A Trip to the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway
By Tansy Peters.
First a few words about the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway – or Buzz Rail as it’s been shortened on their website. It’s a narrow gauge railway that was built in Britain for industrial use and opened in 1919. It is believed to be the only remaining line which owed its existence to the surplus materials and equipment left over from the First World War battlefield supply lines.
As Ian was/is a great rail enthusiast (once being the president of his school train-spotting club) I thought I’d surprise him with a trip on the “Santa Special” just before Christmas. The whole line is run and staffed by volunteers so it has that slightly disorganised feel when you hand over your ticket and receive instructions e.g. “Oh, I can’t operate the till and Fred isn’t here yet”, or “We usually have change somewhere, I’ll call Bill” (names have been changed for privacy of course!).
My instructions were that our ticket included some free extras and would be stamped in the cafe when we received our mince pie and mulled drink (not wine but very tasty). Then the Elf would stamp it again when I took Ian to the grotto to visit Santa. The ticket collector seemed disappointed when I told him that my “little boy” didn’t want to see Santa . . . but when I pointed out that Ian was in his fifties I was told that the grotto visit was not compulsory. Not sure who would’ve been more surprised, Ian or Santa, if I’d insisted on this part of the trip.
We boarded the train at Pages Park Station and sat in a carriage named Isabel pulled by a steam train named Elf. I like people watching and understandable many of the other travellers were families with younger children. Some very well behaved and enjoying the whole experience while others would probably be ending up on Santa’s Naughty List. Among the latter being a brother & sister who squabbled about sweets, their seats and not wanting their picture taken by Dad who was obviously the real train enthusiast.
We were waved off by a skinny Santa in a very dodgy fake beard who I suspect was the ticket collector! Elf chugged along in a cloud of steam and both Ian and I said how much we enjoyed the smell of the burning coal, a reminder of childhood I expect. Each time the train crossed a road it had to stop while the two guards would jump out and run down past the carriages with their flags to stop any traffic. We thought it was great fun but I’m sure the local residents must get fed up by being stopped all the time by trains full of waving people.
I was disappointed that we didn’t go all the way to the final station but they only open this up in the spring & summer months. They have a small museum with all the rolling stock kept here so I’ll have to take Ian back again in the summer. The ticket office at Pages Park did have quite a bit of information too so we did read some of the history of the railway.
Never-the-less, it was a pleasant and amusing way to pass the morning.
And we bought two postcards
For the railway’s own web pages see http://www.buzzrail.co.uk.
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