Sunday, 8 January 2012

"Very Civilised"...The 'Elizabethan' Dining Train at GCR...

Hi guys. Hope everybody is well. Today, after a quick sprint down the M69, M1 and of course the A46 and the A6, we arrived in Loughborough; the headquarters of the Great Central Railway - Britain's only Double-Track Heritage line. I parked directly over the road from the front door: the timing could not have been better! As we already had our tickets, we ambled through the Booking Office area and then down the marvellous wooden staircase to the island platform below. Loughborough Central always evokes visions of what 1960s rail travel must have been like, and this is a very odd comparison to the modern ethos of todays railways. Today we had booked for the fabulous "Elizabethan" Dining Train, departing at 1:15pm for a 1hr 30 minute round trip of the line, dining with silver service aboard beautifully restored Dining Cars: wonderful! As it was a little chilly, mum (who had brought me out again for a belated birthday present - I was 20 on the 27th) soon took shelter in the warm Waiting Room whilst myself and my brother took a little wander down to the back of the train where the day's steamer was still coupled up. Rostered was none other than what has become known as the 'Duch-Eight'. Duch-Eight you may ask? Well, this unusual term has been given to the well restored 8F 2-8-0 No8624, which, unlike her many BR Black sisters, has been outshopped in LMS Red: the colour commonly worn back in the day by passenger engines such as the Duchess'. This was the first time I had actually seen the red '8' and, I must admit, it does like quite attractive, though a little inauthentic I will admit. Mind you, when push comes to shove, whoever owns the locomotive has the right to paint it whatever colour they wish - as they have done. 8624 steam heating...
As departure time drew nearer the dedicated Dining Staff began to escort passengers to their seats aboard the luxurious train. I did ponder why 8624 had shown no signs of being uncoupled or ran round but, who am I to say otherwise here?! After reaching the front of the queue we were shown to our table for three. The layout was very comfortable indeed. The train was warm, the seats relaxing and the atmosphere most civilised. I've included the following pictures so as to give the best possible representation and review of the experience. I will admit, I do get a bit 'snap happy' on occasions like this! Below, we see a standard 'table for two' aboard the 'Elizabethan': what better to way is there to travel?...
Our table laid for the 3-course dinner...
8624 was duly coupled to the front of the train and we departed on time in a cloud of steam. Soon enough, course no1 beckoned: Leek & Potatoe Soup; home-made of course. It was very nice indeed, just at the right temperature and with a bread roll too (told you I get 'snap happy')...
After calling at Quorn & Woodhouse station (the rear half of the train of course being used for general public travel), the 8F pressed on to Swithland Resevoir where a break of 10 minutes or so was had overlooking the beautiful scenary. By now, course no2 was on the horizon: a delicious Roast Beef sirloin served with the chefs selection of vegetables...
Dining, whilst overlooking a lovely but very chilly looking Swithland Resevoir...
Traditional style headrest covers...
The desert soon followed, after the run-round of the 2-8-0 at Leicester North. The train had by now gone a little cooler but soon warmed up again when we departed towards Rothley, Quorn & Loughborough. I did ponder whether or not the 8F had steam heat equipment on her tender?: This thought being somewhat proven true later on when I overheard the Fireman complaining that the 'bag' on the tender did not couple up to the one on the coaches; hence why the engine remained on the tail-end steam heating for as long as possible! Not a bad plan though, we would have done the same at Shackerstone if that were the case. Following desert, tea/coffee was served with a mint; a fitting way to end the journey in my opinion. 8624 then took us gently back into Loughborough where we alighted feeling replenished and very happy...
Now, I don't know what the 'Guest' was, and neither did the Waitress(!) but it was very nice...
After a look around the station shop and the shed yard/prep area, we clambered back up the 'wooden hill' to road level where we found the yellow Saxo casually awaiting us. And, with that, we headed home. Now guys, the 'Elizabethan' is a wonderful experience, echoing 1930s rail travel at its very best. Furthermore, it isn't that dear compared to other railways and the service you get is brilliant. The staff are friendly, the food is great and with it being such a high-profile railway you are almost garunteed an impressive steam locomotive to haul the train too. It is a fantastic experience and I would definately recommend it to anyone. Thanks very much to mum for paying for it all again; I couldn't afford to do this all the time with my high fuel bills (to Shackerstone!). Thanks all - Good evening...

1 comment:

Simon said...

Hi Sam,food looks nice Yum Yum.
nice to see the 8f nice and clean too