Steam will return to Hedge End and Eastleigh briefly on 5th December, when passengers can travel to Bath behind two ‘Black Five’ locos hauling The Cathedrals Express.
The event is also likely to attract steam enthusiasts and train-spotters to all the other stations along the route, many of whom will find Botley a good vantage point as the unusual double-header thunders through the region…
Originally designed and built to run on the London Midland and Scottish Railway the ‘Black- Five’ locomotives were introduced in 1934 and gave excellent service, especially during wartime, but with the death of steam they were gradually withdrawn from regular service on British Railways, from 1961 to 1968.
Some survived until the last day of steam in August 1968 and a total of 18 of these loco’s remain in various states of preservation around the UK, including one which is in regular use on the Watercress Line in Hampshire [see video clip, below].
Starting at London Victoria, and picking up passengers at Woking, Guildford, Petersfield, Hedge End, Eastleigh and Salisbury, passengers on the Cathedrals Express will have several hours to explore the Christmas market in Bath. If Christmas isn’t your thing, there will be plenty of other attractions in Bath, including two vintage steam engines to look at…!
Besides recreating the sight, sounds and smell of steam, The Cathedrals Express recreates the class system too. Passengers can choose to travel in one of four classes, which range from Premium Standard (£99 from Hedge End or Eastleigh, including complimentary tea/coffee) to Pullman Style Dining at £225 per person.
Steam Dreams, operators of the Cathedrals Express, tell us that the carriages will be beautifully decorated for the festive season and that all passengers, irrespective of class, will be treated to a glass of mulled wine, mince pie and a Christmas cracker, creating a magical atmosphere on board.
The Steam Dreams Chairman, Marcus Robertson, said:
“Our Christmas Market trips are always very special and the journey to Bath takes us along the old Portsmouth Direct route via the South Downs, with break-taking views. ”
“To have two steam locos double-heading is very rare in the modern age and it should make for an exciting trip.”
Anybody who is interested in travelling on The Cathedrals Express should call the booking office on 01483 209888 or visit www.cathedralsexpress.co.uk.