Sunday, 13 October 2013

Another Elegant Excursion...

Hi guys. Around this time last year, on a very wet autumn Sunday, myself & Maisie had a lovely time on the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway's "Elegant Excursions" Dining Train. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that I booked us on for pretty much the same day again this October. Returning for the same experience seemed a great idea, though I hadn't planned on rebooking the hideous autumn rain that we received during last years visit! We arrived at the GWSR's intermediate station at Winchcombe around Midday, ready for immediate boarding as the rain fell and the wind blew. The cosy, lamp-lit atmosphere of the Dining Train was very welcome and Train Manager Robin was a friendly face to greet us as we clambered wearily aboard whilst, naturally, apologising for the weather!

The locomotive at the head of the train was GWSR stalwart No7903 "Foremarke Hall". This well-used 4-6-0 was built under BR in 1949 as part of Hawksworth's 'Modified Hall' class. The original Hall's appeared as early as 1924 under 4900 Class specifications, and the Modified's were basically their later sisters. Much debate rages over which is better though, on paper at least, it should really be the modified variant. One feature that I am aware of in particular on the modified engines is a greater level of superheating to name but one. Having been rescued from Barry Scrapyard in 1981, 7903 eventually returned to service following a painstaking restoration in 2003 at the Swindon & Cricklade railway. However I am fairly certain, just from memory, that she has spent the majority of the last 10 years hard at work on the GWSR. Following a lot of mileage over the last decade, the Hall is currently fast approaching the end of her boiler ticket, which I believe expires this winter. For an engine 10 years into her ticket, she certainly looks and sounds well. Good luck to her on a speedy overhaul...
Once aboard the "Elegant Excursions" train we were escorted through the well-heated and beautifully turned out coaches to our table-for-two. We then settled in for our Sunday lunch...
As we enjoyed our tasty Sunday lunch, "Foremarke Hall" hauled the coaches through the countryside throwing white steam over her shoulder. Up through Winchcombe tunnel we went and on to Cheltenham Racecourse. There, as our main meal began to arrive, 7903 ran round the train. Steaming tender-first through the Cotswold scenery, 7903 ambled gently through Winchcombe and on towards Toddington. I had not travelled over this section over the GWSR for a couple of years as a severe landslip at Chicken Curve has seen the line closed for some time. Happily, the section has now reopened and the GWSR base of Toddington is served by steam trains once again. Passing through the damp platforms of Toddington station, 7903 paused briefly before accelerating away onto the recently opened Laverton section. In a few years time the GWSR hopes to make it to Broadway, where the station is already pretty much available to welcome a train. Laverton is the current extent of railway operations and a run-round loop has been constructed there. The short journey from Toddington to Laverton involves passing over the impressive Stanton viaduct which is always nice to see: I'd certainly never been over this section before. At Laverton 7903 ran round again before returning us gracefully to Winchcombe. By now we had enjoyed a well prepared 4-course meal and we were stuffed. Mind you, it was so tasty that I reckon I could have eaten it twice! Back at Winchcombe, a very wet "Foremarke Hall" simmered away to herself whilst the Diner's staggered down from the coaches...
7903 Rests at Winchcombe
A view from the footbridge...
The smartly turned out, and recently repainted I believe, "Elegant Excursions" coaches...
The Lamp-lit Coaches of "Elegant Excursions"
Well, that's another Fine Dining Experience done! "Elegant Excursions" is probably my favourite and most recommended of the many dining trains we have travelled on over the years. If you ever get the chance to book a slot on one of Robin's fantastic trains then I would severely advise that you go for it. They offer a great atmosphere, lovely food and best of all, its great valve for money. The only thing that tops it is dining on the main line but, that's not about the food is it! Best Regards, Sam...

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