WONDERFUL to see steam on timetabled services on the Settle and Carlisle line this week. For the first time in half a century it’s been possible to buy a ticket on National Rail and travel behind a steam locomotive on a normal scheduled train service. Of course, the S&C line – England’s most scenic – is no ordinary railway any more than Tornado, which hauled the trains is your bog-standard steam locomotive. And the services only last for three days.
But it’s an enterprising new departure pioneered by Northern Rail, the idea borrowed from the Germans who for years have turned over timetabled services to steam on a regular basis on what is known as a Plandampf. Travelling by steam train these days is usually an expensive treat reserved for special, one-off journeys costing up to £250 for a day excursion. But tickets on the scheduled Appleby to Skipton service cost the same as they would if operated by modern diesel engines: £17 for the whole 70-mile journey, less with a railcard. Normally tickets to ride behind the Tornado, Britain’s newest main line steam engine – on a special chartered service cost between £50 and £100. Though many of the 2,000 passengers lucky enough to get a seat were railway enthusiasts, many had no idea they’d be travelling by steam rather than the usual diesel railcar