This is a china relish dish in the "Yellow Bird" pattern from the Norfolk & Western Railway. It is striking with a classic rich, wide maroon band around its rim encircling a tropical bird amid flowered branches. Smaller than a long celery trough, this relish tray is about 7 inches long and 3 inches wide.
Condition is lovely with no cracks, chips, flakes or repairs. There are a few light surface marks from use that cannot be seen unless you tilt it in bright light. The glaze is strong, the colors are bright.
On the underside is the correct maker mark by Shenango China.
Yellow Bird chinaware was proudly used on dining tables aboard two of the N&W's most prominent and well-regarded trains:
Its flagship the POWHATAN ARROW, splendid in regal maroon and gold livery, which ran from 1946 until 1969 between Norfolk, Virginia and Cincinnati, Ohio; and the crack passenger train POCAHONTAS, which operated from 1926 until 1971, carrying coaches and Pullmans between Norfolk and the Cincinnati/Columbus area, and handling a sleeping car over a route between Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Roanoke, Virginia, Portsmouth, Virginia and Columbus.
IMPORTANT COLLECTOR NOTE - Shenango China was the ONLY maker of the railroad-ordered dinnerware. The same bird appears on dishes made by other companies, but those are NOT Norfolk & Western ordered items. Also, for it to be authentic N&W, the dark purple-red band must be present: bands or stripes of different colors are NOT railroad china.
BACKGROUND: From its original incarnation as the Norfolk & Western Railroad that started up in 1881, the N&W Railway formally began in 1896, operating in the eastern US states of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. After many years of expansion and mergers, following 1960s mergers its territory also included Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania. A final merger in 1980 with the Southern Railway, changed it to the Norfolk Southern, but the N&W continued to operate separately. Finally in 1982, the Southern gained full control, ending the N&W as an entity of its own.