Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Last Elegant Excursion...

Hi guys. Today was to involve another fine dining experience and would feature our third trip aboard the fabulous "Elegant Excursions" Dining Train at the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway. As you may notice in the title, this would be our last visit on behalf of "Elegant Excursions" as the company are running their last trips now and operations will cease in early August. The dining cars have been sold and are just waiting to leave the GWSR now, with plans afoot to return them to the national network in the future. Without the stock, the dining car trains would be in trouble anyway, and so they are unfortunately ending their services. This is such a shame as the service offered aboard their trains is second to none and it has to be our favourite dining train experience. When the news broke about the ending of services, our usual October slot became obsolete and so I managed to move the booking to this evening so that we could have one last outing on the train. This one was a "Midsummer Murder Mystery" Special, departing Winchcombe at 7pm, with boarding at 6:30pm. We had never done a Murder Mystery before and so were looking forward to it with intrigue. We arrived at Winchcombe early, at about 6pm, and the train was yet to enter the platform. In the distance, a mournful hooter was heard and the unmistakable clicking of snifting valves approached with haste. Even before she turned up, I knew she was a Black Five. The locomotive for the evening, by some divine miracle, was visiting Black Five No45379 of the Mid Hants Railway; an old friend after her Shackerstone visit in 2012. The engine was signalled into the carriage sidings and, following all of the necessary checks, began to lift the train into the platform...
With four distinctly gruff beats leaving the chimney at equal intervals, the Five got the train easily underway and dragged the ECS through Platform 2. Just after the shot below was taken, the Driver cracked Main Valve and the voice of 45379 echoed all around...
The beautiful Five roared through the platform and the noise she made was music to the ears. The locomotive then took the stock away towards Greet Tunnel ready to propel it back into Platform 1...
With the stock shunted and secured, the Diners were boarded in the traditional manner. The six actors who played the 1930s-themed Murder Mystery troop were positioned in amongst the crowd as we boarded and began to play out their main storyline, with little bits of dirty gossip about each character thrown in for your own consideration. We were given our complimentary drinks and then shown to our well-laid table for two in the luxurious centre Dining Car known as "Margaret"...
 
The Black Five then took us, in good voice, on two leisurely round trips between Winchcombe and Cheltenham Racecourse. The train was cosy, the weather was pleasant and the meal was just brilliant. We enjoyed the scenary and the food whilst the Murder Mystery troop continued to act their way through the coaches, providing quite a humorous and interesting display...
Now and again the train would stop for a short while for the actors to perform larger parts of the play, whilst the locomotive also had to run round. Maisie looks quite bemused at the actors in the shot below!...
After 10pm the train was now running in darkness and the meal had been well and truly polished off. We all made our guesses on the killer who 'bumped off' two of the troop during the journey and I'm pleased to say that mine was correct. We arrived back at Winchcombe behind the beautiful Black Five at around 10:40pm and slowly began to detrain. It had been a most pleasant evening once again, and a credit to "Elegant Excursions". I will be so sad to see this company go and its such a shame that we cannot travel with them again. Everything they did was just perfect, and many of the other passengers clearly agreed, with many wonderful comments floating around the coaches. So, now folks, off back to the hotel! Best Regards, Sam...

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