The last regular timetable steam train in the UK was actually in 1968, so in theory, I should remember them. In truth though, I dont, as I dont really remember doing much in the way of train journeys when I was young, but I guess I must have? And all the earliest memories I have of train journeys (other than restored lines) are all either electric, or diesel trains. However, the last steam train on a railway timetable, today! Yes, be grateful, it means I can avoid another typical Valentines Day blog at least!
Currently, its not possible to travel the full length of the Settle and Carlisle railway, as just under a year ago, there was a landslip at the very northern end of the line, so currently Armathwaite is as far north as they go. Most people actually change to coach at Appleby, slightly further south, because the road connection to Carlisle is better, but hopefully at some point the full length of the line will be restored.
Normally these trains are run by diesel units from Leeds, but today Northern Rail decided to do something different, and two return journeys from Skipton to Appleby were run by steam trains today. Dont get me wrong, a number of steam trains run over that line, but only as special tours, at inflated prices. Today, these were at the standard rail fare! Yes, I saw them on TV, the trains looked a little busy lol! Not surprising, I guess?
Will it happen again, who knows? I know Northern Rail were saying how well it went, so maybe one day, the regular train from Leeds to Carlisle will run a full route, behind a steam engine, who knows? But yes, that would have made a lovely Valentines day present, if I’d known about it, and had anyone to take me!
But yes, kudos to a train company for doing something a little different like that.
So fine, we need a train song, right? Snag is, I’ve used most of them in the past. And then I found this…oops… at least its brief!
No, heaven forbid, I’m not praising the current bunch, any of the big parties to be honest, none of them inspire me at present. This gentleman was a member of a cabinet, under a Prime Minister that it seemed you either loved, or hated, Margaret Thatcher. But no, thankfully this isnt about her either! Yes, Michael Portillo, stand up, and take a well deserved bow.
Back in the 1980’s, British Rail (as it then was) was doing its very best to run down the Settle and Carlisle railway. Why? Pretty much because the famous historic landmark of the Ribblehead Viaduct was in need of major overhaul, and repair, due to old age, though as has been discovered since, they exaggerated the sum needed, just to help their cause.
So what had been a decent, regular service had been run down to just 2 trains a day in each direction, stopping at just Appleby and Settle on the famous part of the line. Of course that caused traffic numbers to drop drastically, so in went the closure order. As so often, since the times of the Beeching axe in the early 60’s, a campaign started up to keep the line open, and indeed return it to its former glories. The success rate of these campaigns in the past, pretty awful, to be honest.
But then 2 things happened, a new area manager arrived in Manchester (sorry, cant remember his name), looked at the line, and his suspicions were raised as to the real reason for closure. Incredibly his findings found their way to Mr Portillo, and 25 years ago, on the 11th April, he turned down the closure application for the line. As I say, the costs for repairing the viaduct massively dropped, though nowadays only 1 line runs across the centre, reducing all weight issues for the viaduct.
A few years later, out of train privatisation, a new company took over the line, currently known as Northern Rail. What they did was not only to keep the ‘fast’ trains running on the line, they took the step of reopening many of the little intermediate stations along the route, and running a train in each direction, every 2 hours. Combined with a bit of advertising, travel numbers along the line rocketed, both by walkers in the Dales, and people who just wanted to admire the views! Also, by saving the line, many goods trains heading to Scotland from the North now use this line too.
All because a Minister had the courage to stand up to British Rail, and say no!
Of course, in recent times, said minister has actually had a series on British TV, about various scenic rail journeys, including unsurprisingly, the Settle and Carlisle.
The funny thing…Each winter, West Yorkshire Metro, in conjunction with Northern Rail run an offer of a much reduced return fare to travel this line midweek, and very popular it is too. One year, coming back from Carlisle, our train pulled into Settle station. Nothing unusual there, you might say. Stood on that platform, along with several members of the Settle and Carlisle support group, was, yes, you’ve guessed it, Michael Portillo! Now these trains are second class only, so he wasnt going into a first class carriage. Too right he wasnt! He actually greeted many of the travellers, before just sitting down with the rest of us, and just talking to those who wanted to say a few words.
I’ll be honest, at the time, that was a pleasant surprise, truly a man of the people seemingly. So fine, I may never vote Conservative, or have been a fan of Thatcher, but Michael Portillo, her transport minister, I admire him greatly, and want to say thanks for making a wonderful decision 25 years ago.
The video, just love it, though what the people who werent in on it at the time thought, I’d love to know!
Well, this is one of those occasions where the initial premise for the blog today isn’t going to happen! No prizes for what it was going to be, given its the 14th November, in other words, Louise Brooks’s birthday, of sorts. She would have been 107 today, but was never going to last that long given her lifestyle!
Anyway, enough of that, its not what you’re getting now, because I found this video! Its rare, to say the least, I’d certainly never discovered it before, and with Doris Day, thats saying something! Everyone remembers her as a film star, who could sing, but in fact, she started out as a dancer, who only turned to singing after a car crash. Then she became a film star, and so…who at 89 (officially), or at 91 (as some records suggest), she’s still going strong!
And yes, its fair to say that if I’d been a young girl, I would have wanted to be Doris Day. I think I did anyway, as a teen, so I should have taken the dysphoria hint back them, but never mind…
Next week, I will be taking a ‘Sentimental Journey’ again, one I’ve been taking from my youth, on the Settle & Carlisle railway. I’ve known it through good days (as it is now), bad days (2 trains a day, and only stations at Settle, Appleby and Carlisle open), and probably inbetween too. Though there are steam specials on the line a-plenty, I’ve never been on one…yet. No, next week, the journey will be by humble diesel train, yet again.
It is a spectacular journey, but then again, so are some of the Scottish ones. And I can bear witness that travelling by train, through the Rockies in winter, is quite something too, and I really must do it again sometime, though I have no idea when.
But thats for next week. Prior to then, I have the delights of battling Trans Pennine Express for the next 3 days, to and from work. Not terribly scenic, definitely nothing I could ever feel sentimental about, but it helps pay the wages! It would be wonderful to write as an occupation, but dont think thats ever going to happen.