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Friday, October 12 2012 @ 08:22 PM EDT
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The Scarboro' Flyer

Falsgrave signal box

As a boy, my Father would take me to our local railway station (before Dr Beeching and his axe), pass through it, and on to visit his friend who worked in the signal box. Many happy hours were spent in this fascinating and atmospheric world, especially if like me you were about five years old. Levers, rods, clanging bells and that unmistakeable smell of years of pipe tobacco, coal fires, oil and grease all mixed up into one heady aroma. An aroma that has never left my senses. One scent of any one part of it and I am instantly transported back to my childhood, holding my Dad’s hand as I wave to the train drivers who slowly passed by our - my - signal box. Thus began my life-long love affair with all things mechanical and especially steam trains.


Number one daughter on the footplate

I still get the same thrill, and sometimes tears, when ever I am around them. I have now introduced my daughter to the pleasures of steam trains. She like me and her Grandad gets excited at the prospect of visiting Heritage Railway centers. Unfortunately neither her Mother or Grandmother share this fascination. But we have many such centers in the UK; and it would seem that the UK is becoming one giant Heritage Centre but enough of the politics. Be that as it may, a group of like-minded individuals have, over the last decade or so, built a brand new Peppercorn Class Steam Locomotive, the first to be built in the UK for the last four decades and that now, having passed all it’s rigorous health and safety tests, is earning its keep on the UK rail network, hauling passenger trains who pay a hefty premium for the privilege. So, it was with some joy that I read about the West Coast Railway Company and the steam train excursions it runs from York via Wakefield to Scarborough, an excursion that my daughter and I took one cloudy but warm day in July.

What it was all about

You can combine a trip to York (see my previous article "York, My Home Town" about the city) with a trip to Scarboro’ and back. Scarboro has some notable attractions, least of all, the town lays claim to being the first ‘seaside’ resort in England and possibly the world, once had the largest hotel built in Europe, The Grand and is the final resting place of Anne Bronte, yes of that family. It was shelled during the First World War by the German Navy (as was a number of other East Coast towns), the Castle suffering some quite bad damage. The centre of the town is on a rise overlooking South Bay with its promenade and usual seaside attractions, with only one of what used to be five funiculars running. However, there are plenty of steps down to the beach and I mean plenty. Staying in Scarboro’ for a week with kids and you will return home very fit indeed. Peasholm Park in North Bay displays one of the myriad English quirks. Every Sunday on the boating lake large scale model ships re-enact various sea battles, its a joy and an old fashioned pleasure to watch those engrossed in its various facets, magic! Best of all, the bucket and spade brigade will have countless hours of fun on Scarboro’s clean beaches, washed every high tide, there’s even a donkey ride to entertain the kids, what more can you ask for? With good weather, it beats the Costa’s any day I’ll wager. Copy and past the web address for more info.
www.scarborough.co.uk.

The train, a Royal Scot class locomotive number 46115, left York station at 10.14am, picked us up in Wakefield at 11.20am after stopping in Castleford and Normanton, arriving in Scarboro’ at 14.05pm after travelling on whats left of the national railway network. The old rolling stock highlighted the problem that has blighted much of the UK’s infrastructure since the end of WWII, namely a lack of suitable, sustained and targeted investment. If you’ve taken some medicine and forgot to shake the bottle, ride this train for a minute and all will be well! That’s not to say the ride was uncomfortable, being jostled about by the moving train is all part of the fun. My daughter and I watched in sheer amusement as a couple in our first class carriage celebrated in style and opened a bottle of champagne, everyone within range got some! But no one complained. All the passengers of a certain age were transported back to their childhoods. The children on board (and there were many, hence our first class tickets) were experiencing the thrill of being thrown about by the speeding train, all sixty miles per hour of it. Elderly people soon mastered the art of walking through the carriages carrying hot cups of tea. Like riding a bike, a skill once learned and never forgotten.

Am I finding fault? certainly not! This is what I came to relive and for my daughter to experience. She asked ‘Dad, why have you got tears in your eyes?’ I replied ‘must be some soot from the engine’ (and there was much). In actuality, it was my memories, as once again I was a five year old boy holding my Dad’s hand as we waved to the train drivers slowly going past my signal box.

Editor's Note: See a large array of photographs in Stephen's "Scarboro' Flyer" album on TPN.

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