Catering for the Traveller

From the early days, the LNWR provided Refreshment Rooms at Wolverton, Crewe and Preston to allow passengers travelling on the West Coast Mainline to have short (usually 20 minute) meal breaks during long journeys.

As the railway expanded refreshment rooms were opened at many stations. Those at the larger stations were run directly by the LNWR but the majority were operated by tenants.

To cater for passengers wanting an overnight stay before or after a journey the LNWR entered the hotel business. Initially the “Euston” and “Victoria” hotels at Euston station were run by a tenant, who leased the buildings, but were soon taken over by the LNWR.


The company’s flagship hotel, the “North Western” at Lime Street station in Liverpool was opened in 1871 to cater for travellers using the steamers to and from America. At that time Liverpool was the main port for shipping to America and much of the rest of the world. This hotel was always run by the LNWR and it provided the refreshment rooms and a first class dining room for passenger using the station, in addition to its own dining and coffee rooms for guests.

The LNWR had 12 hotels plus 4 more owned jointly.

A Hotel Committee of directors was formed in 1860 to oversee these activities. In 1876 the Hotel Department was formed to run the hotels and refreshment rooms.


The First Class Refreshment Room at Manchester Exchange Station in 1885.

In 1881, seven of the refreshment rooms started to supply cold luncheon baskets for passenger to take on the trains. Soon hot luncheon baskets were being supplied and later breakfast and tea baskets were added to the service. During World War 1 Luncheon boxes were supplied to passengers as a cheaper alternative to the baskets. Over the next few years, these gradually replaced the baskets.

The LNWR started to add dining cars to trains between London and Manchester in 1889, soon extended to Liverpool services and to special trains serving steamer departures from Liverpool. In 1891 dining cars were introduced on the West Coast services to Glasgow and Edinburgh. These dining services were run by the Hotel Department.


During WW1, from May 1916, Dining car services were suspended to reduce train weights, with luncheon baskets then being sold on the trains, later replaced by the luncheon boxes. Dining cars were re-introduced in 1919.

By 1921 the Dining Cars were serving between 88,000 meals a month in the winter and 124,000 in the summer.


The Hotel Department took over the catering on the company’s steamers operating from Holyhead in 1894.

The LNWR bottled its own beer and whisky to serve in the hotels, refreshment rooms and dining cars.

In July 1915 girls were substituted for boys on the tea and refreshment wagons on the platforms at Euston. Quite unexpectedly this produced a large increase in sales and was rapidly spread to other stations where practicable. The girl’s uniform was “butcher blue” overalls with a shiny black belt and blue caps.

The hotels, refreshment rooms and dining cars were supported by five company run laundries and four piggeries that used the food waste from the hotels as well as producing pork and in some instances also reared poultry to supply eggs.