Steam on the mainline

By | Category: Travel news

Steam trains are very evocative for Just about Travel readers. Or they seem to be judging by the number of e-mails I get if I write anything even slightly inaccurate!

The Mayflower which will be used on the first journey. Image © The Steam Dreams Rail Co

Therefore I assume many readers will be pleased to know that each Tuesday from 4th of June until the 3rd of September, there will, be a regular service operating three times that day from London’s Waterloo Station and Windsor.

I can’t remember the last time there was a scheduled steam service on mainline rails apart from the Vale of Rheidol railway in Mid-Wales which was owned by the then British Rail. But that is a narrow-gauge railway. The last standard gauge service must have been in 1968.

Given how popular steam specials are and that it is estimated that heritage rail is calculated to be worth about €4 billion in Europe, it may surprise some to wonder why there hasn’t been regular steam service before now. Apart from finding space on the busy rail network (the  less well-used lines could be used like the Heart of Wales line or the run along the River Severn Cheltenham to Cardiff) train operators would have to be careful of sparks setting off trackside fires and steep gradients would probably need to be avoided.

Maybe that is why The Steam Dreams Rail Co. is launching The Royal Windsor Steam Express. And the fact that so many overseas tourists head to Windsor that here is a way of appealing to an even wider market than just steam enthusiasts.

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle – the destination for those travelling on the Tuesday steam train services

The journey is one-way and priced from £35 in standard class and £55 in first class. Tickets are on sale now and the reason I mention so far in advance of the trains running is because the services may get booked up well in advance.

There is a catch –  no return  journey. You will have to catch a regular service back to London. The journey out lasts from 80-90 minutes (the normal service by Southwestern trains is about 50-55 minutes.

In truth, this isn’t really a return to scheduled steam journeys but a steam day out.

But why shouldn’t steam trains journey on some of our lines? Tickets could attract a premium and it would help to open up lesser known parts of our countryside to visitors. There are enough steam buffs in our countries, Europe and the world to surely make this a viable choice.

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