It’s been a couple of years since I was on the Rail Ale train. It’s a lovely evening on the bluebell railway in Sussex and well worth trying out if you’ve never been. The format is simple. Steam train + Real Ale + Sausage and Mash supper + Jazz band. Easy.
The atmosphere is lovely, especially if you have a really nice sunny evening to enjoy as well. The crowd is all there to have a good time and enjoy the beers, of which there were many, and all good in terms of those I managed to sample.
It isn’t the cheapest evening out, but as an occasional outing it’s well worth the money, and of course, as the Bluebell railway is a charity I don’t begrudge them the cash.
My favourite ale of the evening was called “Piston Broke”, which seemed apt in some ways for a pleasant evening of beer and music.
A nice festival and bigger than last year, or so it seemed. At least it must have been a bit bigger as they actually ran out of beer at the Oxted festival on the Saturday night. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been to a beer festival where that’s happened before.
It was a good event. Music wasn’t bad, food had some interesting choices too. But if anyone offers you a sausage role called a ‘ring burner’, just say no. Take my advice.
A couple of old friends and I decided to take a train holiday of sorts. In fact, to refer to it as just a train holiday does no justice to the vast amount of planning that actually went into this trip. It didn’t entirely work out for us in that we didn’t get all the journeys done that we thought we might, but it was good fun all the same.
We had rail rovers that covered a huge area in the North East of England.
These made it possible for us to travel all over the place just with these. It was amazing as I didn’t even know that these things existed before this trip.
Our trip had three bases over three nights. These were, Carlisle, on our first night, Settle, on the second, and Blackpool on the third night. I hadn’t been to any of these, so it was going to be interesting no matter what. Although of course, some places are more interesting than others, if you know what I mean.
The first stage to Carlisle was very pleasant indeed. We started our trip with G&T’s and moved on to a few pints of a very pleasant ale. Off the train and on to Windemere for another couple of beers!
Day two saw us on the historic Carlisle to Settle line, although we had a few false starts on the way. We stopped off just after the Ribblehead viaduct in Ribblehead station, which was very pleasant indeed. Settle is a little market town and we stayed the night there in a lovely B&B.
From Settle we went out to Hellifield station and managed to catch sight of the Fellsman steam train going through.
The station itself was lovely and retained some original features, although not all. Here are some of the details …
From their we got another historical line. This time the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, which is the line that was used in the film “The Railway Children”. In fact, we went through the station that was used. Oakworth station.
It was a lovely line. Very picturesque and pleasant, and it would have been even better if it hadn’t been tipping down with rain. But never mind. It was a very pleasant trip all the same. One of the reasons it was so pleasant was …
Our final stop on Wednesday was Blackpool, and we arrived just before this lovely sunset.
We didn’t really get enough time to do much in Blackpool, we visited one or two pubs but that was about it before we had to leave in the morning to get on with the final day of our trip. However, before we left I grabbed a picture of this great old bus.
Our last day had a couple of notable highlights to it. The first was Lancaster, which we visited twice in one day. The first time finding a nice little bar just near the station with an excellent pint from the Settle brewery called “Light”, and also sampling Fiddler’s crisps.
Very nice too actually. The second highlight was visiting Carnforth station where scenes from “Brief Encounter” were filmed. There’s a heritage centre there and a lovely 1940’s style tea room as well.
So we ended up back at Lancaster for a pint in the Robert Gillow before the train back to London.
And a very good pint it was too. So to end I thought I’d include the last photo from the trip which was taken at the Doric Arch pub at Euston, it sort of sums up everything I think.
I’ve only been on Rail Ale once before, and that was before the Bluebell line extended to East Grinstead. Now that it comes all the way up to the mainline service it’s really easy to get to, and of course it’s a much longer line and therefore a lot more fun to be on.
The ale was very good (see menu above) and as it was a fine evening, as opposed to pouring rain the last time I went, it was a great night out. I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys steam trains and real ale.