Saturday, 6 December 2014

Lincoln By Steam for Christmas...

"4965 Rood Ashton Hall at Barwell" (by S.Lathlane)
Hi all. Well, the Christmas season is once again upon us. The Christmas markets are cropping up all over the place, the festive classics are on the radio and the Santa's have begun on the railways. On the main line, the festive season services have begun and today we were riding aboard one. A few months ago I decided that a Christmas outing would be very pleasant and so chose Vintage Trains' excursion to Lincoln behind their immaculate 4900 Hall Class. Beginning at Tyseley, 4965 "Rood Ashton Hall" would take the route outward via Coleshill Parkway, Nuneaton, Leicester and East Midlands Parkway, bound for the beautiful city of Lincoln. The train was running in aid of a visit to the Lindum Christmas Fayre, held in and around the Castle grounds. We had booked a table for two aboard Pullman Class and stood freezing on the platform at Coleshill at 8am this morning. There was a thick frost last night and the air was more than crisp. Right on cue, the wonderfully turned out 4-6-0 arrived with her chocolate & cream coaches. Aboard our warm (thank goodness) Pullman Car, the table was set for breakfast...
Once underway, 4965 got to work with the upward gradient towards Nuneaton. These 49's really can shift and they sound wonderful. The menu for the day was at our table and we were pleased with what was in store...
The train ran easily through the morning frost, with the sun coming out just after Nuneaton. The Hall was putting in some great performances, and tore through Hinckley and Narborough bound for Leicester. Shortly after Leicester Station, whilst tucking into what would probably be our third course of breakfast: a sumptuous Full English, the train pulled into the old Humberstone Road loop for water. 4965 carries the smaller GWR tender and thus watering is done more often than with something like the Castle, particularly with steam heat on. After a 30 minute or so stop in the loop, the Hall got back down to business, putting in some more audible running. Following a final passenger pick up at East Midlands Parkway: whilst we enjoyed our coffee: the Hall continued into Newark and across the bridge that I always remember from this route...
"4965 near Newark" (by S.Lathlane)
You may notice that the title image and the image above were taken by Mr Simon Lathlane. Simon has kindly allowed me to use these two images for this post as there was little or no chance to take pictures as a passenger. Simon has two great railway photography sites: his Flickr, for which click here, or his Zenfolio site, for which click here. I am very thankful to Simon for allowing me to use his two impressive images: cheers. Back to the trip, the Hall ran easily into Lincoln, getting stuck behind a few service trains at a few points. Lincoln would be very busy today, as the Christmas fair apparently attracts 250,000 visitors! As a result, even the trains were reorganised as there were more service trains, as well as two steam specials. The other steam special would be arriving from London behind A4 "Union of South Africa" shortly after us. We didn't see the green snow-plough but we are led to believe that it managed to haul its lengthy train all the way to Lincoln, which should put Eddie's mind at rest. Back with good old Great Western, the Hall arrived into Lincoln bang on time. Immediately we were detrained so that the loco could take the ECS away for stabling, though I did manage to catch this quick image of the shining Hall before the several gaggles of enthusiasts managed to negotiate the icy platform...
From the station, which is ideally located in the main shopping area, we walked up the aptly named Steep Hill to the Cathedral. Needless to say...it was busy! Pushed and pulled from pillar to post we were, by several thousand fair goers. We had a look around the fair which had a great atmosphere, though unless you wanted to buy German Sausages or Mulled Wine you were pretty much out of luck. Sellers were hollering to the hoards to try and sell the loosely described "Novelty Christmas Hats" which, regardless of your tastes, were pretty hideous but no matter, its Christmas! Lincoln's jewel in the crown has to be the impressive Cathedral, which has origins which head right back to the beginning of its construction in 1088. It is a wonderful building...
We even took the opportunity for a look inside the Cathedral and, as I've said the last few times we've been inside, it was quite emotional in a way. The beauty and grandeur of these buildings blows me away some times; the architecture of a bygone age. Away from the Cathedral we wandered around the streets and went into most of the high street shops. You were better off inside due to the bitter cold outside! We had arrived with 4965 at around 11:45am and our departure of 4:15pm came around quickly. We had been advised to get back nice & early due to the madness at the station. The gaggle of enthusiasts were allowed back onto the platform around 10 minutes before booked departure and 4965 turned up with her LED lamp shining right on time. This is a lovely looking machine...
Having rejoined our Pullman Car, the impressive Cathedral stood proudly atop Steep Hill...
And our table was reset for the 4-course dinner, with Maisie obviously loving my chats about the evolution of GWR steam...
The run back was very pleasant and the meal was great: very filling too! Though we couldn't see a lot, the performance from the Hall was once again very audible. We arrived back at Coleshill right on time at 7:50pm, having took water again just outside Leicester for 40 minutes or so. The warmth of the Pullman car and the size of the meal made me drop off for a few miles I must admit! Having left the train, 4965 swiftly departed, leaving only a trail of steam and the echoes of her voice. The driver was certainly giving her some stick as we must have heard her for at least a mile or two! Then it was time for the drive home after an enjoyable day out. I must take my hat off to Vintage Trains for this one. It was a lovely day: great service, great food and great performances by the lovely 4965. Finally, to see a nice Youtube video of todays events, why not check out this link. Thanks for reading guys, Sam...

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