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A Railtour Comes Upon Us

Ravenglass, West Cumbria – June 2008
A Train Arrives
We were in Ravenglass for the 800th anniversary of the granting of a town charter, see Ravenglass Charter Fair.
We went and stood on the footbridge over the mainline railway, as a special railtour train was due. The train had left Cardiff at 6.10am in the morning and had stopped at Bristol, Cheltenham, and Birmingham, together possibly with some other intermediate places, to bring a trainload of people to Cumbria. Some of the passengers had got off at Grange-over-Sands and been taken by bus to Lake Windermere, and others had continued on the train to Ravenglass, where a special steam train on the narrow-gauge railway had been arranged to take them up the valley and back again, while the mainline train went and turned round at Sellafield, so it could collect its passengers for their return journey home facing the right way, some two hours later. We stood on the footbridge while the special railtour train arrived, and the people still remaining on it got off and filed past us on their way to the narrow gauge station.
Inelegant, is Probably the Word
Inelegant, is probably the word. Mostly men, mostly grey-haired. I kept thinking of that song, Ziggy is a bloke with a stubble on his chin, he looks like suvving the cat's brought in. Diamond-patterned pullovers and sagging stomachs, and a shuffling gait.
They filed past us.
On the railtour train you could travel first class or second. In first class there appeared to be an at-table dining service, whereas in second you brought your own sandwiches to keep you going from 6.10am until the train was due to arrive back in Cardiff, some time after midnight. All the carriages, first- and second-class, were rather old, in various shades of reddish-brown, blue and cream.
These railtour trains, I am fairly reliably informed, get fully-booked.
A highlight of this particular trip from Cardiff was to be the return leg, when the route would take the train on some lines around Manchester, usually reserved solely for freight trains.
A Delight of Hawking Sounds
The diesel engines, for there were two at the head of the train, were once used on the lines to Fort William and Mallaig. Class 37s. Upon leaving Ravenglass station they made a noise a bit like you can do by exhaling with your lips almost closed and relaxed, while hawking with your throat. This seemed to be a feature, as it was greeted with great satisfaction by those watching. Presumably the drivers knew how to generate this noise by pulling the relevant levers, and so delight their audience.
D More-I C
In my wanderings around the globe, I spend more time being amazed than I do understanding anything. Railtours such as we witnessed that weekend are immensely popular with a certain (rather inelegant) sector of the population, while some of us spend our time juggling the commitments of work and family. There are lots of people out there in the world who are different from me, which should be rather surprising as I’m a fairly run-of-the-mill character, but I think I’m past being surprised, I just gape in wonderment.
More about the happenings in Ravenglass at Ravenglass Charter Fair.


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