I love the train. I think it is one of the best inventions and I’ve throughly enjoyed trips on them and connected to them.
Train Museum Visits
For example, I’ve visited STEAM in Swindon and the National Railway Museum in York to relish looking at old locomotives. In STEAM you can walk under a loco and have an “underside” look at things. The brass is so beautiful. I’m not technically minded but there is an art and beauty to these machines that does take my breath away. I guess beauty is where you see it but genuine works of art can be found in the most practical of things.
STEAM basically is the museum for the Great Western Railway and while, much smaller than the National Railway Museum, there is still plenty to see. There is also an excellent library at STEAM where you can sit and read all sorts of books and magazines when you want to have a break from looking at the exhibits.
The York trip makes for a long day, using the Cross Country service to York from Southampton Airport Parkway but, appropriately enough, the museum is a short walk from the main line at York so could hardly be more conveniently placed! The museum has a huge range of exhibits and is well worth a visit. I liked seeing the replica of Stephenson’s Rocket.
Favourite Train Journeys
Favourite train journeys include the famous Fort William to Mallaig run (better known as the Harry Potter route. See Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I’ve been fortunate enough to go on this stunning route a couple of times. I’ve yet to see a flying Ford Anglia while on this run though. See the book and film for more on that!).
Whenever I’m up in Scotland, I try to take two train trips. One is up the north-east coast to Wick. It is a glorious journey and shows you so much of Scotland in one trip. There are plenty of seal colonies on the stretch between Brora and Helmsdale, which you simply wouldn’t see from the road as that is too high up.
The railway runs literally next to the beach. The trip then goes inland and crosses moors where you get a real sense of being in Wild Britain before the land changes again to farmland. You get to see plenty of mountains too. I was last on this trip back in May and there was still plenty of snow on the mountains.
The other Scottish train trip I take is across the country to the Kyle of Lochalsh (usually picking up the train from Dingwall). This has to be one of the most beautiful runs in the UK, especially around Plockton. The views from the train windows are amazing. (I also have to hand it to Scots Rail for a fantastic trolley service. The hot chocolate and fruit cake on their services is hard to beat!).
Chandler’s Ford Station
Much closer to home, I have enjoyed the run from our station to Salisbury. There are some fantastic views on this relatively short stretch of line. I’ve visited the Cathedral and Arundells (Sir Edward Heath’s home) many times. I also use the station as a park and ride particularly to Eastleigh, which is handy when it comes to Christmas shopping!
And I will always have fond memories of our local station thanks to my holding a book signing for From Light to Dark and Back Again there. Many thanks to Three Rivers Rail Community Rail Partnership for their help there.
It is a bit ironic my late mother-in-law learned to drive because Beeching closed the original Chandler’s Ford line. I use our station as a park and ride to get into Eastleigh especially.
I use the train to get to my writing highlights of the year from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in Derbyshire to the Association of Christian Writer events in London, Birmingham and elsewhere. I’ll be on the train again shortly after this post goes out when I’ll be en route to London again for the Bridge House Publishing annual celebration. It’s a fantastic chance to catch up with friends I only see here and it will be lovely to be able to celebrate having work out in the BHP Nativity anthology and The Best of Cafelit 8.
I can’t remember when I first used the train, that’s far too long ago to recall, but I wouldn’t dream of using anything else for trips to the capital. The Tube is a fantastic way to cross London (you never get cold down there!).
I’ve also been over to the Isle of Wight steam railway at Ryde, which is charming, and just after Christmas, I’m usually on the Watercress Line for a run up from Alresford to Alton. The Hampshire countryside is lovely through here but wrap up well. I suspect this isn’t just me but platforms do seem to me to be some of the coldest places on earth and can make for excellent wind tunnels. (The one at Southampton Central is particularly “good” on that score!).
Now there are aspects of train travel which are not fun – overcrowding (due to not enough coaches being put on – one particular company I can think of is notorious for this), the cost of season tickets, engineering works etc. It can also become almost unbearably hot down in the Underground. But I still think it is the best way of covering long distances relatively quickly. Our own local service acts as a brilliant shuttle service to Southampton, Eastleigh, and Romsey in particular. Such a service with reasonable parking is, I feel, the way to persuade people to use public transport.
The other huge advantage of train travel, of course, is never having to worry about parking the thing!
The advent of the train gave the country a standardised time system and it helped introduce the concept of weekends where people could use their day off to have train trips to the seaside. A lot of the museums I have visited have wonderful art works showing travelling by train in a bygone age and those posters etc are beautiful.
I also use train trips to catch up with writing work I want to do. The smartphone, an appropriate word processing app on said phone, and a charging point on the train enable me to use journeys to draft blog posts and flash fiction stories. And the great joy of train journeys is if you are not writing stories, you can always be reading them!
Train journeys I would still like to do include the Carlisle to Settle line and down the line to the Cornish coast. I still see going on the train as an adventure.
So over to you. What are your favourite train journeys? How did you discover them? Which train journeys would you still like to do?
And as a PS I am delighted to share the latest event from the Three Rivers Rail Partnership Community – a mulled wine and mince pies evening at Netley Station. See the poster for more details.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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