Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day Trip!

Today I was to visit my friend Janice and her family (husband, two kids). She doesn’t live in London, but about a one-hour train ride away. Our initial plan was for me to take a train to … let’s just call it Place A, and she and the family would drive to Place A, and then we’d go to some nearby gardens for the afternoon.

Problem: Trains were not running to Place A. I’d have to take a train, a bus, and another train. It would take an hour forty. We considered Plan B.

Plan B involved taking a train to Place B. They’d meet me there and we’d go to a National Trust property (read: historical house, with gardens as well).

Problem: The forecast was for rain. Lots of rain. I believe the technical term (according to was “showers.” I wasn’t really enamored with the idea of wandering around a not-yet-in-bloom garden in pouring rain. We moved on to Plan C.

Plan C involved me taking the train to Coventry. If I took the early train, we’d go to the Great Central Railway.

I so totally took the early train. (I’d actually been investigating the Great Central Railway for a different day of the trip – but it turned out I didn’t have enough days to do it. So seeing Janice AND going to the Railway was a total no-brainer.)

Great Central Railway runs old-fashioned STEAM trains. :::bouncy bouncy bouncy::: It’s got about 40 minutes worth of track covering 4 stations – you pretty much run the whole line as a round trip in about an hour and a half. With Janice’s family, there were five of us, so we got our own six-person compartment in the train. It was all wooden interior (well, the bench seats were upholstered) and everything else in there (the mirror, the little ledge where you can leave your tea, and the knob to adjust the steam heat) all looked vintage. Hell, they even decorated the stations in period style (each in a different era) – putting old magazine advertisements in the ladies’ lounge and such. And, at one of the end-line stations, they had a garage where they work on the trains, and we got to go in and see one of the engines up close (and a really, REALLY big wrench). And, on the track, we could see the rods used to move the points and the cords used for the signals. It was really nifty – don’t get me wrong, I loves me some modern tech – but there’s something really special about this stuff, where it isn’t all hidden behind some smooth case, and you can see the pistons moving to turn the wheels. I’m not going all steampunk on you, but there’s a definite beauty to it. And riding the train itself was the mostest awesome, watching the steam puff out and feeling the train pick up speed (in real chug-a-chug-a fashion).

So, yes, that was all KINDS of fun. And then, we couldn’t help but notice it was not showering. Not even raining. Sky was actually CLEAR, when you get down to it. So we then drove over to a National Trust property – checked out this lovely old house (how old? old enough to have priest holes in it – you know, where Catholic priests hid out when the country had gone rather adamantly Protestant) and had a little stroll around the gardens, too.

As Janice’s husband put it, we got two outings in one day! I’m pretty wiped (what else is new?) but had a terrific time.

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