There really is nothing quite like spending a British summer’s day at the beach and turning up in a vintage train carriage is even better. Carried aboard the iconic steam train Braunton, Luxurious Magazine’s Sabi Phagura shares her magical adventures en route to and back from Weymouth.
It’s not often I luxuriate in a train’s first-class carriage, let alone a steam train. But again, this was a special trip aboard the Braunton, a ‘Bulleid Pacific’ design express passenger engine.
My mother and I duly arrived at London’s Victoria Station in our finest well ahead of its on-the-dot departure at 08.30 am en route to the seaside town of Weymouth.
After stepping onto the dark wood-panelled carriage from the red carpet laid out by the staff, we took our seats on the oversized cushioned floral armchair-style seats. Seating is configured at tables of four or two, laid with crisp linen and embellished with fine crockery, fresh flowers and glassware. The whole atmosphere oozed of a bygone era, giving us a feeling we had been transported back to the 1950s.
As with all Steam Dreams trips, passengers can choose between three travel classes to reach the Dorset coastline. Pullman Style Dining (ours), First Class or Premium Standard, where passengers can bring a picnic aboard should they not wish to purchase food and beverages off a cart.
Staff were swift in pouring excited passengers a glass of peach mimosa as part of the Pullman Style Dining class travel before serving breakfast. While the menu is adapted to each trip depending on the length of the journey, you won’t be going hungry. As our trip was an all-day adventure, we were treated to breakfast, snacks and dinner.
The breakfast comprised bread or croissants with jam and salted butter, Tiresford Farm natural yoghurt with helpings of granola and fruit, followed by a hot breakfast of full English or smoked salmon and poached Freshfield Farm eggs on artisan sourdough.
Just as we had amazing views from the historic locomotive’s huge picture windows of the passing countryside, so it seemed so did numerous passers-by in reverse. Our train caught the eye of many as they rummaged to find their phones to take snaps of it as we chugged through the towns and villages. It was train spotting at its best.
As we sat back and relaxed, attentive staff continued to top us up with teas and coffee throughout the morning. We made a few stops to collect passengers from stations, including Staines and Basingstoke, before we continued our journey to the coast.
Due to the length of the journey, our trip required pit stops for a water refill – for the train. After all, the engine performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid. The stops were welcomed, not only to stretch our legs but to have a quick look around at the stations.
I particularly enjoyed stopping at Yeovil (45 minutes), where I brushed up on my limited knowledge of steam engines.
The Southern Railway turntable installed in 1947 has been overhauled, and visitors can watch the spectacle of large steam engines being turned and serviced.
A historic 1864-built Transfer Shed acts as home to the Visitor Centre and Café, Museum area and Signalling exhibition. Back on the train and more food was served in the form of Danish pastries before we finally arrived at our destination in Weymouth at 3.30 pm.
With three hours to fill, my mother and I had ample time to stroll along the beach dotted with colourful beach huts backed by Georgian houses. We also had the chance to walk around the traditional fishing harbour surrounded by pastel-coloured houses as we indulged in ice cream in true seaside-tripper fashion.
There’s plenty more to do in this popular coastline town, including visiting the Weymouth Museum, the Nothe Fort water sports (the Olympic 2012 Sailing event was held here) and many independent shops and coffee shops to meander in. With so much to pack in, a full day would be needed to explore it all. But back aboard the train, it was at 6.30 pm sharp.
Dining in style
Executive chef Nicholas Allen is responsible for the food on the train, and after an exhausting three hours on foot, jumping on board to the tantalising aromas of the evening meal was welcomed.
Having chosen what I wanted off the menu earlier, I already knew what was in store. The proof, as they said, would be the taste test.
The three-course meal began with champagne and canapes, followed by smoked Weymouth mackerel with beetroot and celeriac for the starter. The portion was tasty and small, just the way I like to start a meal so as not to ruin the main meal. It gave my appetite a boost.
The second dish comprised free-range herb-fed chicken supreme with a layered potato cake, New Forest wild mushrooms, new season asparagus and cream. Guests were treated to a cheese course next and could choose what they fancied from a trolley that made its way down each carriageway (a bit like the sweet trolley).
The cheese was served with Allen’s carrot and onion chutney as well as artisan biscuits. Dinner was rounded off with St Clements tart, which came with a berry meringue and sweet basil crisp, plus tea and coffee and handmade petit fours.
Needlessly to say, we were well fed and watered throughout our trip, and our chosen destination was ideal for a summer’s day trip to the beach. The only thing I’m concerned about is that after travelling in a luxurious vintage carriage that exudes opulence, I have no idea how I am going to board a normal train again.
Steam Dreams – Where and how?
Steam Dreams day trips are running until 27th September 2023. The timetable includes a variety of steam-hauled departures by historic locomotives to some of the UK’s most beloved towns and cities.
Dining options from £259 per person in Pullman Style Dining. £159 per person in First Class and Premium Standard tickets from £109 per person. For more information on Steam Dreams, visit www.steamdreams.co.uk.
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