Our Railway Journey
We took a journey on the Severn Valley Railway and what a memorable and nostalgic day it was too.
We were excited to be taking this short trip on a steam engine train. We arrived mid-morning at the station in Bridgnorth on fresh cool day and bought our 3rd class tickets at the tiny ticket office inside the main station. We stepped out onto the platform and were greeted to a cacophony of whistles and hisses of the engines, as they prepared themselves for another day on the rails. We crossed the railway by taking the overhead bridge and looked down on the beautifully maintained, stone station. There were piles of coal off to the side and in the sidings was an array of engines of different sizes and colors – blues, reds and greens, with engineers and stokers jumping down and climbing up the ladders to ready the beasts for their journey through the Shropshire countryside. All the stationmasters, engineers, stokers, ticket collectors and conductors are volunteers, and take their roles seriously with great customer service; are knowledgeable in all things concerning the history and workings of the railway, and proudly wear the traditional uniforms of thick wool coats and peaked caps to keep them warm on this chilly winter days.
After some feet pounding, and hand clapping to keep ourselves warm, the train pulled up to the platform with a great hiss and loud rumbling of wheels. We climbed aboard and entered into the past era of steam travel. The seats were a lovely royal blue wool, which, as I remember from previous train journeys, although not steam, would eventually make your legs hot and itchy, being quite coarse and hard. The seats faced each other with a table between for eating, drinking or playing cards on a long journey. We had been told that there were no ‘facilities’ on the train so we had to make sure to go before embarking on our journey. It was cold in the compartment, and I hoped it would warm up once we got underway. With a hot cup of coffee in hand, which was really weak, but nevertheless warming me a little, I sat in anticipation. Marcel was still on the platform taking pictures and I was concerned we would be going without him.
Finally, the whistles were blowing, the fires were roaring and the steam was billowing around us and with an excruciating squeak of the wheels on the rails, we were off. We chuffed along the foot of the Severn Valley, passing lush green fields, tiny well-preserved stations, large country houses and sprawling farms. We were one of only a few passengers; the commuters already at work, having taken the earlier train. Yes, this was a functioning daily service, not just a tourist attraction, and people relied on this service to get them totheir modern high-rise offices each day. What a contrast.
The friendly conductor, dressed in his immaculate uniform, came by to clip our tickets, and all too soon we were at our destination. We decided to explore Bewdley, situated on the River Severn, a small town famous for its bridge, built by Thomas Telford in 1798. We had lunch in a small café and walked around the town and along the riverbank, where we spotted some interesting tiles in the ground. Each one represented a profession housed in the nearby buildings. A rope, for the rope maker, a barrel for the local cooper and a sack of grain for the miller. These indicated drop off points for the barges that once transported goods up and down the river.
After a walk to see the swans, we headed back across the bridge, and up the hill to the station to catch the train home. This time we waited patiently in the tiny waiting room with its log fire and Christmas tree. It felt like I was taking part in Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ expecting Tiny Tim to come hobbling into the waiting room at any moment. It was warm and comfortable and I was reluctant to move until the train arrived.
Eventually the train’s arrival was announced and we eagerly boarded. This time we were on a warmer and more luxurious train, which was much busier than the one we had arrived on. The inside was clad with beautifully polished wood and there were small crystal lampshades dotted all through the car. I imagined the wealthy ladies of the era, decked out in their furs and leather gloves, elegantly sipping their tea from china cups and nibbling on the tiny cucumber sandwiches, gossiping about the local landed gentry and all the scandals of the decade. The only thing breaking my reverie was the annoying lady on her cellphone, having a heated argument about sheets and cleaning materials!
Again, we passed breathtaking countryside, with the steam billowing down the train as it twisted and turned along the track, and although our journey was over all too soon, we were glad to be back in Bridgnorth, so we could get home, have some hot soup and warm up after our wonderful steam adventure and a trip back into the past.
For more information and the special dining and murder mystery trips on the Severn Valley Railway visit: www.svr.co.uk
Click on Photo Below to be taken to a Larger Gallery.