The Sunset Steam Express - a round trip from Victoria to the Surrey Hills
I've recently celebrated a big birthday and I wanted to do something that our little family from age 94 to 28 would all enjoy; the Sunset Steam Express sounded perfect for us. At just under 4 hours for the round trip from Victoria across the Surrey Hills and back it wouldn't be too exhausting for the 94 year old, nor too boring for the 28 year old.
We'd initially booked for the day after my birthday, but due to problems with some of the carriages we had to re-book. This was actually a blessing as the weather was much better on the revised date. Plus we received 2 complimentary bottles of wine - an indication of the level of customer service provided by this company.
There are various classes of dining, but we went all out for the Pullman, which came with a 3 course meal. It's a fixed menu, with dietary requirements needing to be notified ahead of time. The service was friendly and charming, and the staff couldn't do enough for us. (Apart from one fellow passenger who was complaining about the lack of air conditioning - on a steam train!). The food was nice, but not amazing, but that's not what this is all about. It's about enjoying the company, the views, and the experience of being on a steam train. There's something both funny and sweet in watching train spotters get really excited as we passed through the stations, and waving at children en route.
It was interesting to note how slowly we went on the urban sections of the trip, where sudden stopping might be required, compared to the speed that the engine achieved in the more open areas. We were provided with a map of the route so that we could chart our progress, and watch out for particular beauty spots.
My dad was very excited that we stopped in Chertsey to pick up more water, as he'd been evacuated there in WWII along with another boy. He said that the two of them had slept under the stairs as a form of bomb shelter. It sounds as if they had it worse than Harry Potter! The other boy had hated it, and returned to his family in Bermondsey, which was very badly bombed. But dad saw him years later at a football match so knew that he's survived.
The company offers a variety of routes including Canterbury, The Isle of Wight, Winchester and seasonal Christmas markets in Bath, Lincoln or York.
With the Railway Children film being re-made, now is the time to embrace nostalgia and treat yourself to a trip on a steam train.
Phone: 01483 209888