Rossendale Free Press

Full steam ahead for glorious taste of Christmas past

- AMY FENTON heywoodand­middletong­ @HeyMidGuar­d

IT COULDN’T get more festive than steaming through the Lancashire countrysid­e with snow glistening on the hills and the windows steaming up as a turkey dinner is brought to your table.

Steam trains and Christmas go hand in hand, and here in Lancashire we have the East Lancashire Railway, which champions the county’s industrial heritage whilst also offering an iconic experience.

Setting off from Bury Bolton Street along a 12-mile route – one of the shortest in the country – between Rawtenstal­l and Heywood, the East Lancashire Railway dates back to 1846 before it became part of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1860.

In 1980 freight and passenger services were discontinu­ed which led to the battle to preserve the line.

Now, passengers are once more welcomed onto the luxurious dining cars.

During December the railway runs a handful of festive lunches and dinners, serving a threecours­e meal of winter vegetable soup, turkey and Christmas pudding with rum sauce.

Passengers then sit back and watch the Lancashire countrysid­e pass slowly by.

A festive lunch – which have now all sold out – costs £49 per person and as well as the three-course meal includes a glass of sparkling wine and coffee and mince pies.

As passengers eagerly boarded the train at Bury Bolton Street we had a quick drink in the Trackside pub before climbing onto the steam enginepull­ed vintage carriages complete with springy seats, quaint lamps in the window and sliding doors.

The winter vegetable soup was delicious and, we both noted, a bold choice of starter given the rocking, winding route taken by the train.

This was followed by turkey accompanie­d by cranberry sauce, roast and new potatoes, carrots and swede, the customary sprouts and stuffing and gravy.

The rum sauce with the Christmas pudding dessert wasn’t as stodgy as we expected.

And for £49, we both judged it to be worth the money given the idyllic setting.

And while the East Lancashire Railway line doesn’t, for me, boast the best of views when it comes to the steam train offerings in the North West, the train crosses the

River Irwell 11 times and it’s impossible not to sit and stare out of the steamy windows.

Tickets for the East Lancashire Railway’s Dining With Distinctio­ns experience­s sell out quickly and it’s no great surprise.

It’s like taking a step back in time; even if you aren’t old enough to remember when this was the norm, and it’s the perfect way to celebrate Christmas. »●www.eastlancsr­ailway.

 ?? ?? ●●Reporter Amy Fenton with Martin about to set off on the ELR
●●Reporter Amy Fenton with Martin about to set off on the ELR
 ?? ?? ●●The Christmas lunch on the ELR
●●The Christmas lunch on the ELR

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