Victorian Railways - Refreshment Services Branch

Refreshment room staff, Bendigo Railway Station, circa 1929.

Image: Refreshment room staff, Bendigo Railway Station, circa 1929.

Source: Museum Victoria

The Refreshment Services Branch was established in 1920, and initially focused on providing station-based refreshment rooms and the dining car service. Its scope expanded to include diverse activities such as stall rental; sales of advertising space on railways infrastructure; laundry services; operation of a hair-dressing salon, a bakery, a butchery and a poultry farm; and the management of the chalet guesthouse at Mt Buffalo.

The majority of staff worked in refreshment rooms and dining cars, both of which were a popular feature of the railway service. Previous to 1920 refreshment services had been provided by contractors, but after many complaints the Department decided to provide a standardised service across the system. It grew quickly: five years after it was established the Branch employed approximately 500 staff. Station refreshment facilities ranged from elaborate dining rooms to decorated push-carts. They were staffed predominately by women, who provided everything from a cup of tea to a three course meal.

Most refreshment room services were closed in the 1970s.

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