“Not your normal restaurant, service a bit wobbly, especially by the sea!”
What could be better? A journey across some of England’s finest railway scenery on board a luxurious carriage, pulled by a brace of English Electric’s finest. The tour was called ‘The Cumbrian Hoovers’, a nod to the nick name given to these fine old machines by trainspotters of yore. Tremendous stuff.
A gentlemen’s day to Carlisle and back via Settle and the breathtaking Cumbrian coast started on a bracing morn in Warrington. Within minutes a traditional breakfast of muesli, yoghurt and a fine, full english fry up was on the plate, deftly, sprung by ‘The Frying Scotsman’. Lashings of hot coffee served in the finest bone china completed the set.
The trip organised by Pathfinder Tours started in Birmingham with a few pick ups along the way. The chief attraction, for rail enthusiasts was the fact that the train was lugged around behind a pair of preserved, Class 50, diesel locomotives, which just by chance were originally manufactured some fifty years earlier, at the Vulcan Foundry in my home town of Newton-le-Willows. As a fifty something myself, heritage diesel locomotives represent the similar whiff of nostalgia that my father would find with steam locomotives.
The train soon veered off the beaten track and the ascent to Settle and the famous Ribblehead Viaduct was underway. A stop at the wonderfully preserved, Hellifield station providing a welcome leg stretch. The hordes disembarked and flooded the platforms with high tech, digital imagery equipment. The locos were seemingly highly photogenic in some of their former liveries. Indeed the surrounding countryside was littered with folk eager to see and video proceedings.
Lunchtime saw us arrive in Carlisle. Some early scouting had daned that The Kings Head in the centre to be a venue capable of providing suitable sustenance. A couple of Windermere pale ales quenched our thirst. For the record I hereby vouch that Carlisle has the largest block paved patio in the world. The whole town centre is covered in it!
Back on the train we set out on a different loop to venture down the stunning west Cumbrian coast. Whitehaven, Maryport, Ravenglass, Foxfield all glided past, whilst the sun covered sea stretched out to the horizon.
By this time, our genial hosts were serving up our 5 course gourmet meal. Confit duck leg with roasted vegetable cous cous salad, to start. Baked gammon, pineapple, Cumberland sauce with new potatoes, fried courgettes and red cabbage with a ginger and garlic sauce. It was all rather wonderful. We finished with a bramley apple and damson pie with custard followed by a fine cheeseboard and coffee. A couple of nice bots of merlot and the odd ‘Spitfire’ helped it all down.
After another photo stop in Barrow, amidst bemused onlookers, we were soon barreling through Grange Over Sands and over the famous Kent bridge at Arnside, (see image at the top of the page by Darren JB).
Soon we were back on the straight and narrow west coast main line and my arrival in Warrington beckoned. My chum Craig and I had pretty much spent eleven hours venturing around the hidden lines of Lancashire and Cumbria. A fantastic day had by all.
If this is something you would in interested in doing, the premier class trip that we did costs around £259 each, though a standard class seat without the food costs around £75. For details of any further trips around the country please visit the website below. I’ll certainly be on the lookout for more.
01453 835414 or 834477