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The Refreshment Rooms

All Refreshment Services were privately leased until the VR, under Harold Clapp, created the Refreshment Services Branch in 1920 and progressively took over the services as the leases expired. The original Dining and Refreshment Rooms were on the 1st Floor and were leased by Arthur Gillam and GJ Pyke. The rooms were accessed from a doorway beside the booking offices under the Dome and also from Platform 1 via the eastern stairwell.

Letters to the Secretary of Railways requested the removal of the lead light from the windows to allow extra light into the rooms. This may have well be done at this time as the windows in this space only have lead light in the top panel, except for one window at the eastern end of the room which has a half panel remaining and in what was originally the male toilets on the Flinders Street side.

FSS Street & Level 1 038.JPG
Remaining upper panel and top panel of leadlight-2012

W Remaining full window of leadlight in the ladies Room, Level 1.JPG
Full lead light window in the original male toilets-2012

There is still evidence of where the lift was located that was connected to the Cook’s Quarters on the 3rd Floor. The cook prepared all the meals in his own kitchen and sent them down to the rooms via the lift. The servery between the two areas is now a storage area. When the lease expired, the Refreshment Rooms were re-located to the Ground Floor in 1926. The revised plans of 1930 show the kitchen and Refreshment Room with stairs from the entrance at 273 Flinders Street and access from Platform 1.
Refreshment Room on Platform 1 - 1930 floor plan.jpg
Layout of the Ground Floor Refreshment Room in 1930

A picture of the Fruit Stall shown on the plan above was found in a VR Newsletter.
(story 42 pic #4)Fruit & Drink Stall.JPG


Basement Kitchen - 1930s plan.jpg
On the 1930 plans, a kitchen is shown in the basement

The basement dining area was converted to a cafeteria in 1949 and in 1958, the ground floor cafe was closed and converted to offices. The basement cafeteria was renovated in 1969 and remained in operation until 1984.

Doing Things Properly

My Auntie Elsie (my dad’s sister) managed the Railway Refreshment Rooms for many years. I believe she worked at Flinders Street but it may have been Spencer Street Station.  Elsie had always been a waitress and she probably started with the railways in about 1920, age 17 or so and continued working after she was married until about the 1950s. She taught all of us girls how to fold napkins, make radish rosettes and butter curls......she was a very ‘proper’ woman.

Her husband, Albert Sage, worked for Sennett’s whose factory was on the south side of the Yarra. Many people remember the lights of the Sennett’s polar bear which raised an ice cream up to his mouth in four movements.

~ Nance Miller (age 81), 2012