The Hamburger Coach of Glen Oaks


Union Turnpike at 255th Streeet

During the late 1960’s my family lived in Glen Oaks until I was three. One of the things I remember most of my short time there was this little burger joint that stood on the north side of Union Turnpike near the movie theater. It was dark inside, bluish purplish walls, counter on one side, tables on the other. Not the kind of place a kid would remember, except for the fact that it featured a model train set running on tracks delivering food to its patrons. In my memory the tracks ran all over the place. They went in and out of the walls, up and down, high and low, in and out. Memory exaggerates perhaps, but I’m sure but there was definitely a restaurant on Union Turnpike and it did use model trains to deliver orders to customers.

Once my family moved out of Glen Oaks I never set foot in the Hamburger Coach again. There were eateries based on the same concept but they too closed, and I never was able to walk into another burger joint that delivered food to my counter via train. You never know when your last chance to get to do something may have already come and gone, and for me, food by train ended before I reached Kindergarten.


Hamburger Choo Choo Huntington

There were several train oriented restaurants operating in our area in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. There was a Hamburger Train on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park, a Hamburger Express in Garden City. Hewlett had a Hamburger Local, Bayside and the Bronx had a Hamburger Express. The most popular of these, and the one that seemed destined to outlive the others was the Hamburger Choo Choo on Main Street in Huntington. It was popular and had a reputation for having food that was quite good. It might still be open today if not for a grease fire which burned it down on March 20, 1982. It’s turn of the century wood frame building did little to help save it, and within just a few short minutes the treasured Hamburger Choo Choo had served its last burger.


Choo Choo Des Plaines

New York has been without a model train counter since, but the Chicago area has a restaurant that has been open for decades. The Choo Choo, according to The Des Plaines Patch, was borne out of an idea that originated with World War Veteran Roy Ballowe. His brother James and wife Marilyn went with it and opened the Choo Choo. Their place has stood the test of time, and the concept is getting new life; The All Aboard Diner in nearby Downers Grove is now running a similar operation, with a train running all around its large double sided inner counter.


Caboose at The Choo Choo

For me, Downers Grove is about the same distance from NYC as Des Plaines, so my nostalgic stop for local food via express train will still have to wait. Ray Kroc of McDonalds fame opened one of his first McDonald’s in Des Plaines. It is said that Kroc paid a visit to the Choo Choo and assured the owners his fast food restaurant would be no match for theirs.


1966 Hamburger Coach Waitress Ad


I have not been able to find a photo of the Hamburger Coach in Glen Oaks. The only tangible documentation I found of the place was a help wanted ad for a waitress in March 1966. There are only a few photos of the other similar places that once existed in our region. Hopefully someday someone will open a train delivery restaurant again in our area so we can relive the memories, or at least track down a photo of the Hamburger Coach. Below is a collage of some photos of the New York hamburger train places I was able to find.


Hamburger Train, Queens Blvd, Rego Parkhamburgertrain3A



Hamburger Express, 7th Street, Garden City


1966 Ad










Hamburger Choo Choo, Main Street, Huntington



Courtesy of Richard Holtz


Leave a comment


  1. Their was a hamburger train lunchenette on Parsons Blvd. near 71st Ave next to the McCrorys in the late 50’s

  2. Scott Berkun

     /  December 18, 2014

    I wonder if every world culture has a “moving food thing” kind of restaurant. Japan has sushi-trains, which you can find in the U.S. too:

    Conveyor Belt Sushi

  3. Michelle

     /  December 23, 2014

    I definitely do remember the Hamburger Coach. We used to go there after spending the day shopping at Mays (not Macys) Dept. Store, right up the corner….

  4. eddie mack

     /  April 6, 2016

    Yes Mays Dept store, me too. I remember the place as Choo-choo Charlies on Union tpk by the movie theater

  5. Bill Scarnati

     /  May 14, 2016

    I went to the one in Glen Oaks many times and as I remember it the train went around the counter in an oblong circle and you could sit all around it except where it connected to the kitchen where the cooks could put the burgers on the plates mounted on the flat cars of the train,my friends mother was a waitress there and I went a lot after the Saturday matinee at the Glen oaks movie theater where I lived a few blocks away on union turnpike and 246th st,a great memory

    • I have the same memory of the Hamburger Coach. The place had a light green fomica counter and stools.My mom used to bring my brother & I to shop at Mays and then on the way home to our apt. In Glen Oaks , we would stop in and grab a burger in the coach. I always was fascinated with the trains delivering our food. Those were great times! Gene Perry

  6. Harold Schechter

     /  November 22, 2017

    I also remember the Hamburger Coach in Glen Oaks very well,from the 1950s.There was another good family type restaurant near it named Sandy’s.On 217th Street and Hillside Avenue was The Happy Robin,known locally for their barbecued hamburgers.I recall that in the late 1950s..perhaps it was the very early 1960s..Our Lady of the Snows had a carnival and Officer Joe Bolton,the host of TV’s Three Stooges was there.Back in the 1950s,I’m pretty sure he was NYC’s first weatherman on TV,WPIX,Channel 11.I remember him advertising Taystee Bread.The other two newsmen on that broadcast were John Tillman and Kevin Kennedy.When Joe Bolton left to host The Three Stooges,Gloria Okon replaced him with the weather broadcast.She used to advertise Arnold Bread.I’m pretty sure Joe Bolton was in at least one of the very late Three Stooges Movies when Moe and Larry were getting long in the tooth and Joe DeRita was the third Stooge.Curly and Shemp had passed away and Joe Besser who replaced them,and who also played Stinky on the Abbott and Costello TV show from the early 1950s,had departed and was on The Joey Bishop TV Show in the early 1960s.Whew!!!

  7. Alan

     /  January 5, 2019

    1958-1966 lived in Glen Oaks – PS 186, PS 67, Martin Van Buren – Went to the ‘Turnpike’ – Hamburger Coach, Garden Bakery, [no movie theater], Mays, candy stores at either end, pizza near Little Neck Pkwy, hard to remember the rest…

  8. Don

     /  May 15, 2019

    I grew up 2 blocks from Hamburger Coach on the corner of 254th St & Little Neck Pkwy. When my parents said, “lets go out to eat,” it was the place I always wanted to go. Loved it, and was very sad when it closed. Thanks for the memories!

  9. Dennis Sargent

     /  July 10, 2019

    I worked at the hamburger coach after school and on weekends while in High School.
    The owners were Artie and Bernie- they were a pleasure to work with. Always gave the kids a chance.

  10. Dennis

     /  July 21, 2019

    I was a counter man at the Hamburger coach in 1967 – it was an after school job and a weekend job.

  11. MITCHELL Shapiro

     /  October 21, 2019

    Going to Hamburger coach as a kid was amazing,You just do not see creative things in stores that would make you come back not like Hamburger coach.With todays technology and the advancement of the size of trains it would be a great novelty to go to a place like that.I would of wanted my kids to experience what we had back then.


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