The Dalesman is a Steam train ride between Settle and Carlisle in northern Britain across what has been described as “the most scenic railway journey in England”.
We had booked for a Tuesday at the end of a few days in the UK and had stayed overnight in Chester both beforehand and afterwards.
After the heatwave and wall to wall sun of the previous week, we are presented with wall to wall cloud and the prospect of rain all day which wasn’t ideal as it curtailed some of the splendid views across the North Yorkshire and Cumbrian moors.
The taxi to the station arrives on time and drops us off at Chester station in plenty of time for our scheduled 08:23 departure.
Confusion reigns as staff and electronic board say we depart at 07:48 so there is the prospect of lots of people missing the train and we walk down loads of empty carriages before settling in to our comfy seats.
However, departure time is altered to 08:20 and the two Class 37 diesels that are taking us on the first part of the journey make easy meat of the start and first part of the journey.
Mickle Trafford junction is soon passed and by the time steam engine No. 48151 is attached at the rear of the train, just outside Carnforth, the rain has stopped although the temperature has fallen.
Breakfast served between Frodsham and Carnforth, a full English and served well, timely with good quality food.
At Carnforth we turn right and follow the Bentham line towards Settle and Hellifield with rolling green countryside, dry stone walls, many streams rolling by, sheep grazing, cows scared of the steam engine and the clickety clack of the train as it passes over the joints in the rails.
No continuous welded rail here, it is a rural route with few trains.
Hellifield reached on time and we pull onto a side line and reverse to head North, stopping adjacent to the station to fill up with water whilst a few hardy souls stand on the overgrown platforms to photograph our train.
My late father worked for the railways and possibly about 90 years ago, he spent some time at Hellifield so a picture of the station and the signal box was required as somewhere in the archives is a picture of him outside the signal box.
We have now reversed with the Steam engine at the front and we are now near the front with the evocative smoke smell which sadly cannot be captured on a video.
Disappointed that the extra coffee was chargeable we make do with one only and make a mental note to bring our own in the future.
Our Steward for the journey was a guy called James, who didn’t seem particularly happy in his job with not a particularly sociable personality which was a shame. The food however was very good.
Across the Ribblehead viaduct with many photographers on the ground below and we sedately go into Blea Moor tunnel with the smell of the smoke from the engine even more prevalent.
Lots of cuttings and embankments – passing Dent where I had held a Scout camp back in 1972 and remember seeing all the trains passing by on an embankment high above the campsite.
Thank goodness the land around here remains undeveloped.
We have a water stop at Appleby, a chance to stretch legs but it is cold.
Cross bridge along with a few other fellow passengers to get a better view of the engine.
Weather has closed in and we have even more misted up windows. Still, there are a few linesiders braving the weather for the photo opportunities a steam engine presents even though this is a weekly event during the summer.
Still raining when we reach Carlisle for our 3 hour walk around. Coffee in M & S but the rest of the time dodging rain moving from shop to shop rather than seeing the sights.
Back at Carlisle Station we await our train South watching some crowded service trains pass by and prepare for departure into Scotland.
Now being at the back of the train it afforded some fantastic views of the whole train passing over the Ribblehead Viaduct on the way back.
I must admit I did hog the window a bit during this time but “I got there first”.
I think the next time we are in the area during summer we must try and stop to view the train from the land, especially if the sun is shining in a cloudless sky.
The Dinner service begun as we leave Carlisle on time and is extended until just before Hellifield where our steam engine is detached and after manoeuvring around it’s support coach heads off to it’s home base of Carnforth whilst the two diesels are reattached and we await our path over the line to Clitheroe which is only normally used once a week.
Still there are people waiting on the platform ready to photograph or just stand and stare at the old coaches and engine.
By now, it was becoming dusk so photographs, especially from a moving train were not going to be good.
The whole trip was a wonderful experience with many thanks to West Coast Railways Limited, and the Caterers, The Gravy Train Catering Company.
The one downside was the sudden jerk as we arrived at Chester in the evening which caused at least one passenger to fall over and Sally to hit her arm.
It is now back for a couple of weeks before a trip planned to Norfolk.