TOP 10 HERITAGE RAILWAY LINES
jeanniejeanniejeannie.co.uk BLOG Friday 26th November 2021
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Record Black Friday spending expected
Shoppers are expected to spend big on what could be the most lucrative Black Friday yet. Analysts at PWC predict £8.7bn will be spent – up from £7.8bn in 2019 and about twice as much as last year, when the UK was in lockdown. However, consumers have been warned to expect less generous discounts and shortages of some products in this year’s sale. Black Friday, which began in the US as a one-day event, is now “almost a month long blizzard of promotions”, said the BBC.
Consumer confidence boost raises Black Friday sales hopes
TOP TEN OF THE DAY
TOP 10 HERITAGE RAILWAY LINES
A guide to Britain’s vintage excursion trains and preserved lines
The platform ahead is crowded with commuters who shrink back as the now-unfamiliar steam loco shrieks a warning whistle and roars through the station at 82mph, followed by 700 tons of speeding metal. The stunned bystanders are left shrouded in a cloud of steam and that nostalgic whiff of coal smoke. They had a glimpse of a sooty-faced driver in blue overalls peering intently ahead, the intense glow of the firebox, glinting silverware on white tablecloths, and uniformed attendants; so different from the commuter train to Reading they’d expected.
You take another bite of Yorkshire pudding from your roast dinner, a sip of excellent merlot, and happily keep a look-out down this heavenly valley for Oxford. This isn’t a rose-tinted fantasy of how Britain’s railways once were. There are excursion trains and preserved lines you can ride today. Here are a few favourites…
- HOGWARTS EXPRESS
The Jacobite train, Britain’s most successful main-line steam service, runs every summer on the national network from Fort William to Mallaig. This crosses the spectacular curved Glenfinnan viaduct, seen in a Harry Potter film with the Hogwarts Express and a flying Ford Anglia.
The latter may not be there on your trip, but you will enjoy proper steam whistles, the roar of safety valves, the chuff–chuff–chuff sound as wheels slip on wet days, and the clickety-clack of traditional unpowered coaches.
It’s not too long for a family outing, affordable and reliable. The engines do a proper job over a decent distance, complete with sweaty fireman and driver. Yes, it’s nostalgia for more innocent times when dirty smut meant something in your eye.
Mind you, it had its comic moments when a loudspeaker announced ‘this is a non-smoking train’. At that very moment the engine was laying a huge grey and black duvet in the sky about 500 yards long.
All aboard: Tickets from £49 (westcoastrailways.co.uk).
- RAILWAY CHILDREN
Keighley is the junction for a remarkable steam branch, the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, which takes you up into Bronte country. This picturesque line was made famous by the film The Railway Children, but you won’t have to rip up your red petticoats and run down the line like Jenny Agutter to stop the trains — they have fixed the cuttings now.
All aboard: Day-long ‘rover’ tickets £18 (kwvr.co.uk).
- FULL STEAM AHEAD!
What’s thrilling about Railway Touring Company excursions is that (unlike most preserved lines) they travel at full tilt behind steam engines such as new-build Tornado, which recently clocked 100mph, and the rebuilt Flying Scotsman — the first loco ever officially timed at that speed — all with fine dining options.
These trips aren’t cheap. Can you imagine the cost of rebuilding the locos and trains to main-line standards? But they are well worth it. Plus, they are not all London-centric, with a great ‘Cheshireman’ day trip from Bristol up the Welsh Marches and on to Chester on November 13, for example.
All aboard: ‘Cheshireman’ trip from £259 with breakfast and a four-course dinner (railwaytouring.net).
- PERFECTLY POIROT
The glorious Dartmouth Steam Railway offers charm and beauty. The sight, sound and smell of copper-chimneyed GWR Castles is splendid, while Halls or Granges pull chocolate-and-cream carriages up the steep bank behind Goodrington beach to reach the summit at Churston.
