RAILWAY RESTAURANTS – FOOD ON THE LINE (November 6/07)

I find it amusing that at one time away back, trains stopped for meals and the “liquoring up” of passengers at various stations along the line. Apparently there were scheduled stops in the early days of the railroad solely for the purpose of serving alcoholic beverages to male passengers, meals being added as an afterthought.

William W. Clarke mentions the beverage and lunch stops in his railway book, Clarke’s History of the Earliest Railways; I surmise from what Clarke wrote that some of those victualing stops were over and above the regular stops at established stations, but that may be wrong. It appears, however, that train passengers were encouraged to get off the train and partake of a drink in restaurants located in various stations along the line.

Of course, the railway operated some of the restaurants and it was another way to profit from what literally were captive customers. When the train stopped at Windsor Junction, for example, the restaurant located there – the Junction House – had signs posted inviting passengers to have a glass of ale and a leg of chicken.

More than ale was served with the food. “In the pioneer days of the Windsor and Annapolis Railway,” Clarke writes, “ale, porter and other intoxicants were sold at the railway stations.” Passengers could also enjoy a wee “dock ‘n” doris” (doch-an-doris – Gaelic for drink at the door) at four places along the line, Clarke said. Traditionally, the wee doch-an-doris in Scotland was whiskey, which apparently was one of the “other intoxicants” Clarke mentions.

In Kentville, railway travelers once were served by the Kentville Railway Restaurant and we can assume that intoxicants were available here as well. This restaurant, Clarke writes, was famous for its fish meals. The restaurant was operated for a time by a “motherly Mrs. Patterson who won the hearts of the boys, supplying daily, quantities of appetizing fish patties.”

I’m not sure when the Kentville Railway Restaurant was in operation (or when it closed) but likely it was between 1890 and as late as the 1920s. (Mr. Clarke died in 1929). After Mrs. Patterson, and until the C.P.R. came into the picture around 1911, the lunchroom was operated by one Capt. LeCain, Edward Moore and Jim Rooney.

Farther down the line, one of the station lunchrooms posted an amusing and poetic sign advising potential customers that “Lunches tempting (are) served by the Misses Vye/And featured oft by luscious custard pie.”

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