Last Thursday I took the opportunity of travelling on the East Lancashire Railway from Bury to Rawtenstall on a gloriously sunny day. This is my third trip in the last twelve months and just as enjoyable as the other two. In many ways it was better as the weather was so much kinder
As I waited to board at Bury Bolton Station there was a hive of activity as a tourist group made their way along the platform to a reserved carriage and similarly, a large group of under fives children from Bury Grammar School (nursery section I assume) were being shepherded by teaches and support staff to their own carriage.
We were pulled by a beautiful old black steam engine, which built up a head of steam during the half hour journey to Rawtenstall. There is something about sticking your head outside the window and getting the smell of steam and raw power in your nostrils.
As we went through several tunnels I could hear the shrieks from the children’s carriage, as they got excited about being in darkness. I think it was more excitement than any kind of fear as for many of them this would probably have been their first experience of travelling on a steam locomotive.
There is some lovely scenery on the route particularly around Summerseat and Irwell Vale, you can hop on and off at each of the stations as you wish and catch a later train. It is quite easy to forget that you are not very far from one of the old industrial towns of Lancashire and it is easy to see why people move out here and commute into such places as Manchester and Leeds.
On returning to Bury I got off the train and then noticed a sign on several carriages that said “Evacuee Experience.” I asked one of the staff what this was and he explained that groups of children, who dress up in 40s clothing, come along to experience what it was like for children being sent into the countryside during the war. Just at that moment a large group of children came down the station steps all dressed in short trousers, flat caps and similar clothes of that era, even the teachers were in 1940s apparel.
I waited for the train to leave and then made my way back to my car, another very enjoyable day spent on the East Lancs Railway who do so much to preserve the industrial heritage of this country.