25th March 2023
We had booked a Steam Dreams trip on the London Euston to Carlisle via The Settle and Carlisle Railway, with the Royal Scot. Today was the day. Alarm clock set for an early rise. We were catching the trip from Milton Keynes at 6.55am but allowing plenty of time to park and navigate the HS2/EWR inspired roadworks and the Bucks CC potholes and failed roads.
We were greeted by Steam Dreams as we walked through the doors of Milton Keynes station and directed to our platform. (How did he know we were with his company?!) Despite our early start we were not the first to arrive. The train arrived on time, hauled by a 1972 86101 Sir William Stanier FRS. The class 86 locomotives started production in 1965. In 1970 three class 86 locomotives were modified and converted to run 5000 bhp with a top speed of 110mph. These were a test bed for the class 87 locomotives. The conversions were renumbered 86101 – 86103. 86101 was bought in 2019 by Locomotive Services Limited which operates the Saphos, Steam Dreams, Midland Pullman, Statesman, and Intercity rail excursions.
We were seated at a table of four in Carriage B, one of five Pullman class carriages. Our amiable traveling companions also boarded at Milton Keynes. They were from Kent and preferred to board here rather than Euston. The man was a train enthusiast and had a large model train set up at home and they were organising another Steam Dreams trip for sixteen people later in the year.
Very soon we were offered and consumed a glass of Champagne, with optional peach syrup, to start our breakfast. We were offered porridge, with whisky soaked raisins. as an extra item to the menu below:
Glass of Champagne
Tricolour melon and fresh blueberry salad in a minted syrup. served with Tiresford Farm natural yoghurt and seeded granola
Grilled back bacon, Cumberland sausage, Stornoway black pudding, griddled flat mushroom and vine tomato with Freshfield Farm scrambled eggs
Loch Duart smoked salmon, toasted English muffin, Freshfield Farm scrambled eggs and a chive hollandaise
Morning bakery basket
served with a selection of preserves and Netherend Farm salted butter
Freshly brewed tea and coffee
Late morning offering
Freshly brewed tea and coffee, and a selection of Danish pastries
At Crewe we were due to change locomotives to the Royal Scot (46100). Unfortunately, due to some track/signalling/fire issues, this was not going to happen. The announcement went on to suggest that the change almost did not happen, but they had managed to get the Royal Scot out of its locomotive shed and up the line to Warrington Bank Quay Station to wait for us there. We stopped at Crewe for a few more travellers to embark. Here at Crewe there was many railway anoraks with their cameras. While we waited here, we saw another excursion train, pulled by a diesel locomotive “Steel on Steel”. We saw it again at Warrington Bank Quay. I think it too had an issue with its star locomotive.
We set off again, stopping at Warrington Bank Quay Station where our 86101 headed off to Carlisle, where it would power us back. As soon as she left, the Royal Scot manoeuvred to the head of our train, and we headed off to Carlisle. It was difficult to find a good place to see the manoeuvring of the engines. There are quite a few Youtube videos showing this happening, but I have yet to spot myself in the crowd of photographers.
We headed on North, stopping on occasions to allow fast electric trains to pass. At Lockstock we left the mainline and joined the Settle Carlisle line, passing through Blackburn, Settle, Ribble, the Ribblehead Viaduct, and stopping at Appleby to load up with water a second time, and then finishing in Carlisle. (First water stop was near Chatburn.) If we had not been able to use the Royal Scott, it probably would have been unlikely we could have gone across the Viaduct, because the line there is not electrified. There were quite a few walkers by the Viaduct. I bet they were delighted to see a steam train go over it.
At the water stop, in between the rain showers, I managed to get a few more pictures of our train. (I later learned that R had noticed me on the next platform and decided I was a train nutter, but wondered why I was focussing on her.) Tea and cake materialised.
In Carlisle we had two hours to explore the city. We ventured up to the cathedral. A quite different cathedral to most, quite small. Someone was practising on the organ, which lent a good atmosphere. Superb organ pipes.
Walked back in the showers, vising the secondhand shops in what looked like a rundown city centre, to make our way back to our carriage. We set off being towed by the 86101, down the main line to Milton Keynes. This was a much faster trip, reaching speeds of 155 kph (96 mph), quite good for an aged locomotive and rolling stock. On the way back we were treated to a glass of Champagne before our dinner, which also included a bottle of wine.
Assiette of native fish.
Beetroot cured salmon and halibut fishcake dill, caper and citrus mayonnaise with a pickled cucumber salad
Duo of Gressingham duck.
Roast supreme and confit leg, thyme infused potato fondant, winter squash puree, roasted heritage carrot,
with cherry and red wine jus
The great British cheeseboard
served with Allen’s chutney and artisan biscuits
Warm gingerbread sponge, poached Yorkshire rhubarb, almond brittle and mixed spice custard
There was of course coffee and chocolates to finish, and we were each given a special presentation pack of chocolates to take home.
The staff on the trip were superb. Despite the long day, they were jolly and helpful. It appears most of them were from Crewe where the company is based. They travelled to Milton Keynes and stayed the night in a hotel there, getting up early to be coached to Euston Station to get the train ready for a 6am departure. On the return they would be coached back from Euston getting home at 3 am. A pretty long day for them. It was tiring enough sitting there eating and drinking.
The food and drink serving is all coordinated with where you get on and off, so no one misses out on the full day’s meals.
Other thoughts about the trip. Surprised by the number of freight trains on the rails. Of course, we passed by Rugby where there is a terminal and interchange with the road network. Even saw a large train where the wagons were exclusively Tesco. I didn’t know Tesco used the iron road for transportation. I suppose there will be more room on the lines when HS2 is fully operational. Fully meaning the lines all the way up to Manchester.