“Manifold Menus”: The Cookbook on How to Cook on a Train Engine

Mule Polly and a BNSF locomotive
Outside Seneca, NE

How would you like a free book on how to cook on a locomotive manifold? This week mule Polly and I visited with Gene Hansen of Seneca, Nebraska. Gene is a conductor on the BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) rail line.  He has written a cookbook called “Manifold Menus” which I thought you’d enjoy hearing about. It’s about how to cook on a locomotive engine. It’s a great read, even if you don’t know your locomotive turbocharger from the oil tank.

Gene Hansen (Seneca, Nebraska)
Caution: Author is not responsible for injury from the use of this cookbook.” I love a cook book with a warning.

Meeting Gene

A GE “toaster” (Gene photo)

I met Gene while I was traveling through Seneca on the “Lost Sea Expedition”, my current voyage where I’m exploring the sea bed of the ancient Western Interior Seaway that, 65 million years ago, ran from Canada to Mexico down the middle of the Great Plains.  I visited Gene at his mother Sandy’s home in Seneca, Nebraska. Over a loaf of banana nut bread, Gene showed me a copy of his book “Manifold Menus”.

The Seneca post office

Downtown Seneca. Seneca boomed a hundred years ago, but there’s not much left to town.

Cooking on a Locomotive

Gene has worked as a train conductor for years. The shifts are long and there’s no place to pull over for lunch or supper. “Once I get on that train,” he says, “I can’t just pull over, run into a sandwich and go back to work. That’s why I bring my lunch with me.”

At first, he just packed his meals. “After a while,” he says, “I got a little tired of just eating sandwiches. So I thought, ‘I wonder if I could cook on the engine’?”

The engine on a locomotive weighs thousands of pounds and throws of lots of heat. “I figured since I was working those long shifts, I could just cook on the engine as I went.”

He started off by reheating leftovers like lasagna and steak and worked up to full-blown meals. “My favorite is cornish game hen,” he says.

Gene shows me a photo of a large orange locomotive. “That’s my favorite locomotive to cook on,” he says. “It’s a GE, or General Electric, often referred to as a “toaster.”

A GE “toaster” (Gene Hansen photo)

One of the challenges of cooking on a locomotive as opposed to an oven is that there are no ways to regulate the temperate. “I rely on the terrain,” Gene says. “If I’m pulling a load uphill with the train, the food cooks faster than if I’m going downhill, the other way.”

How to Cook Lo Mein Noodles on a Locomotive

Here’s Gene’s recipe for cooking noodles on a locomotive running from Anselmo to Linscott, Nebraska. The “Unit” Gene refers to in the recipe is the type of locomotive he’s operating.

Ingredients: Lo Mein noodles

  • Heat 12 oz of water on Unit (1 and 1⁄2 drinking water bottles) until hot (1 – 2 hours)
  • In a location were you will be putting the motor under heavy load (Anselmo – Linscott) or (Seneca – Mullen) Add your noodles to the preheated water, put back on the motor to cook and tenderize the noodles
  • Remove in about 10-20 mins (top of the grade). Stir and let set for 1-2 mins. Do NOT leave on the motor more then 20 mins or it will turn to mush!!! Enjoy!
Your Lo Mein is ready!
The land between Anselmo and Seneca, Nebraska.

How to Get a Copy of Manifold Menus

You can download a copy of Manifold Menus right here.

I made a recording of my chat with Gene. To listen to our discussion, complete with trains rolling by, click on the audio player below.

Anne Magnison
2015-09-27 22:27:38

Where can I get a copy of this???

Bernie Harberts
2015-09-30 10:39:02

Dang, sorry to see the “Manifolds Menus” PDF is no longer available for download. I’ll check to see if I have a copy backed up somewhere.

You can download a copy of Manifold Menus right here.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] Hear that interview – and download the cook book – right here. […]

Current Ramble
Other Cool Reads