Station restaurant

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Station buffet around the middle of the 19th century (painting by Antoine Gustave Droz, 1864)

A train station restaurant (also called train station restaurant , in Austria and Switzerland also called train station buffet ) is a restaurant located in or at a passenger train station with a significant proportion of rail travelers among the guests. Depending on the type, scope and quality of the food and drinks offered, the term station management is also used .


Historical photo of the restaurant in Gare de Metz (1910)
Station restaurant in Deventer station
Station restaurant in Helsinki Central Station

In the first decades of railway history, compartment cars were widespread in which access to the cell-like compartment was only possible via external doors and running boards and thus practically only during the stay at train stations. The travelers therefore did not have the opportunity to walk up and down the train or change cars. Furthermore, there were no sanitary facilities on the trains. On longer journeys, there was therefore a need to offer travelers in the stations not only access to sanitary facilities but also the opportunity to purchase and consume food and drinks. In order to be able to take a midday meal in the train station restaurant in particular, it was customary to insert so-called “diner stops”, i.e. longer stays at stations on the way around noon.

After the introduction of the side aisle on compartment cars and the dining car , there was still a need for a comprehensive range of restaurants, especially at end stops and more important intermediate stops because of the longer stay times.

In addition to the approval of flying trade on the track, this need was met by the railway companies by setting up station restaurants and taverns in or at the reception building. At larger stations it was customary to set up separate locations for the different car classes, but at smaller stations there were also combinations of the waiting room with an inn.

The commissioning of the first dining cars threatened the monopoly-like position of the station landlords in supplying the more demanding travelers in particular (dining cars could initially only be used by passengers in the upholstered class, i.e. the 1st and 2nd classes at the time). Various train station landlords, for example Gustav Riffelmann from Halle, made demands on the railway administrations to stop the dining car. The railway administration rejected Riffelmann's demand, but in return, from 1882, Riffelmann was given the right to operate dining cars himself. Other train station landlords followed this example, and these landlords even bought their own dining cars.

In contrast to the situation with the Austrian railways in the German Empire, the legal basis for operating a train station restaurant was the trade regulations as well as various railway police administrative orders, such as an ordinance of the Royal Prussian Minister of the Interior of July 27, 1905. According to these were train station restaurants to which only passengers had access, no commercial operations in the sense of the trade regulations, therefore did not need to be licensed and were not subject to curfew . Rather, the restaurants were considered part of the railway operations, were set up by the railway operator and mostly leased to landlords by way of tendering. A price list was stipulated so that the travelers were not taken advantage of in terms of price. Furthermore, the landlord required the approval of the station board to determine the price.

Building of the station management, spatially and economically separated from the actual railway operations, at the former station in Gangelt of the GKB

On the basis of these regulations, a distinction had to be made between station restaurants belonging to railway operations and station restaurants not belonging to railway operations but usually licensed according to the trade regulations. The latter were often spatially separated only in the immediate vicinity of the train station.

Reception of the station restaurant in art

At the end of the British film Brief Encounter , the protagonists in the station restaurant decide not to continue their love affair in the interests of their families.

In Arno Schmidt's tale Tina or about immortality , Goethe disappears from the poet's field of vision in a train station restaurant.

Also worth mentioning are the short story “In the train station restaurant Danziger Röss'l” by Else Ury and the novel The Eternal Spießer by Ödön von Horváth , in which a train station restaurant is also the scene of the action.

The writer Arnold Kübler wrote large parts of his Oeppi novels in the 3rd class station buffet at Zurich main station ; the Swiss Ernst Zahn ("Herrgottsfäden"), like his father, ran the Göschenen train station restaurant in front of the Gotthard tunnel. The special features of the meals there were again immortalized in a literary manner in Hermann Burger's novel “The Artificial Mother”.

In a crisis of faith, Gerhart Hauptmann fled to his parents' local train station restaurant as a young man, Bert Brecht's “refugee talks” are held in the Helsinki train station restaurant.

The station restaurant as the scene of well-known events

The station restorations have appeared on various occasions as the scene of real events or in connection with such events.

So the shoemaker Friedrich Wilhelm Voigt drank a beer in the station restaurant of the Köpenick station after his Köpenickiade , which pretended to act as a captain under orders, robbed the city treasury of Köpenick before he fled by train.

In Switzerland, the station buffet in Olten is considered “a hotbed of Swiss well-being”. Thanks to its central location in the Olten railway junction, it is easily accessible from all regions. Accordingly, some of the most important Swiss associations were founded in it, and of course more meetings were held.

The murderer Fritz Haarmann met several of his victims in the restaurant of the main train station in Hanover in 1924 , as shown in the TV report: The Haarmann case is proven.

Well-known restaurants


Web links

Commons : Railway station restorations  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Bahnhofsrestaurant  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Wolfgang Schivelbusch: History of the railway journey. On the industrialization of space and time in the 19th century . 5th edition, Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 978-3-596-14828-8 , p. 96 f
  2. ^ Fritz Stöckl: Dining car. 100 years of gastronomy on the rails . Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 1987, ISBN 3-613-01168-9 , p. 33 f.
  3. Ministerialblatt for Internal Administration, p. 134
  4. Frhr. v. Röll: Encyclopedia of the Railway System . 2nd edition, Urban & Schwarzenberg, Berlin / Vienna 1912: Lemma Bahnhofswirtschaften / Bahnhofsrestaurants
  5. see: In the train station restaurant. A literary menu in twelve courses . Ed .: Guido Fuchs. Publishing house Monika Fuchs, Hildesheim 2018, ISBN 978-3-947066-65-0 .