IT was a national joke for generations – and now the cookbooks that inspired Britain’s railway cuisine have been dusted off for the anniversary of a national archive in York.
The engineer George Stephenson, inventor of the Rocket, produced a book of recipes served at his rambling home in Chesterfield. It was sold to an American buyer in the early 20th century but is now in the care of the National Railway Museum.
It lists “English Champagne” and calf foot gilly – a dessert made by boiling a calf’s foot until the natural gelatin is extracted – to be among his favourites. It also contains cake recipes that have been recreated by chefs in York.
The museum’s “search engine” archive, which is marking its 10th anniversary, also has a copy of British Rail’s “sandwich manual”, which told staff in the 1970s, how much margarine, cheese and other ingredients to use.
“It certainly sets off a train of thought about those dreaded BR sandwiches,” said curator Ed Bartholomew.
Railway catering had been derided almost since its inception, Mr Bartholomew added. The first meals were served at Swindon Station by the Great Western Railway, and by the 1860s such noteworthy customers as Charles Dickens were complaining of “sullen service” and coffee that was “not real”. The museum contains an example of an early dining car.