|"Scots Guardsman" and Hilary at Carlisle station.|
The train arrived from London behind two vintage diesel locomotives (Class 47s for the cognoscenti), which took us to Carnforth where a steam locomotive took over. This was 46115 Scots Guardsman, built in 1927 for the LMS and withdrawn from British Railways stock in 1965. Its main claim-to-fame is its starring role in the 1936 film Night Mail
Our outward route was straight up the West Coast Main Line (the route of the "Night Mail") which involved the climb up to Shap Summit - at 1-in-75 one of the steepest main line inclines in the country. It was great to travel behind a steam engine that was working flat out (on preserved lines they are restricted to just 25mph) and we stormed up Shap so well that we were two minutes early at Penrith.
The tour allowed two hours in Carlisle, where Hil and I both lived for a year (although at different times). It was almost 40 years since my time there and much had changed, but it did bring back memories for both of us.
From Carlisle we returned south via the Cumbrian Coast Line. Although this does involve some rather grim post-industrial scenery around Workington and Whitehaven it certainly improves as you head south, with sea views on one side contrasting with the Lake District fells on the other. A stop was made at Sellafield for water (for the engine, that is - not for drinking, thank goodness) and the rest of the trip passed all too quickly.
As well as the vintage engine, the train was made up of British Railways carriages dating from the 1960s. For a certain blogger's benefit, I had a forward-facing aisle seat with a table (Hilary grabbed the window seat) although of course on the good bits I had an even better place: in the vestibule with head out of the window - something you certainly can't do on modern trains. Although the rolling stock was 50 years old it compared very favourably with modern trains: large, comfortable seats that all lined up with deep windows, giving everyone a good view out; proper tables that are ideal for today's laptop-toting passengers (not that anyone was using one today!), windows that can be opened for ventilation (and to let the sound of then loco in) and, best of all, the only announcements made had to be by members of staff walking through the train, which meant they were restricted to important notices such as who had won the raffle (not us!) and no guff about safety and security, "taking all your belongings with you" (really?) and "arriving into" the next "station-stop".
We returned from Preston on a modern (i.e. 1990s) diesel unit, which apart from vastly superior internal lighting and the absence of drafts had very little to recommend it over the older stock and rounded off the day with a meal in the Moghuls curry house.
The only Indian restaurant I know with an outside toilet!