Train food… before the British Rail sandwich

Train travel in a bygone era… For first class passengers utter luxury! Constance Sprye was born in 1886, and in the chapter on Food For Special Occasions in the cookery book she wrote with Rosemary Hume, she recalls a first train journey alone when she ordered a luncheon basket. From the way she writes it sounds as if she may have been about eighteen:

I well remember the first time I had a luncheon basket on a train; ordered ahead by wire it was brought to the carriage at some main-line station en route. Now, I thought, I really am gown up, no more packets of sandwiches for me. Someone must have tipped the guard, for a remember he brought a fresh footwarmer and enquired if I was comfortable. hair up, long skirts, luncheon basket, the Strand Magazine, on my way to my first house party – I was beginning life. In the basket was a wing of chicken, roll, butter biscuits, cheese, and, I think, celery and possibly cake or a jam tart and an apple, and I have an idea that it cost 2s. 6d. (two shillings and six pence, about 12½p in money now)

Today we are going on a train journey; we will probably have a coffee on the train, but no footwarmer, no need in modern heated trains! If there is not a buffet car, the trolley will come round offering sandwiches, sausage rolls, snacks and crisps, chocolate and cakes, but we will have our own packed sandwiches and snacks!

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