All aboard the Flying Scotsman
Steam locomotive fan Michael Pearson took the trip of a lifetime as he dined out through Surrey on the magnificent Flying Scotsman
WHEN I was a child I had an obsession with trains, and one in particular – the Flying Scotsman.
For any young boy, the famous steam engine is the one you long to have in your collection of models.
When my love affair with the once fastest locomotive in the world began I remember going to visit the livery in the early stages of its overhaul at the National Railway Museum in York.
As an excited 12-year-old in the summer of 2006, I walked into the restoration workshop to find my beautiful LNER class to be in tatters and stripped to the bone.
This compelled me to throw a £1 coin (probably my week’s pocket money) into the square-boxed tins around the concourse of the workshop.
Fast forward 10 years and to have the opportunity to ride on the refurbished train was something I was determined not to miss.
I was travelling on the 6.50pm service from London Victoria and, eager not to be late, I arrived at the station in good time, just before 6pm, but right in the middle of the commuter rush hours.
Thankfully, anyone travelling on the Flying Scotsman was given a particular part of the station to go to, so I was able to easily queue up and wait for the livery to arrive.
Having already seen the locomotive pass through Surrey that afternoon, I thought I would be slightly less thrilled about seeing the train again, but when it pulled in my inner 12-yearold exploded and I called my mum to make her listen to the beastly engine roar into the station.
Leaving not a second late, the train pulled out of Victoria and began its journey into the Surrey Hills.
Considering the monumental effort it must have taken to schedule the Flying Scotsman to leave the capital on a weeknight, the locomotive was on time and everyone was relaxed.
It was taking us time to leave London but I was more interested in the flair and romance of the evening on board.
I was seated in the Premier Dining section of the train where passengers could enjoy a five-course meal, with no expense spared.
More than 400 were sitting for dinner and I was amazed to discover the food was prepared and served out of just a single carriage with a small team of chefs.
To start, we ate a mackerel pate with fennel and dill pickle on top, followed by the main event – a more traditional roasted fillet of beef with herbed mashed potato, fine beans and spinach.
In between courses I met some of the other passengers on board.
A lovely retired couple were seated on the other side of the carriage and I noticed how all the staff seemed to know who they were.
They explained that they have travelled on the Steam Dreams [the company that runs the carriage service] experience days many times and are welcomed as part of the family.
I could well believe it as staff and guests appeared to share in the truly fantastic experience together.
Back to the meal and it was on to the dessert – a salted caramel tart finished with honeycomb and raspberries.
By this point my pallet had pretty much been on a train ride of its own so the tart was a fantastic finale to my meal.
As I chose to alight at Shalford Railway Station rather than the final stop, I missed out on the other two courses – a cheese board followed by chocolate truffles and coffee.
As we passed through Guildford and began our approach to Shalford, we were told there were more than 200 people on the platform waiting for the arrival of the great steam engine.
For me, this really was the icing on the cake.
What better way to celebrate the great locomotive than hundreds of people turning out to get a glimpse of their own childhood love. l Premium Standard is £79 per person; Pullman Style Dining is £205 per person.
There she blows: The Flying Scotsman, as the Cathedrals Express, passing through Guildford Railway Station on a previous journey.
The Flying Scotsman at full throttle through the Surrey Hills. For starters: Picture: Michael Pearson
Dressed to impress: The laid-out table in the dining carriage.
The locomotive steams in to Byfleet and New Haw station.