Food and Railway Stations in 1948.

Way back in 1948 when I was on duty as an MP (Redcap variety) in London, some of my duty times were at Euston Station. At the far end of the platforms there were some arches and in them were various little establishments and store rooms. One of these places was a café. It was very small and apart from the serving counter there were rows of long rough tables with long benches. This place was much frequented by station staff, taxi drivers and quite a lot of people best described as “well-suited city gents”. One of the big attractions was the spotted dick puddings. Large, white coated rolls stuffed with fruit and steaming hot. And, of course, hot custard. I cannot recall the price of those days but exceedingly cheap. A place I would visit often. I enjoyed the food and liked the mix of people there. A very tight cramped place but everybody shifted along the benches to make spaces.

Outside the station, in Euston Square, there was a Nissen hut which was a YMCA establishment. A place for service men and women to get good cheap food. Every morning about 10.0am, they would open up and there was always a queue waiting. Normally at the head of this queue were the Royal Navy police and the MPs. All were there to get bread-pudding hot from the oven. Delicious stuff in big slabs, full of fruit and coated with caramelised sugar. Just like my mother made. We all knew that it was made from the left-over buns and cakes from yesterday. Well worth queuing for.

At Liverpool Street Station – the old station that is – on the road way in from Liverpool Street and on a slope by the hotel. Going down, on the left side of the footpath, was a large brick wall. Set in there was a small plain door with no markings. But inside, a passage way led down to some disused tunnels originally meant for the Central Line – large caverns really and not the small places for the trains. There was a good gymnasium and a restaurant. A very posh affair with “silver” cutlery and smart tables well laid out. All for use of the station staff. Also used by the post office staff working there and the military police. Breakfast favourite for me were kippers, toast and coffee. Not a mug of coffee but a good silver jug full and smart cups. Further down the sloping road on the right were some rooms which we, the MPs, used as offices. Complete with desk, telephone, a bed, etc. MPs here were on duty for 24/7 and dealt with all the trains full of troops coming from Harwich and Germany. It was not just catching soldiers with non-official dress, out-dated travel papers, drunkenness, etc. Our main work was actually helping the military on their way, endorsing papers about trains being late, finding hostels for the night, and looking up times of trains from other stations.

Arthur Cox


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