There is nothing quite like travelling in style aboard a vintage steam train, as Nicola Caines found out.
As the 1947 steam locomotive pulled into Hove station, its engine chugging and puffs of smoke floating into the crisp morning air, it really felt as though we had stepped back in time.
The excited passengers were eager to climb on board and start their journey to Bath – as were myself and my husband.
We were in carriage B, named Diana, and the interior was delightful.
Comfy old-fashioned style armchairs either side of a table covered in a white table-cloth with a lovely vintage lamp.
The setting was more akin to a classy vintage lounge bar than any train I had ever experienced.
Yes, it was a little chilly onboard and there was a little soot around – but, for me, that just added to the feel of being back in the 1940s or 50s.
The train, hauled by the historic 34067 Tangmere steam locomotive, which was built in Brighton in 1947, had one more pick-up, in Worthing, before we were on our way to the Bath Christmas market.
The special trip is put on every year by heritage rail operator The Railway Touring Company and always proves popular.
Every seat was booked on our trip, with options of standard, first class or premier dining.
As this was a special occasion and likely to be a one-off, we went for the premier dining.
This meant shortly after getting comfy in our seats, we were served a glass of Buck’s Fizz, then came tea and coffee, then either Corn Flakes, porridge or fruit.
Next up was a full breakfast of delicious bacon, sausage, rosti potato, egg, tomato, mushrooms and black pudding – or grilled kippers. There was also toast and preserves. Thank goodness we had a long journey to Bath to gives us time to enjoy such a scrumptious breakfast.
Nearly three hours into our four-and-a-half hour journey we stopped briefly at Salisbury where the locomotive took on water via fire engine hoses.
The passengers were able to stretch their legs and watch as overall-clad train workers shovelled the coal supply and tested the pressure with the resulting plumes of smoke providing a perfect photo opportunity.
Back on-board it was time for some mulled wine to warm us up.
The views from the train on our journey were simply beautiful, from the well-known Sussex sights including the River Adur and Arundel to the rambling Wiltshire countryside, and the Avon Valley.
It seemed like no time at all before we were pulling into Bath.
Just a short stroll from the station and you are in the city centre.
There you will find inter-winding streets packed with the high street favourites and a host of quirky independent shops and cafés – and during December, the fabulous Christmas market.
The market has more than 180 stalls, housed in traditional wooden chalets, offering a range of hand-made food and gifts.
There is also a beautiful carousel and entertainment including carol singers.
Aside from the market there are some amazing things to see in the city including the Roman baths, the stunning Royal Crescent and the gorgeous Pulteney Bridge, one of a handful of historic bridges in the world with shops built into it.
We had just over four hours to explore Bath before we had to head to the station – it was just enough time for us and actually we couldn’t wait to get back on-board.
On the return journey we had a festive four-course silver-service dinner which was absolutely delicious.
The menu included all of the traditional favourites with starters of soup, pâté or salmon, followed by a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings, then Christmas pudding, cheese and crackers, coffee and mince pie.
Father Christmas and his elves popped in on the way back but there was still plenty of time to sit back and relax.
It was dark outside as we headed home but our little vintage lamp was lit and we were in our own little world of luxury as we chugged along the tracks home and back to the modern day.
The Bath Christmas market trip is held in December. Prices for the 2014 trip started from £76 per adult.
A date has not been set yet for the 2015 trip but keep an eye on the Railway Touring Company website www.railwaytouring.net where people can sign up for a newsletter.
Alternatively, call 01553 661500 to order a 2015 steam day trips brochure which will include all future steam dates.
December 26, 2014 Culture and Events