Sunday, 4 November 2012

An Elegant Excursion...

Hello everybody. Today, as the rain fell from the winter skies, myself and Maisie were on route to the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway at Winchcombe. The 10-mile long standard gauge preserved railway operates from its headquarters at Toddington but the last few years has seen some severe cases of bad luck on the line. It first severed near Gotherington due to a landslip caused by bad weather and spent the next couple of years operating top & tailed trains from Toddington to Gotherington Halt, via Winchcombe. I visited the line in November 2010 and had a run with "Foremarke Hall" to the stricken, temporary terminus and back. That day, as the train passed over Chicken Curve (near Toddington) it leaned over slightly. I found this most odd. Anyway, the GWSR fixed the Gotherington section and planned to restart services between Toddington and the proper terminus of Cheltenham Racecourse before disaster struck again and Chicken Curve suffered a severe landslide and severed Toddington from the rest of the line. I have never known a railway with such bad luck.

The severing of Toddington left the railway with only one option: to temporarily move base to Winchcombe where the carriage works are. Therefore, the steam locos made their way by road to Winchcombe and have remained there since. Throughout 2012 the trains have operated over the remaining section, with the work on Chicken Curve being completed; thanks to heavy internal & external fundraising; about 2 weeks ago. The GWSR will however continue "as timetabled" between Winchcombe and Cheltenham Racecourse for the rest of the year. Toddington to Cheltenham will reopen for the 2013 running. So, in the Saxo, todays destination was Winchcombe. I had booked us on the lovely GWSR Fine Dining Train, operated by the company known as "Elegant Excursions". We were asked to dress smartly and joined the steam-heated train on Platform 2 at Midday, following a very wet sprint along the A46 and down muddy country lanes. We were given a glass of chilled Bucks Fizz and were shown politely to our Table for Two aboard one of the three Dining Cars.
The atmosphere was lovely. There was tranquil music playing, it was cosy, warm and very comfortable. The warmth of the train was certainly very welcome and was a stark contrast to the horrid, dreary weather outside. The train departed behind the awe-inspiring Turkish 8F 2-8-0 at 12:30, bound for Chelentham Racecourse. The meal was 3 courses starting with a Scottish broth soup and then followed by a tasty Roast Dinner and a large slice of Chocolate Cake with Cream. The meal was topped off with a cup of a tea and after dinner mint: very civilised! The 8F steamed effortlessly along the line as the passengers enjoyed the views across the Cotswold countryside from the coaches. Train Manager and Company Operator Robin gave an interesting commentary as the Turkish '8' chugged along and the friendly staff dished out the various drinks and courses.
Maisie Choosing From The Wine List
The "Elegant Excursion" made two round trips between Winchcombe and Cheltenham Racecourse during the 3-hour run and it was very enjoyable indeed. I love firing and driving the loco's at Shackerstone but, sometimes, it is nice just to sit back and enjoy the journey, particularly when it is accompanied by fine dining. Also in steam today was "Foremarke Hall", hauling the normal passenger service.
We left Winchcombe for home straight after the run following a very enjoyable trip. I felt it was very good value for money, brilliant food and a great atmosphere. I am very tempted to travel Elegant Excursions again in the near future. You can't beat a dining train! Thanks very much for reading folks. Best Regards, Sam.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks like you both enjoyed your meal on the railway.
Havent tried there dining train but we might next year.

Regards Simon