Excitement mounted at Bodmin General railway station. Mr Word Loft, myself, and our four-year-old grandson gazed over the railings. In the sidings, old carriages from the fifties gleamed, and a steam engine puffed up the track. The hissing and chugging sounds, along with the smell of burning coal encouraged us even more, to begin our steam train adventure on the Bodmin Heritage Railway.

I remembered attending a special Thomas the Tank Engine Day there over twenty years ago. Sir Topham Hatt had greeted visitors and marched up and down the platform controlling passengers and events. Our young son was an avid fan of the Rev. W. Awdry’s characters, which were illustrated by a series of artists from 1946 when the stories were first published.

The Thomas the Tank Engine mural I painted on his bedroom wall was probably inspired more by the pictures of the third one, C. Reginald Dalby. It needed to be over-painted a few years later, but some of my son’s books and toy metal diecast engines have survived. Battered and chipped, they still give hours of fun to our grandson.

Back to our day out. The booking clerk handed us our tickets and explained what would happen. The station is in the middle of two lines, so two trips. One to Boscarne Junction, and the other to Bodmin Parkway which is on the national network.

Whistle, peep-peep! An engine chuffed up to the platform and my grandson flagged it in. The passengers were welcomed by the station master, his uniform smart and regimental looking.

Preparations started for the engine’s ongoing two-hour journey. It shunted over the line and reversed to the water tower. All topped up, the locomotive hitched to the other end of the carriages and was ready to go.

Clickety-clack, clickety-clack. Past the train shed, a signal box, and other old trains, the countryside sweeps leisurely by and through Colesloggett Halt. That’s definitely a name suitable for the Thomas books. Edging around Lanhydrock Estate, the train clatters over a high viaduct with the River Fowey glittering underneath before slowly chuffing into Bodmin Parkway.

When returning, it’s pleasant to go over familiar scenery noticing parts missed originally, like the garden with a railway theme. I was charmed by the wooden rolling stock reinvented into a summer house.

Refreshed with drinks and cake at the café, it was all aboard again. On the way to Boscarne Junction, there are roads and an obelisk monument on a hillside. The wind blew and steam whooshed through the open window, especially when going through a tunnel, which was accompanied by travellers’ joyful calls. Out in the daylight again, the fields misted and cleared, revealing mystified sheep, who stared but then carried on grazing.

It was a surprise to see so many cyclists at the last destination. Cycling on the Camel Trail, which is a resurfaced disused railway line, but now it’s a no-traffic area for cycling, hiking and other activities.

The people were delighted to see the steam train. For them, an unexpected photography opportunity and a good excuse to rest. There was a short break before going back, so we wandered outside to get a closer look at the cab and controls where the fireman shovelled more coal – the fire roared and glowed orange. The driver sounded the whistle, it was time to depart on the last phase of our nostalgic train travel experience as bystanders smiled and waved farewell.

Until next time,
Sue. X