Letter: Brunel roasts station buffet

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The Independent Online
Sir: Nicholas Faith ("The great InterCity breakfast", 20 August) gives an account of Charles Dickens writing about the lamentable catering at "Mugby Junction". Perhaps the earliest complaint about the railway refreshment rooms was made by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who although he was the engineer of the Great Western Railway was not prepared to take responsibility for all its operations. Writing to the first refreshment contractor at Swindon he said:

"I assure you that Mr Player was wrong in supposing that I thought you purchased inferior coffee. I thought I said to him that I was surprised you should buy such poor roasted corn. I did not believe you had such a thing as coffee in the place; I am certain I never tasted any. I have long ceased to make complaints at Swindon. I avoid taking anything there if I can help it."

However, the most famous refreshment room must be the one at Milford Junction, which had a doctor in attendance in case lady travellers required cinders to be removed from their eyes before taking tea and rock cakes.


London SE13