March 7, 2009

Last British restaurant cars to be axed

Restaurant cars on British railways are going the way of many other British traditions -- into extinction.

National Express, the last rail company offering multi-course meals with amenities like table cloths, waiters and real silverware, has already cut most of the restaurant cars from its trains between London and Norwich, and on the main East Coast line to Edinburgh, The Times of London reported. Now, the company plans to drop the service from the last 15 trains offering it.

While the restaurant cars are usually packed when they are available, National Express says it loses 20 million pounds ($28 million) a year on them, partly because people in the restaurant car are effectively occupying two seats.

The first British restaurant car opened in 1879 on the line between King's Cross Station and Leeds.

The magazine The Engineer had an enthusiastic description of the original service: Manufacturers and merchants will be able to get a substantial luncheon in comfort on the way up to London and, leaving King's Cross on the return journey, be able to dine at their leisure with a choice of dishes including soups, fish, entrees, roast joints, puddings and fruit for dessert.

The cars were axed during World War II but returned after the war.