On the 31 March 2017 I shall be making the trip from Oxenhope (West Yorkshire) to Carlisle via the Ribblehead Viaduct aboard the Flying Scotsman (had to remortgage the house to buy tickets)……..but as my mother used to say “there are no pockets in shrouds so get the money spent”.
Anyway, I decided to have a trial run to Oxenhope station this morning to check out parking and departure details on the day. So in awful wet weather my wife and I set out for the station, and arrived in equally unpleasant wet weather.
Having parked up the car we wandered on to the platform to see a small steam train with several carriages and quite a number of people milling about. One of the “officials” approached us and asked could he help as the station was closed today. He then explained that three people were having the “Footplate Experience” which involved spending a full day learning about the locomotive but actually entails working as a guard, a fireman but most importantly driving the steam engine itself.
There were two gentlemen and a lady involved today and despite the awful weather they seemed delighted with what was happening. We hung around watching the preparation for departure, me taking lots of photographs, when the man in charge of the day invited us to travel on the train to Keighley and back. He explained that those on the “footplate experience” are allowed to bring along four guests each to travel on the train but todays group hadn’t used their full complement, so would we like to join the train as guests of the railway. As you can imagine we didn’t need to be asked twice.
We sat in our carriage and joined by various members of the Worth Valley Railway volunteers learned about the train, the railway and the “footplate experience.” The latter is booked up for 2017 and well into 2018 despite the relatively high cost of participating in the day. We were provided with tea and biscuits and had a thoroughly enjoyable time chugging our way through the West Yorkshire countryside with very convivial conversation.
On arrival at Keighley I was able to watch the “footplaters” shunt the engine to be filled with water and re-attach it to the carriages, stoke up the boiler before setting off for the journey back to Oxenhope.
We arrived back in the rain, just as we had set off in the rain, but nothing could diminish the enjoyment of our journey and in particular the welcome and generosity of the staff / volunteers of the Worth Valley Railway. They deserve every success that they have and warrant the support of the public for keeping the railways alive. Despite the invitation to travel free we made a generous donation to the railway fund……….this is our industrial heritage.
So, what set off as a day to check out a car park,ended up in a journey aboard a steam train, wonderful company and the pleasure of seeing three people fully enjoying their “footplate experience”…………long may the railway continue.
Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2017