THE DEMISE OF THE DINING CAR…NOT HERE!
I am not sure what there is about it, but eating rather dining on a train is a very satisfying and relaxing experience.
Some of my recent trips on the rails have been in Europe although now many of them with a more pared down dining décor, however they too are getting thinner in numbers on the rails all over the world.
Boarding a fifty year-old dining car train in Southern England pulled by a steam engine it was going to be, one way or the other, interesting.
I will never understand why this potential almost magical of customer experiences is no longer available here in the UK. Yes, there are snack bars and trolley service, but the sitting down and the whole dining experience whilst the world passes by; this is so special and so very civilised!
I travel to London on a regular basis, a journey of nearly 3 hours, how I would love to sit there for a good part of that journey time enjoying a leisurely breakfast, lunch or dinner. Perhaps I was born far too late and should have been taking my train journeys back in the 1930’s?
Well I did not need to go that far back in time as I had the opportunity to enjoy this experience on one of Britain’s many private steam railways and this one was at Swanage in Dorset.
For over two hours as the Wessex Belle shuffled up and down its 7 mile track from the seaside town of Swanage to tiny hamlet of Norden on the heath area around Poole harbour. The food arrived at our table promptly served by a team made up of paid staff and un-paid volunteer’s. The volunteers give their time in order to help keep this dining service still very much on the rails!
Settling into deep comfortable, almost throne-like first class seating from a previous pampered era you just k that the trip was getting off to a good start. A very pleasant bottle of Rioja was ordered, perhaps a little on the cold side, but never the less after some impromptu warming on the steam radiator under the table we had the signal to go again!
The three-course meal served by the restaurant car team to myself and 80 other diners went without a hitch. They seemed to know their stuff and deftly negotiated the narrow central corridor carrying hot soup and meals as the train occasionally lurched as they do from time to time.
Returning to the starting point for the second time at Swanage the journey came to an end far too quickly for my liking. If only I could have stepped off the train at London Waterloo after this interlude and charming experience, but for me its back to the sometimes inconsistent trolley food service of South West Trains next week.
If you want to try this more old-fashioned style dining service do check out the Swanage Railway website below as they run a whole range of these dining trains throughout the year.
Fine five-course dining, bistro style menus services or even cream teas are possible but whatever menu you decide to go for the thrill of seeing the magical ruins of Corfe Castle pass by several times as you eat, is well worth it alone!