical Society.

The original distinctive deep blue-colored Colonial dining-car china was designed by Olive W. Dennis, a Cornell University-educated civil engineer, for the B&O’s 100th anniversary in 1927.

Dennis began her career in 1920 in the railroad’s engineering department, designing bridges, and a year later, was reassigned to a new position as a research engineer whose main assignment was improving the experience and creature comforts for those traveling on the railroad’s passenger trains, as well as supervising passenger-car design.

In designing the B&O’s china, which features Maryland scenes, she turned to the blue-and-white English Staffordshire pattern for inspiration.

She retired in 1951 from the B&O and died in Baltimore in 1957, shortly before her 72nd birthday.

Civil engineer Olive W. Dennis designed the original blue-and-white Colonial dining-car china for the B&O Railroad.
Civil engineer Olive W. Dennis designed the original blue-and-white Colonial dining-car china for the B&O Railroad. (B&O Railroad Museum photo)

For the china reproduction, Lichty, a Cockeysville resident, selected a 1939 10 ¼-inch dinner plate featuring the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers at Harpers Ferry, crisscrossed by three B & O bridges. Inside the rim of the plates is a parade of historic motive power from the horse-drawn era of 1830 to a modern 1937 diesel-electric engine.

After looking for someone to produce the heavy-duty paper plates, he happily discovered Creative Converting in Clintonville, Wisconsin, which has done a masterful job in both color and registration.

A 24-pack of the plates retails for $7.99, with all proceeds going to the B&O Railroad Historical Society in Sykesville. They can be purchased at the B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore Museum of Industry and Graul’s Market.

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