Slam doors opened and we boarded the train accompanied by the quiet hiss of released steam impatiently waiting to push us off in to the winter morning. The mighty Earl of Mount Edgcumbe locomotive, silhouetted in early morning light, would take us to the Christmas market at Lincoln from Tyseley station, criss-crossing country tracks, tacking between obscure stations, and avoiding speeding intercity services. We took our comfortable paisley seats in the Pullman dining car and watched other passengers decide whether they’d sit facing where they were going or where they had been, while they chattered excitedly over the crisp white table cloths, bud vases of sleeping irises, and breakfast crockery.
From Tyseley Works Railway Station, just a couple of miles from the city centre, occasionally you can take a steam train service to various attractions, organised by Vintage Trains. In a world where time is of the essence to the point where one can purchase pre-cut apple slices, there’s something awfully luxurious about surrendering yourself to the whims of steam. A trip to Lincoln for instance will take you over four hours. You’ll spend that time glued to the view, spotting the spotters in fields and on bridges, at the end of platforms, with cameras and microphone in hand waiting to capture the chug chug chug and whistles of this now rare sight. We saw dozens, maybe a hundred of them, in all, not to mention all the people at stations waiting for their own trains who whipped out their camera phones as we pulled through their stations.
You’ll be well fed, of course. At our 7.15am start Chef and the team had already put in quite a bit of prep in the tiny rolling kitchen to feed his passengers a hearty three course breakfast, and three course dinner on the return. Our hostess, Momma Steam as her team of waitresses called her, had also been aboard a while ensuring cutlery shined and that champagne was chilling.
Coffee was welcomed after an early start, and then our first breakfast course arrived – porridge with whisky soaked raisins. Start the day as you mean to go on, right? It was a silver service affair, with friendly staff balancing chafing dishes while walking along the narrow aisles. Breakfast lasted around two hours, it was a leisurely pace. The second course was pastry, a buttery croissant, and toast. The main event was a full English breakfast. Chef told us he gets his sausage and black pudding from Birmingham meat market’s City Butchers, and it was very nice, as was the rest of the generous breakfast. After another coffee, and a glass of chilled prosecco, we were almost there.
Vintage Trains arrange trips throughout the year, you can go for a romantic meal for St. Valentines day, take the Shakespeare Express to Stratford, take a Christmas trip to York, or steam through the lake district up to Carlisle. They have different prices, and you can pay for different levels of catering and service. Drinks prices were very reasonable. We went the whole hog for a special Christmas trip to the renowned Lincoln Christmas Market. All the trips sell out quickly so book early to avoid disappointment.
Lincoln Christmas Market runs for just a few days in December. We went on the Saturday and it was incredibly busy. The town is pretty and the market is set up in and around the historic castle, at the top of Steep Hill. And boy is it steep! Products on offer include winter ware, wooden toys, candles, cheese, beers, ciders, blankets, and all your usual stocking filler fodder. We had a nice time wondering around most of it, but retired after an hour or so to a pub with some friends who live in Lincoln.
We departed Lincoln around 5pm, enjoying a bottle of cold Champagne (£39) before dinner. The carriage was warm and snug as the night blacked out the view. Our starter arrived, a tasty chorizo and chicken soup. I was impressed the waitresses were managing to serve from a terrine without spilling a drop. The main course was a roast beef dinner with Yorkshire pudding (of course), roast and dauphinoise potato, and veg. Dessert was a Christmas spiced apple crumble with custard. I noted that they were offering non-dairy alternatives if required. Food quality and service was very good.
With the remnants of red wine from dinner (a reasonable Amarone at a cheap £22), and a couple of bargain Grey Goose vodka and cokes (£3.50), we trundled on, arriving back at Tyseley around 10pm. It’s a lovely day to spend with a significant other or friends and family for a special occasion. We finished the trip feeling relaxed and contented.
You can take a look at the Vintage Trains website here:
Here is the train we were on whistling whilst passing through a station (courtesy of a deep link to John Edkin’s on YouTube):
And here she is leaving Lincoln in darkness, again whistling, and chug chug chugging (courtesy of a deep link to Joshua Rawson’s work on YouTube).
I’m slightly jealous! I love steam trains and have been on a few different ones, but have yet to have the full Pullman dining experience. Sounds like you had a fab trip!
It was awesome! Really enjoyed it.