From the Illinois Central Railroad, this imposing service plate is one of the pattern named for the train on which it rode : Panama Limited. With incredibly sharp detail and full color, the center "portrait" of the Panama Limited name train streaming under a signal bridge looks almost like a photograph. You can even see the correctly placed "rivets" on the steelwork over the locomotive!
At an attention demanding 10 inches across, it is one of those ordered by the railroad for use aboard its famous name trains, the Panama Limited and the Daylight Limited. As a service plate, it was designed for artistry and visual impact, not for actual use -- it would have been placed on a dining car table amid other china, silver and glassware with formal linens, to create an atmosphere of luxury that would awe passengers as they entered. After they were seated, waiters would whisk the decorative big plates away and the meal would be served on regular dinnerware.
CONDITION is absolutely lovely. This plate is as pristine as they come. There are no cracks, chips, flakes or repairs. The decoration is bright and beautiful, full color, with no glaze runs, scuffs or losses. There may be a very few light surface marks, but you MUST tilt the plate in bright light and look hard to find them. This is absolutely top condition.
This pattern was made for the Illinois Central by Syracuse China, which first ordered plates in 1916, again in 1923 and finally once more in 1924. Two different railroad back markings are sometimes found, but this plate carries only the OPCO/SYRACUSE CHINA mark used between the 1890s and 1946, making it likely that our plate was from the last group ordered.
You will see an old tape strip "From the YMCA cafeteria plate collection 1915-1973" that a former owner taped on the underside. We have no way to know which YMCA this refers to, but we have left the tape as part of the plate's individual history.
This plate would be a fabulous addition to any better railroad china collection. With so few ordered, it is a scarce and terrific find !
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Vintage Superb Illinois Central Railroad "Panama Limited" China Service Plate