A few of the things on my bucket list are childhood dreams, and probably quite common ones at that. One of those is to drive a steam train – and I came remarkably close the other weekend when I spent some time riding on the footplate of the Lincolnshire Wolds Railway.
Shortly after Christmas I received a letter from Lincolnshire Wolds Railway containing two footplate experience vouchers, one each for LincsGeek and myself. Despite asking around, as well as asking the guys who run the railway, I still have no idea who bought the vouchers for us. So consider this a very public thank you to the mysterious donor!
Lincolnshire Wolds Railway is the only standard gauge steam railway in Lincolnshire open to the public. It runs on a very short stretch of track between Ludborough and North Thoresby, and offers the opportunity to see and experience something of old Lincolnshire. When we visited the weather was particularly terrible – rain had caused flash floods in Louth the day before (just down the road) and it was chucking it down relentlessly. Thankfully the railway has a museum, shop and café to shelter in and I had thought to take a decent waterproof coat and my Lifedge case for my phone.
The experience is for one person at a time so I sent LincsGeek off to have his while I sat in First Class with his mum to enjoy the ride. The train travels just a handful of miles down the track, where there is a short stop, before it heads back in reverse. The views are of the Lincolnshire countryside – Wolds and farmland – which would have been been quite lovely on a nicer day. The whole trip lasts less than 45 minutes and there is nothing really to look at when you reach the halfway point, but the team of volunteers are fundraising to extend the line back into Louth which will give much more opportunity to turn the short ride into a day trip out. As it is at the moment the ride is a very pleasant one – a snippet of the days when railway travel was much more glamorous than it is now.
Once back at the station it was my turn. The space on the footplate is quite limited and with the driver, coal-man and myself there was enough space to stand and watch but there was no moving about. The rain meant I didn’t do too much leaning out of the engine car, but I had a lovely time none-the-less. It was absolutely fantastic to realise a childhood dream and watch the guys make this old chunky steam engine pull its passengers down the track. It was dirty and noisy, just as you might imagine, and looked very complicated to drive smoothly. We went over a level crossing and I found myself waving at the waiting drivers with a smile on my face – just like a child.
Apart from the weather, which couldn’t have been much worse really, there are two things could have made our experience even better. The first would be an opportunity to actually shovel coal into the furnace, the other would have been the opportunity to pull some of the levers that make the train go. I am sure that if I had been a bit more forthcoming on the day with my requests I would have been allowed, but this was a footplate ride rather than a driving experience so I didn’t like to. It was great fun even without those things, and even with the horrid weather, a really good experience that I am glad I’ve had the pleasure of doing.
Oh, and if you head over to the Lincolnshire Wolds Railway – and you should – then make sure you have a bite to eat in the Steaming Kettle Buffet Car. Very simple snacks but tasty and incredibly good value for money.