Normally, I’m pretty committed to the £10 or less price point, but every once in a while, something so remarkable comes up I’m obliged to throw off the shackles and spend some shekels. Just such a category of thing was the steam tube ride, which was truly a once in a lifetime thing.
Moorgate on a Sunday evening is a dismal affair, but there was magic in the air that night, alongside the beards and beanies.
TfL had gone to town, and recreated Victorian London on the station with a small brass band in the ticket hall and actors dressed in full Victoriana.
They shared the platform with modern day dandies toting iphones alongside their frock coats.
We milled in the hastily assembled shop for Metropolitan line merchandise. We held our breaths as the eagerly awaited steam train pulled into the station, and the smiling trainophiles on the trip before us piled out. Then we piled in.
Travelling on a steam tube is much more like being on the Hogwarts Express than I’d imagined. The seats are lush and well filled, and the sash windows go up and and down with a thick leather strap. When the tube first travelled, ladies would have had their own carriage. As it was I was a rose surrounded by seven thorns. We were a disparate group. One gentleman wore green face paint, another was blind, one had a broken arm, but we were all happy.
Spouse was in his element, giving fascinating facts about the train, the refurb and such. This happy band was able to quiz him and give a good few fascinating facts of their own. As we made the journey from Moorgate to Edgware Road and back again, the astonishing thing was that at every station were hundreds upon hundreds of people from every walk of life. There were the very young and very old, which I suppose you would expect, but there was absolutely everyone else in between too. Trendy people, geeky people, middle-aged people, black people, gay people, female people…every flavour of person you can think of, they were there.
We were even packing a Michael Portillo on our train. We were all there because we wanted to see the steam tube, and say thanks in our own way for this ancient dragon who was prowling the tracks of London again.
Last year, I mused that we could keep the Olympic spirit alive by trying to hit the gold standard in everything we all did as our own, private legacy to the Games. It seems to me that the Tube posse really did that with the Steam Tube. Rebuilding and running the steam tube and carriage has been an expensive and tricky business, and was done through a combination of sponsorship and determination. Like the Victorians who built the tube in the first place, the modern tubists just decided the steam tube should run again, and made it so. I applaud them. But for those who did not catch the tube on its London tracks, all is not lost. The London tube is going on a grand tour (details of which are at the very end of this webpage: http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/events/vehicles-on-the-move). Alternatively, if you can get out to Sheffield Park in Sussex, you can always catch the bluebell steam train every weekend – full details here: http://www.bluebell-railway.co.uk/