All Aboard! The Railway Refreshment Room

Alresford Railway Station

Alresford Railway Station, built in 1865

The golden age of train travel has always been fascinating to me. My grandfather was a train conductor out of Union Station in Chicago and I loved hearing his tales of stars and starlets sightings, and descriptions of classy men and women dressed to the nines as they boarded his train to exotic destinations for expensive holidays.

Today in England, train travel is as popular as ever – a necessity, really – although perhaps not quite as glamorous as it once was. The Victorian train stations that remain are filled with character and charm, and some still have a refreshment room.

Alresford Railway Station Refreshment Room

Refreshment room at Alresford Railway Station

By the mid 19th century, most medium and large railway stations in England had refreshment rooms. Before the creation of the buffet car, the refreshment room was a kind of  ‘tearoom’ where commuters and travelers could get a good cup of tea and something to eat, including buns and pastries. They were owned and operated by outside entities, the catering contractors Messrs Spiers and Pond being the most well-known.

Earlier this year, Mr. Tea and I traveled to Hampshire for a special Cream Tea aboard a heritage steam train called The Watercress Line.  The train left from the Alresford railway station, and above is a picture of its refreshment room.

Alresford Railway Station

Alresford Railway Station, interior

 

The Watercress Line Ticket

Ticket for special Cream Tea aboard The Watercress Line

 

Table set for a Cream Tea aboard The Watercress Line

Table set for a Cream Tea aboard The Watercress Line

 

Cream Tea aboard The Watercress Line

Cream Tea aboard The Watercress Line

 

Steam from the engine of The Watercress Line

Steam from the engine of The Watercress Line

 

Watercress fields, Hampshire, England

Our train passing watercress fields in Hampshire

Alresford, Hampshire is considered to be the Watercress Capital of the World. Back in the day, the Mid-Hants Railway used to transport Hampshire watercress to markets in London, and it affectionately became known as The Watercress Line.  Hampshire’s prolific watercress fields still produce that lovely peppery, tangy leaf vegetable, but these days The Watercress Line only delivers nostaligic train rides through those fields, leaving the market delivery work to lorries.

Watercress is popular here, and a traditional Afternoon Tea in England will always provide an egg and cress tea sandwich on the menu.

 

Watercress fields, Hampshire, England

I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ‘P’

This was my very first trip on a steam train and although it was an overcast day, the ride through Hampshire’s lush, green watercress fields was immensely enjoyable.  Add to that a Cream Tea accompanied by the clickety-clak of the train’s wheels, and you have all the ingredients for a tea lover’s delight.

The Watercress Line offers themed railway trips throughout the year. Because of the tea/watercress connection, I highly recommend a trip on The Watercress Line if you are looking for a unique, English tea-related experience.

 

 

The railway refreshment room is immortalised in the film Brief Encounter, a love story about two people who meet at a railway refreshment room and, despite the complications involved, fall in love. A real refreshment room (Carnforth Station) was used during the filming. The Refreshment Room at Carnforth Station is now a popular destination for film buffs, and lovers of tea and trains.

 

See the Tea in England Facebook page for more pictures of my trip on The Watercress Line.

 

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Comments

  1. My Dad is a massive fan of trains, especially steam trains, and Brief Encounter is probably his all time favourite film. I’m by no means a train-spotterl, but a cream tea in any location is fine by me! The scones in your picture look really good.

  2. How special to have cream tea on a steam driven train and to visit the railway station too. Indeed a very wonderful treat for a tea lover.

  3. How charming! Such a lovely post. : )

  4. There’s just something very charming and romantic about a train station. Perhaps from seeing so many wonderful movie scenes like Brief Encounter set at a train station? I love the idea of a refreshment room at the train station! Your pictures are beautiful. Must try it some day.

    • It sure is romantic…remember those films where the man tells the woman to meet under the clock at a certain time? Sigh. Thanks for the compliment, and I hope you will try it someday. :-)

  5. Fascinating post- I adore trains and train travel. My family and I took a glass-domed scenic train trip from Calgary to Vancouver, Canada. Along the way we saw a mother bear & her cub, Osprey and Eagles, as well as snowfall as we passed through the Lake Louise area. How charming the Refreshment Rooms must have been. The photos from your trip are lovely.

    • Hi Shawn, thanks for stopping by. Your train trip must have been gorgeous. I have never been to Canada but my youngest daughter lives in Fairbanks – that entire section of the North Country is so beautiful!

  6. I should love to have tea on the train or in the railway station! The Watercress Line sounds a perfect route for me – I frequently make egg and cress sandwiches for afternoon teas.

    • Hi Jean! I hope you can ride on the Watercress Line someday. The watercress fields were beautiful. I think I would like to try a watercress soup. I have seen some recipes….

  7. I love the look of the refreshment room. I can imagine spending a long afternoon there reading, drinking tea, and people watching…and maybe seeing Peter Cushing (RIP) walk in on his way to capture some monster (I love the old spooky movies).

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