Pubs on Wheels (Part II)

Wouldn’t it be great to see a film of the tavern cars British Rail introduced in 1949? In fact, you can. See here, courtesy British Pathé and YouTube.

It shows clearly the equipment discussed in my Part I. Note the bar where beers are being poured (just bottles here). We see the oak tables and chairs set against the walls, and patterned floor. The floor colours were black and red to simulate a tiled floor in a country inn. The pub sign looks great, too.

You can almost walk in, and chat with the chaps. Scenes are shown in the smart-looking restaurant, as well.

Despite high dudgeon in the House of Commons (“Hollywood mummery“, one MP cried) and letters columns – some of it self-interested surely, from design bodies not consulted – the cars look pleasing and inviting. At least this is so from my vantage point in 2020. That any port in a storm would please, at the moment, just adds to its allure.

Certainly the bar cars on French trains, which I had occasion to patronize recently, aren’t a patch on this, including no doubt the beer.

As for our Via Rail, it hasn’t a bar car at all, not that I ever saw on the Montreal-Toronto run.

The Australian press, the more thoughtful part of it, deployed a stylish wit at the plan, some at Australians’ expense. See here, and here.*

It’s all funny stuff and you need to read it yourself, but here is a sample.

Whatever else this new service may achieve (at the cost of near apoplexy among people of conservative leanings) it should lend variety to that popular pastime, the pub crawl. Up to now the pubs, at least until after the fifth or sixth drink, have stayed still and the patrons have kept on the move. The express taverns will reverse this rule.
Continuing from the same piece:
Moreover, their cunning exterior as well as interior disguise could bring the railways considerable involuntary custom. For example, absentminded or bemused revellers doing the rounds of orthodox hostelries in the vicinity of London’s St. Pancras might run a very good chance of finishing their outing in Scotland.

Although the cars are long gone, their apparent inspiration, the Chequers Hotel in Pulborough, Sussex, still stands proudly. This is their website. Some elements of the building do suggest a connection possibly, especially the warm brick and whitewashed parts. Maybe, too, the sash windows.

Other images I’ve seen show handsome oak beams in the interior. Even the bar looks in its physical aspect somewhat similar although likely it was redesigned over the years.

Looks like a lovely place, I must put it on our agenda, when world circumstances permit.

Note re image above: sourced from Wikipedia Commons, here, indicated as released to public domain. All feedback welcomed.


*Both via Trove Historical Newspapers.



2 thoughts on “Pubs on Wheels (Part II)”

  1. Gary,
    Thanks for your almost daily diversions. In the early ’80s I once rode Amtrak from Oakland to Portland. The evening departure was about 4 hours delayed, probably 10:00PM. The older equipment included several dome cars and a bar car. I drank a beer, maybe two, in the bar car. The decor might have been a tie-in to the Southern Pacific train of the same name, the Coast Starlight. It looked like a ’50 lounge, with pinpoint lights (stars) in the dark blue ceiling. I took a quick look for photos on the web but didn’t find any.

    • Most appreciated, thanks Arnold.

      That’s a great memory, even without the photos, I get a real sense of it. Thanks again.



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