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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 63 - Summer 1987
British Coal Special
Surprisingly, Buckinghamshire Railway Centre's Marketing Officer, MARK TOYNBEE, had never even seen a steamhauled main line train before 2nd April, when he travelled up to Quainton on board the British Coal special to brief the assembled pressmen. Here he tell us of his day from that rather unusual angle. Your Editors trust that every member will take to heart the last two paragraphs ...
Marylebone Station, Thursday 2nd April
I felt the clock had been turned back by over two decades. Drawn up in the platform was an immaculate train, in which liveried waiters bustled around preparing restaurant cars. Sizzling in the sunshine at the head of this transport of delight was a steam engine, breathing power and elegance. This was to be the train journey of my dreams; the realisation of an adventure I had never made. Steam trains disappeared before I was born from my home town and I had never been on a main-line steam train. This epitomised to me the magic of travel in the days of steam; walking to the front of the train to admire the engine, glimpse into the lofty cab and even exchange a word or two with the driver before settling back in your seat. Surely only train spotters bother nowadays to walk down a platform to see a diesel rumbling away or an electric locomotive, which is about as interesting as a milk float? But then, was reality like my dream?
Train travel was an adventure. That adventure has all but gone in the clinical world of air-conditioned trains, Travel Centres, Business Sectors, Cuisine 2000 and Casey Jones burgers. In my mind, I was back in those golden days of fantasy, as Flying Scotsman accelerated out of Marylebone before diving under ground and emerging in the suburbs of North London. As we sped on, commuter trains passed us, their bored-looking in-mates giving us hardly a second glance. I suppose they see steam so often these days on the Marylebone lines that the novelty has worn off or, then again, they may be Daily Mail readers, who are told regularly that British Rail is an outdated industry still in the steam age - and Flying Scotsman racing past just confirmed what they read!
Coffee was served. Could I have a gin and tonic? I asked . Of course, sir came the reply. This adventure was getting even better! High Wycombe was passed and we arrived at Princes Risborough, where-for reasons best known to BR - steam gave way to diesel for the last few miles to Aylesbury and on to Quainton.
It must have been Quainton's finest train in years and a carnival atmosphere prevailed throughout. Smartly attired staff with fresh button-holes guided visitors to the presentations in the loco shed, pressing food and drinks into their hands. Quainton staff looked pleased with themselves - had they something up their sleeves? - but also a little worried, they knew that the signwriting on Coventry No. 1 was still wet and were praying that no one would lean too close to Met No. 1 and smudge the newly applied paint on the smokebox! When the shed doors flew open and Met steamed in to collect its own award, these worries didn't matter. Quainton had pulled off a stunt that no one in the presentation hall would ever forget. It was a master stroke of planning and execution and the Society's reputation soared to new heights. Everyone left elated. Quainton had topped even the adventure of travelling behind Flying Scotsman.
Thursday 2nd April was just one day and has now passed in to history. Having proved it can be done once, continued effort must be made to turn every visit to Buckinghamshire Railway Centre into an adventure. That is the lesson to be learned from the day and the challenge thrown down to every individual involved at Quainton.
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 25 November 2017