The compact galleys offer special features such as dish mounts and latches on cupboards to keep flying saucers grounded and to hold china and crystal in place. Lips on stove tops prevent pots from sliding off. And chefs follow basic safety rules, such as no deep-frying on the train.
To cope with a small pantry, Murphy tries to adhere to what she calls the "seven ingredient or less" rule for most recipes. Sometimes, despite her best planning, she says the train requires her to be flexible and "roll with it," no pun intended.
Changes in altitude can cause problems. After mixing up batter in San Francisco, Murphy was puzzled as to why her baking cake was not rising. "Then I gazed out the window at the snowy peaks of Donner Pass," she says.
Both Murphy and Langton have cooked for celebrities and politicians. Murphy says that a private rail car is a way for famous people to travel without being harassed by paparazzi. "A lot of people don't know we exist. We're a well-kept secret."
During the 2004 presidential campaign, Langton prepared a turkey dinner, which prompted Democratic candidate Sen. John F. Kerry to roll up his sleeves and carve.
When singer Barry Gibb and his family rode the train from Miami to New York for the Grammy Awards, Langton was ready to make a gourmet dinner. Then Gibb surprised him by saying what he really wanted was a burger and fries.
"I had to grind up filet mignon to make hamburger," Langton recalls.
Hey, can I help?
On most rail cars the kitchen is the chef's inner sanctum, but that's not always the case.
"Often, after a few margaritas, people feel inclined to help me in the kitchen," says Emily Bradley, 29, the chef and event planner on the private car Patrón Tequila Express, which has a galley big enough to hold several wannabe railroad Rachael Rays.
The cooking style on this rail car, which is used for corporate and entertainment-industry events, is more casual than the white-glove service on other cars, Bradley says. She tries to include local flavors and tailors her menus to embody cities along the route.
Bradley and the other rail chefs use words like "fun" and "adventure" when talking about their jobs. Once they get onboard, the only looking back is from the rear train platform, where they can relax and enjoy spectacular views.
"If I were still in a restaurant, I would be only in the kitchen and only dealing with food," says Murphy. " On the train, I have a great deal of contact with my guests. Some of them I've become close to and consider friends, and almost all of our clients arrive onboard ready to be happy. I've been able to travel to places I'd ordinarily never have gone."