Lots of Steam, A Modicum of Speed, No Rain

September 30, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Posted in Travel | Leave a comment
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Gosh, I do love old trains. And I don’t think I’m alone in this based on the number of people who turned out a few weekends ago to a) ride on b) stand in a field/at the end of their garden to watch a magnificent old steam engine chug its way through the Norfolk countryside. Not all of them could be trainspotters in the traditional sense of the word. Long-term readers of this blog (thank you, you know who you are) will know that I’m a little bit partial to journeys by train – second only to bicycle as the way to travel –  so spending a Saturday morning on the mid-Norfolk railway from Dereham to Wymondham  (pronounced ‘Wyndham’) and back was my idea of heaven.

There is something quite magical and impressive about a steam engine. Being in the presence of one is a bit like being near a very large and powerful horse –  beautiful, awe-inspiring and a tiny bit intimidating. Edith Nesbitt captured this, of course, in The Railway Children, and there are several good train journeys in the Famous Five: the long and hot journey to Polwilly Halt in Five Go Down to the Sea stands out, and who could forget the sinister ‘spook’ trains of Five Go Off to Camp (pictured right)?

The smell, sound and sensation of being pulled along by a steam engine is a world away from the depressingly bland trains of today and the fixtures and fittings of old carriages are, in short, just lovely. Wood! Yes! So much warmer and nicer than horrid plastic. Here is a picture of the excellent striped carpet and checkered seating fabric on board.

Dereham station is beautifully kitted out too. There are displays of old maps, original station clocks, signs and objects from the glory days of the railways, and a shop where you can buy old British Rail mugs (my granny bought me a green one). There is also a great little tea room that is nicely done without being overly twee. You can get a decent cafetiere of coffee, plus a decent range of snacks, hot meals and home-made cakes, all at reasonable prices.

Steam trains only run during the summer, I think, but there are a number of diesel ‘specials’ coming up, first for Halloween (a ‘spook train’ perhaps?) and then in the run up to, and aftermath of, Christmas when there will be carol and mince pie specials. A full event listing and timetable can be found here.

Does anyone else have any good steam train recommendations?

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