PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — It didn’t look like much as it sat covered in a vacant lot, but observers remembered the old dining car after the tarp was pulled off for the first time in a decade.
It was a legendary Providence locale for about 60 years, known as The Silver Top Diner, until construction forced a move to Pawtucket. It never reopened.
Richard Gutman is a national expert on diners and said the blue and silver structure was one of the “classier” models.
“After World War II there were maybe 6,000 diners,” Gutman said. “Now, there are 2,000, maybe less.”
And there would be one fewer than that, if not for the auction process that put the former Providence dive in the possession of Katie Cerrone.
She owns a 50’s burger bar in North Attleboro and was looking for a second location. Her dad, Al, who knows a few things about buying and selling, saw that the diner was going on the auction block.
Cerrone was out of town for the sale, but her brother stood in for her.
“And then he called me that same day and said congratulations, you’re a diner owner,” Cerrone said with a smile.
The move was historic in itself, as the 800 square foot structure was hoisted onto a flatbed by a crane and guided under power lines.
It was so big, it had to be backed down Pawtucket’s Middle Street before it could be turned around and driven onto the interstate.
From there, it was escorted by state police to a Johnston warehouse where it will be stripped down to the studs and brought back to life.
“We could build a brand new building with what we’re going to end up spending,” Cerrone said. “But it wouldn’t have this look or this history.”
She said that historic flavor is an attraction for customer and a big reason why she wants to bring this dining artifact back to life.
“This is a great piece of Rhode Island history right here,” Cerrone said. “It’s really priceless.”
There’s no solid time frame for the renovation process and Cerrone has not decided where the dining car will be for its grand opening when it is once again hosting hungry New Englanders. But she obviously hopes it has another 60 or more years in it.