Tuesday, 22 August 2023


One of the many bizarre eccentricities of the UK licensing laws, was that pub opening hours didn’t apply to trains. Not even on Sunday. There’s a whole Ealing comedy – The Titfield Thunderbolt – based around this.

Which meant that even in the darkest depth of afternoon closing, you could buy a can of something crap in the buffet car. For the younger amongst, buffet cars were like little tuck shops. Buit for adults. In addition to low-quality, mass-market canned beer, you could also get BR sandwiches (long the butt of lazy comedians’ jokes) and spirit miniatures. And crisps, obviously. We are talking the UK here.

Quite a few stations had licensed refreshment rooms. Ranging from the dire to the wonderful. The one in Doncaster had the atmosphere of a multi-storey car park and a range of products almost identical to those in a train buffet car.

Then you had the station buffet at Stalybridge. Which sold cask and regularly featured in the Good Beer Guide. Once, coming back from Manchester, I deliberately chose a train stopping at Stalybridge just so I could have a couple of pints in the buffet. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

It was worth it. A lovely little space with a cola fire. Like really cosy little pub. Deserving its inclusion in the Good Beer Guide.

The buffet in Doncaster had cask last time I was there. Unlike in the good old days. What is the UK coming to?


Anonymous said...

It’s a wonder there weren’t “beer trains” with circular routes all over the UK running 24/7.

John said...

As I remember the buffet cars almost always had Red Death in cans, which is why I always associate it with travelling up to Carlisle to see my Granddad. I actually think its an OK pint!

petalia paul said...

In the mid 70 until the 1990s the station buffet at Manningtree Essex (between colchester and ipswich was a fantastic place.
5 original Gaskell & Chambers handpumps set into a marble bar top and great beer.A regular in the Good Beer Guide.

Rob Sterowski said...

It was a common sight on any Scotland—London train to see men sitting with four cans of the aforementioned Red Death (McEwan’s Export) on the table in front of them. Sometimes that appeared to be their only luggage.

Anonymous said...

Rail preservation society of Ireland has draught beer on its trains.

Steve said...

1974 East Croydon buffet platform 6. Draught (keg obviously) Tartan (that I still brew), Draught (keg obviously) Diamond (that I still brew), 2 pence one armed bandits, sausage roles and pork pies. All that and Southern Region Electric and diesel Multiple Units arriving every two minutes. Heaven.