WE have a wonderful collection of ephemera in the Great Western Trust Museum at Didcot Railway Centre, but some of the most fascinating items are menus from restaurant cars on trains.

A 1930s menu restaurant car menu offered breakfast, luncheon or dinner and tea. Breakfast cost two shillings and sixpence (12½ p) or diners could choose from the a la carte menu with its unspecified fish, meat or egg dish. The three-course luncheon or dinner comprised soup, fish or hot or cold meat dish followed by sweet and cheese for five shillings with coffee four pence (1½ p) extra. I am more of an afternoon tea person so would have enjoyed the pot of tea, bread & butter and cake. Sundries were extra – I wonder if they included the biscuits that the menu states were supplied by Huntley & Palmers of my home town, Reading.

A note at the bottom of the menu notes that “The Manager of the G.W.R. Hotels & Catering Department will appreciate any communication from patrons relative to meals and service throughout the system.” And now we have TripAdvisor.

Another of the menus in our collection is from the Ocean Special. This served a five-course luncheon with the soup and fish course described in French and the rest in English. So passengers dined on Crème Tomato followed by Turbot Poche with Sauce Mousseline. The main course was Roast Beef and Horseradish, Cold Ox Tongue or Cold Pressed Beef all served with vegetables. The meal finished with Fruit Salad or Cabinet Pudding. There was no mention of Huntley & Palmer biscuits this time but an even more fascinating footnote saying that preserved cream was used in the Restaurant Car and that Boris (sic) Acid didn’t exceed .05 per cent.

The wine lists were very comprehensive. In one we have on display, aperitifs included two different types of sherry, by the glass or ¼ bottle, or a selection of gin-based cocktails. There was a good selection of European wine – red and white Bordeaux, Burgundy, Hock and Moselle, and, of course, Champagne – and of digestifs including port and cognac as well as a selection of liqueurs and spirits. Diners could choose from ales including beer from Bass, Carlsberg lager and a local Simonds’ Milk Stout from Reading together with cyder (sic) from Bulmer’s and Pomagne.

Much more my scene are the soft drinks – Rose’s Lime Juice, a selection of Schweppes splits - Tonic Water, Ginger Ale, Ginger Beer, Lemonade, Sparkling Grape Fruit and a choice of water – Still Malvern Water or Vichy Water.

A lot of things have changed for the better though, and I am very pleased restaurant cars no longer offer cigars and cigarettes.