Buffet Car Attendants (1960s)
The following extract from the 1965 Volunteer's Manual gives a good idea of buffet car duties when carriages 14 and 12 were the buffet cars and there were few corridor coaches. For a comparison with current (2017) practice see Buffet Car Duty.
"It is most important that a buffet car attendant should report for duty personally clean and tidy, and he must pay particular attention to hand cleanliness, especially when handling food for public consumption. He must be prepared to be polite and courteous in his dealings with the public and to be patient in dealing with slow or 'difficult' customers. As alcoholic beverages are sold on both cars he must be over 18 years of age.
if working No. 14 his wares will include ice cream, sandwiches, rolls, tea and coffee, confectionery, bottled and draught beers, cigarettes and soft drinks and he is responsible for preparation of rolls, making of tea and coffee and maintaining sufficient stock on the buffet car to satisfy normal demands. In addition, as senior attendant he must ensure that sufficient stocks are maintained in the buffet car store to meet the demands of both cars. On No. 12 (Miniature Buffet) sales are similar to No. 14 but on a more limited scale. On both cars stock must be displayed tidily and chocolate must not be left on open shelves in hot weather.
The attendant must understand the duties of the guard and comply with his instructions at all times. Co-operation with the guard is essential and the buffet car attendant will be expected to assist with ticket checking in the buffet car. He must also ensure that his car is clean internally and externally, and if necessary must do the cleaning himself - refer to the section on Carriage and Wagon Maintenance.
The following notes outline the method of working the two cars.
No. 14. As early as possible in the morning go out and obtain the provisions (normally from specified shops), having first checked the buffet car store at Harbour Station to see what is required. Then prepare the sandwiches, rolls etc. Restocking of the car (excluding ice cream) should be done at least an hour before departure (If not done overnight). About half an hour before departure prepare the kitchen for use - switch on the gas (Boiler and kettles) and electricity (refrigerator). Check level of water in the tank and refill if necessary. About a quarter of an hour before departure collect ice cream and the cash float. The battery charging lead can then be disconnected, coiled up and and left neatly on the hooks provided. The buffet car attendant should then assist the guard until departure time. On the journey the attendant should serve as necessary and should plan his work allowing time for washing up, etc., so that his stocks of clean crockery and cutlery are always sufficient. At Minffordd he should collect milk and order milk required for the following day. At Tan y Bwlch he must assist the guard if required. He should not leave the train at any time except on official duties without notifying the guard.
On returning to Portmadoc between journeys restocking of certain items may be necessary. The water tank must be checked and refilled if necessary, and if it is some time to the next departure the battery charger must be plugged into the socket on the buffet car. (If the train is standing in the second road a red flag must be exhibited in a prominent position to indicate to the driver of an approaching train that the platform road is blocked by the charger cable).
At the end of the days working ice cream must be returned to the refrigerator in the booking office, a check must be made that all appliances are turned off and that the battery charger is plugged in (again using red flag if on second road). The takings must be entered into the guard's book and the cash paid in to the booking office. It is advisable to clean the buffet car overnight and restock as much as possible, as there is little time in the mornings. When the car is finally left check that all doors are locked and windows shut.
No. 12 (Miniature Buffet). The assistant on No. 14 is the senior steward and is responsible for obtaining buffet stock. The assistant on No. 12 must liaise with his colleague regarding the supply of consumables (milk, rolls etc.) for his car, and must assist in obtaining and preparing these under the senior steward's directions.
All remarks applicable to No. 14 apply equally to No. 12, although the arrangements are on a more limited scale."
Buffet service arrived on the FR in 1957 after Carriage 12 was fitted with a counter for use as a mobile refreshment compartment. In 1962 the Flying Flea became the second timetabled train but that train set had no buffet car. Alistair Stirling described catering on the Flying Flea in 1962 as follows:
"My duties in 1962 were on the "Flea" providing refreshments from a wooden tray like a cinema usherette's. This tray had compartments for postcards, bottles and Aero chocolate bars. They were foil wrapped with a paper band and stood on end. The motion of the train ensured that the foil soon wore thin so stock rotation, literally, was important before the foil wore away completely.... in good weather I used to sit on the grass with this tray until departure time."
In 1962 the 'B' set had no corridor coaches so the drill must have been to sell the refreshments from the tray while the train was stationary, mainly at Tan y Bwlch.
For a description of catering when Carriage 14 entered service at Easter 1963 see FR Magazine No. 21 page 18. That was the year when draught beer started in FR buffet cars for in that year both Carriage 14 and newly rebuilt and extended Carriage 12 were fitted with draught "Tankard". At that time passengers in the buffet car No 14 were issued with specially printed souvenir menus, for which a supplementary charge of sixpence (old money) was made. This was not the case in No. 12. The logic for the difference was that No 14, although 3rd class, had upholstered seats similar to 1st class whereas No. 12 only had hard seats.
Comparison to 2017 practice is interesting. Magazine No 21 makes it clear that buffet stewards took refreshments to passengers seated in the corridor stock then consisting of Carriage 11, Carriage 104 and Carriage 100. It says that "it needs skill as well as courage to negotiate the length of the narrow gangway carrying a tray laden with cups of tea or glasses of beer when the driver is trying to regain lost time". Business was quite brisk while the train was stopped at Tan y Bwlch as passengers from the non-corridor coaches took their chance to get some refreshments. There was no café at Tan y Bwlch although Bessie Jones supplied cups of tea. The use of fresh ingredients on the buffet cars (rolls, sandwich making materials and milk) is in contrast to virtually everything arriving pre-packed today (2018). The vision of the 1960's buffet attendants setting off up Portmadoc High Street in the early morning with a shopping basket to get the necessaries is one to treasure. With a two train set service it seems that three attendants may have sufficed (one in No.12 and two in No. 14) but, if so, some very long days will have been worked when there were evening trains. Deciding if youthful cigarette purchasers should be challenged on age grounds is not something the modern buffet steward has to think about.
The picture below of the inside of No. 14 was taken by Ron Fisher in June 1963.
- "News from Portmadoc", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 21, page(s): 7
- FRSL (1965) Volunteer's Manual, pages 31 and 32. FRSL, Harbour Station, Portmadoc.
- Stirling A (2020) Facebook post on "Friends of Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways" page 10/7/2020.