|One of Europe's most scenic
When you mention great train journeys where do
you immediately think of? Travelling to Venice on the Orient Express,
or cutting through the snow capped Swiss Alps? Well how about taking
in the sights of
Before you scoff, you should know that Bristol's Severn
Beach Railway Line has been crowned one of the most scenic rail routes
Travelling from Temple Meads to Severn Beach, the railway
line has been listed among Thomas Cook's most favoured attractions.
And it seems the travel agency isn't the only one to recognise
Tessa Dunlop is a newcomer to the railway|
Inside Out West's Tessa Dunlop hops aboard to meet those
who have fallen in love with the railway line and to experience the beauty
All pistons blazing
One of the most unusual facts about the Severn Beach
Railway, compared to its award winning counterparts, is that it is rather
short - it only takes around 45 minutes to get from start to finish.
Far from bunking down for hours as your train takes you
miles across country, travellers on this service will enjoy a short but
sweet experience chugging along the tracks that lie hidden deep inside
the Avon Gorge.
The line runs through a mile long tunnel, which today
would cost millions to construct, and travellers will see not only the
beautiful Avon Valley but also some of Bristol's most most important areas
of industrial heritage.
Stopping at only the sleepiest of stations, such as Clifton
Down, Montpellier and Redland, the railway line is a tiny thing, dwarfed
by the intercity express routes.
However, when the Severn Beach Railway opened in 1865
it was all pistons, power and polish.
The journey begins
met Percy Locke, who has grown up with the railway|
Tessa Dunlop gets set to experience the "golden
age of steam" as she boards the train with her travel companion Percy
Percy has the Severn Beach Railway in his blood.
"My dad used to work in the signal box, at the end
of the platform at Severn Beach," Percy says.
"I used to take him his breakfast down there, or
his tea at night.
"One day when I called in at the box the bloke asked
me to get the key out of the machine that operates the signals - it had
snapped off and they couldn't get it out.
" Because my hands were small I could get in there
and get the key out. They gave me five shillings for that."
Percy's mother ran the crossing gates at Severn Beach
for 44 years. Percy remembers her having to get up at all times of the
day or night to open the gates for the traffic.
Now, at 82-years-old, Percy still has all the fun of
that little boy playing on the steps at Crossing Cottage.
Chugging on ahead
As Tessa leaves Percy behind in the golden age of steam
she moves firmly into the groovy days of the 1970s where she meets Roy
Roy and his son Jonathan used to set off together every
day, heading to work and to school, travelling on the train.
Roys tells Tessa his story. "I worked on the railways
all my life. I joined in 1951 and we used to use the Severn Beach line
to get to and from work," he says.
needs the Severn Beach Railway for his work|
"Then when my son Jonathan started going to school
we would take the train together and we'd spend the time doing the crossword,
and we'd ask questions.
" I remember travelling along the line one day and
there were clouds in the sky. I said to Jonathan how heavy do you think
a cloud is?
"We talked about that questions for hours. We never
did work out the answer," Roy fondly recalls.
End of an era?
Despite its popularity with locals and its undoubtedly
beautiful surroundings, the Severn Beach Railway was set to be derailed
soon after Jonathan Edwardes' school days.
Today, 20 years after Cecil Parkinson defended the line
in the House of Commons, people are still standing up to speak out for
the Severn Beach line.
|"The Severn Beach is a mighty fine
Clean and friendly and sometimes on time"
|Severn Beach Railway campaigners' chant|
Campaigners are trying to encourage not just tourists to
travel on the train, but also locals.
They are adamant that the Severn Beach Railway is cheaper
than catching the bus, more reliable and will offer you some spectacular
views of Bristol and South Wales from the high vantage points.
More than a tourist trap
Although Thomas Cook has listed the Severn Beach Railway
as a top tourist attraction, 3,000 people rely on this train each week.
For Jon Rogers it's more than that. It's literally a
Jon is a GP on call at the Avonmouth Medical Centre and he uses the train,
not just to get to and from work, but from the surgery to his home visits.
Jon's bleeper remains quiet on the day Tessa Dunlop joins
him on the railway, but his story shows just how important this line is.
And Percy's tales, along with Roy and Jonathan's memories,
show just how special it is.