Gareth Evans samples a steam taster driver experience course at the Swindon & Cricklade Railway – and also learns how the railway manages the process from an operational perspective.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to drive a steam locomotive? If so, I would urge you to have a go if you get the chance, as it really is an unforgettable experience.
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I enjoy getting my hands dirty and love getting out and about. When it was suggested in the office that I might like to sample a driver experience taster course at the Swindon & Cricklade Railway, I admit I was quietly excited about the prospect – especially when it was mentioned that a mainline locomotive might be on the roster, subject to availability.
On Monday, October 15, I headed to Blunsdon station, on the edge of Swindon. I was accompanied by Craig Amess, a member of our sales team. Craig and I work well together – we’re the same age and we always enjoy a healthy spot of friendly banter.
The occasion was my inaugural visit to the line, but I’d heard it was friendly – and I was pleased to find the welcome lived up to its reputation. Car parking was easy – I only needed to cross the line via the barrow crossing to access the tea room.
I have traditional values – including that visitors should always be welcomed with the offer of refreshment. After a 3.5 hour drive from Peterborough, a coffee was just what I needed.
Brew time was enjoyed in the atmospheric surroundings of the pair of Norwegian carriages which serve as the buffet. The counter in one of the carriages boasted an impressive range of refreshments, all clearly displayed.
The availability of a hot meal on what was a cold, damp day was welcome – Craig and I enjoyed our ham, egg, chips and beans. We didn’t sample the desserts as we were both full, but I did observe one couple share one and it looked appetising.
As someone who remains firmly a ‘country lad’ at heart, despite now living in a city, I appreciate nature. It was therefore nice to be able to watch the plethora of feeding birds from the buffet car window as we ate our lunch.
Read more and view more images in Issue 248 of HR – on sale now!Enjoy more Heritage Railway reading in the four-weekly magazine. Click here to subscribe.