Hannah Richardson takes a trip back in time to the days of luxury steam train travel
What could be more romantic than sitting in an elegant Pullman-style railway carriage pulled by a magnificent steam locomotive, as the train makes its way along the beautiful Cumbrian coastline?
I’ve always loved steam trains, so when I had the chance to sample a return trip from Milton Keynes to Carlisle with specialist operator Steam Dreams, I jumped at the chance.
Our train, which had begun its trip at London Euston, picked us up from Milton Keynes at 7.45am on a Saturday morning, and we made our way to our reserved seats.
We found ourselves sharing a table with a couple of real train enthusiasts, who regaled us with their tales of journeys in far-flung places.
We toasted our departure with a glass of champagne, before tucking in to a delicious breakfast of croissants and a “full English”.
The cabin crew did a magnificent job of ferrying what must have been hundreds of hot meals, all cooked in the single kitchen car, up and down the long corridors so that we all got our meal while it was still warm – not to mention supplying endless refills of tea and coffee.
I was also impressed by how well the kitchen catered to special diets.
For the outward leg of the journey to Carlisle, our train was electric hauled.
Arriving in Carlisle at about noon, we had about an hour and a half to stretch our legs and explore the city before we needed to be back at the station.
Here, a crowd had gathered, as word had got around that our beautiful steam engine, 46115 Scots Guardsman was in town.
But there was little time to pose with and admire this beautiful machine, before we were being ushered back on board to begin the most scenic part of the trip.
Now travelling “under steam”, and fortified by tea and cake, we made our way along the scenic little Cumbrian Coast Line to Carnforth, hugging the Cumbrian coast on one side and with views of the Lake District peaks on the other.
At Carnforth, we stopped to change back to electric haulage for the long journey back south. And as the daylight dimmed, the waiting staff performed their miracles again, serving us up a tasty five-course meal, along with the wine we had pre-ordered.
We arrived back in Milton Keynes at about 9.20pm, after a long but very enjoyable day.
Steam Dreams was founded in 2000 by steam enthusiast Marcus Robertson, with the aim of recreating the era of luxury steam travel.
It now offers its Cathedrals Express day trips to 35 different destinations, picking up passengers at more than 100 stations across the UK.
Steam Dreams returns to Milton Keynes on Wednesday, March 1, 2017, for a St David’s Day special to Chester and north Wales.
Hauled by Jubilee Class 45690 Leander, passengers will enjoy a memorable journey along the scenic north Wales coast and over the Menai Strait to Holyhead on the Isle of Anglesey.
On Saturday, April 1, passengers can board a train at Kettering and Bedford for an excursion to Bristol and Bath, hauled by the Princess Elizabeth, the locomotive that had the honour of starting The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee River Pageant celebrations by sounding the Stanier Hooter whilst standing on Chelsea Bridge.
For more information about the excursions, visit www.cathedralsexpress.co.uk
Scots Guardsman is a member of the Royal Scot Class of class of 4-6-0 express passenger locomotives introduced in 1927 by the London Midland and Scottish Railway. Scots Guardsman is named after part of the Guards Division, is one of the Foot Guards regiments of the British Army.