The McTrain: The Rise and Fall of McDonald’s Plan To Conquer Trains

Regardless of where you spot the McDonald’s Golden Arches, they always stand for the same thing: a cheap place to get a quick meal. Almost every city in America has at least one McDonald’s, and they show up in some of the most unorthodox places — inside Walmart, at a Bavarian inn, and even in a barber shop. Where you wouldn’t expect to find one, however, is on a train. Oddly enough, back in 1992, McDonald’s tried to turn a train car into a restaurant. The “McTrain”, as was officially known, got its start in 1992, when the Deutsche Bundesbahn (German Federal Railway) agreed to try outsourcing catering to McDonald’s on long-distance routes. The railway allowed McDonald’s to take over two of its dining cars for the program, installing deep fryers, coffee machines, soda fountains, water heaters, and multiple walk-ins in a 269-square-foot kitchen — still more than half the car. After a test period in Switzerland, the McTrain went into service in Winter 1993. McTrains offered two menus — breakfast and lunch/dinner — comprised of both McDonald’s standard fare and regional favorites not available in the U.S. — things like spaghetti and Viennese sausages. Passengers in second-class or better could place orders with roving waiters, while economy class passengers could trek to the golden-arched dining car itself, which offered seating for 27 and standing for 8 at 4 tables. Despite the popularity of McDonald’s, the McTrain did poorly on trains. Wealthy travelers wanted better meals on long routes, and a complicated inventory management system made stocking supplies a nightmare. So, after two years of poor reception, the railway ditched the McTrain in 1995.