If it’s redolent of Hercule Poirot, that’s because the author Agatha Christie lived along here at lovely Greenway (National Trust).
The train then descends to the gorgeous Dart Estuary. In fact, the railway never reaches Dartmouth, but ends at Kingswear across the river — a ferry will take you across to the town.
All aboard: Tickets from £19.60 (dartmouthrailriver.co.uk).
- THE WATERCRESS LINE
Alton connects directly to the Mid-Hants Railway, better known as the Watercress Line because the area’s chalk streams grew it in such quantities that watercress specials used to rush to city markets.
Even today, you can have local watercress served on the dining trains on this ten-mile route through rolling countryside.
All aboard: Day tickets from £16 (watercressline.co.uk).
- INTO BLYTON LAND
On the so-called Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, the lovely Swanage Railway offers top-notch Enid Blyton-style scenery, from the seaside town to Corfe Castle, the impossibly picturesque ruin perched on a hill above the village and station.
It has — hooray! — at long last been reconnected to the main line at Wareham.
All aboard: Return tickets from £16 (swanagerailway.co.uk).
- HIGHLAND FLING
The Strathspey Railway — you change at Aviemore for a ten-mile ride to Boat of Garten and Broomhill — is doing a great job of keeping steam alive in the Highlands. There’s dining some evenings — and you’ll be seen off by a piper.
All aboard: Return tickets from £16.75 (strathspeyrailway.co.uk).
- FIERY DRAGONS
It is astonishing how many preserved railways the Welsh think they need — they have well over a dozen. But for a land whose legends involve fire-breathing dragons, what could be more apt than little steam engines charging about the hills?
They won’t be luxurious except in scenery, with buckets of Victorian/Edwardian charm, but try narrow-gauge lines such as the Ffestiniog Railway. Change at Blaenau Ffestiniog (from the north) or Minffordd (from the south). Or try the Welsh Highland Railway, change at Porthmadog or start at Carnarvon. It’s a cracker.
All aboard: Returns from £35 (festrail.co.uk).
- A YORKSHIRE CORKER
It’s not surprising TV’s Heartbeat police series and recently Tom Cruise’s seventh Mission: Impossible movie were filmed on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway from Pickering.
The scenery is superb — and a Pullman dining train can be booked. Change at Grosmont. It even goes down into Whitby, from where Captain Cook set sail.
All aboard: Day-long tickets from £38 (nymr.co.uk).
- Twixt Sea and Pine – The Poppy Line
From the smart Victorian seaside resort of Sheringham to the Georgian town of Holt, the North Norfolk Railway runs through the county’s most stunning coastal scenery.
Operated almost entirely by Volunteers from all walks of life, the line is East Anglia’s premier heritage railway.
Steam trains operate daily until 30th September and on most days after.
Not forgetting: The Great Central Railway (GCR) is a heritage railway in Leicestershire, named after the company that originally built this stretch of railway. It runs for 8.25 miles (13.28 km) between the large market town of Loughborough and a new terminus in the north of Leicester. It has period signalling, locomotives and rolling stock. The GCR is currently the only double track mainline heritage railway in the world with 5.25 miles (8.45 km) of working double track.
And Wensleydale Railway
The Wensleydale Railway is an authentic Heritage Railway currently running from Scruton in the Vale of Mowbray to Redmire in the spectacular Yorkshire Dales. At present regular services are running between Bedale, Leeming Bar and Scruton only.
Benedict Le Vay For The Daily Mail
REMEMBER: The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.
– Nicolas Chamfort
INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE FOR THE DAY
The greatest moments in life are not concerned with selfish achievements but rather with the things we do for the people we love and esteem. Walt Disney
Happiness is…visiting a Heritage Railway.
GRANDAD’S ONE LINER JOKE OF THE DAY
Me: let’s go this way. Shopping cart: no.
Love is…something that happens slowly sometimes.
A time to travel the NYMR…A time to travel HOGWARTS EXPRESS.
©2021 Phil M Robinson