“Some trains are born great
Some achieve greatness
And some have greatness thrust upon them”
It was Friday the 31 March 2017 at 6.45 when I left home to drive to Oxenhope in West Yorkshire to achieve a life ambition, which was to travel on the Flying Scotsman train. I would be travelling on the train to celebrate the re-opening of the Settle to Carlisle section of railway that had been devastated by floods and landslides a couple of years ago.
We arrived at 7.30am and the train was already in the station with much activity on the platform preparing for the departure at 8.30.am. The volunteers who were to staff the train looked immaculate in their uniforms and sporting a white flower in their lapels.
The train had so many carriages that the train itself was outside the platform and “officially” could not be visited. However, a couple of assertive women made their way down to the train trackside and took photographs. Then a few more people followed suit and instead of the usual “elf and safety” mantra of “jobsworth” approach, the staff carefully guided people down, told them where to stand so that they could get excellent photographs of the train. Well done the staff for exercising common sense but still carrying out their duties with regard to passenger safety whilst at the same time giving everyone an excellent “passenger experience.”
We departed spot on time at 8.30.am, every coach packed with people, many of who, how can I put this, “of a certain age” (including myself). We arrived at Keighly a short time later to be greeted by the media (well done the Calendar team from Yorkshire TV who provided excellent coverage) and a group of “Scottish” pipers welcoming us to the station.
The elegantly attired volunteer staff served fruit juice and water along with tea and coffee. Unfortunately the tea boiler broke down after a couple of hours but this did not diminish the enjoyment of the day. Around 11.00am the staff came around with free wine and this was consumed in copious amounts for the rest of the day (excellent choice of wines by the way!) and this was followed by a packed lunch, which, was very enjoyable.
We stopped twice on the journey at Hellifield and Appleby to take on water, passing through some of the most glorious scenery you are ever likely to see. On one side the Pennines and the western edges of the Yorkshire Dales, and on the other the Lake District and the imposing Fells.
Of course the highlight for many was crossing the famous Ribblehead viaduct and being greeted by hundreds of people down below and on the hillside, many frantically waiving and the rest taking photographs……….it was a sight to behold.
Of course we had been warned against leaning out of the carriage doors to take photographs………and of course everyone ignored this, but did so sensibly. The staff were very accommodating but from time to time reminded us of the dangers of leaning out of the door and occasionally instructed us to come back in, which everyone did immediately.
What was quite staggering was the number of people who had come out along the route, I think that every company near the rail track had downed tools so that staff could come out to see the train and take photographs. Almost every station we passed through, no matter how small, was packed with people and children who had come to see this icon of the steam age.
On one section in Cumbria we passed a large group of Network Rail workers who were still working on the full repair to the route and they were posing for a photograph, at this point the Flying Scotsman slowed down so that they could take a photo of the group with the Scotsman in the back ground………..wonderful!
We arrived in Carlisle (spot on time) to be greeted by several thousand people and a scrum of media, all wanting a glance of the “Beast”. After a walk around the city we began the return journey at 3.35pm, again waived off by a mass of people on the platform. The return trip was just as enjoyable and again masses of people trackside who had come out to see the Scotsman.
It would have been impossible to ask for better company on board, and everyone expressed the view that it had been a wonderful day, and one to remember. The media interviewed various members of our coach, and the couple sat opposite us appeared on national TV in their report about the opening of the line.
We finally arrived back at Oxenholme at 8.10.pm in early evening darkness and made the short drive home to Huddersfield……….utterly exhausted but in awe of the wonderful “once in a lifetime experience” we had experienced. The cost of the day was high, but as my mother used to say “there are no pockets in shrouds, get it spent”.
Finally, a word of thanks to the staff and mass of volunteers of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway who made this day possible (and so enjoyable). They worked so hard and for such a long period of time ensuring that all passengers were kept happy. They all deserve our thanks. We salute you.
Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2017