The British Love of Steam

British Railways Standard Class 7 number 70000 Britannia at Bristol Temple Meads 1st July 2012

This is going to be a shorter post than usual from me this month, as I’ve had a busy few days culminating in a trip to the Haworth Steampunk Weekend on Sunday, travelling partly via the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, a preserved standard gauge line 5 miles long, which runs regular passenger services with both diesel and steam engines. We Brits love our steam trains; they weren’t replaced as regular transport on railway lines across the country until the mid to late 1960s, and train-spotting was a major social activity from the 1940s until at least the 1970s. Even today, a steam train pulling into a major station, or even passing through a small village station causes a great deal of interest and excitement from locals and ordinary travellers alike.

London Midland and Scottish Railway Jubilee Class No. 5690 (BR No. 45690) Leander at York 30th July 2016

Excursion trains pulled by famous restored steam locomotives such as the Flying Scotsman, run on main lines almost every week. These take passengers through some of the most spectacular parts or the UK, and also provide spotting and photographic opportunities for enthusiasts along their route – who keep each other informed and congregate at spots where they expect a particular service to pass through. Personally, I always keep my camera to hand when travelling by train in case a steam train passes through a station while I’m changing from one regular service to another.

Hudswell Clarke 1544, Slough Estates No.3 Engine at Middleton Railway 3rd July 2016

Meanwhile hundreds of engines previously thought to be of less significance, have been lovingly restored by heritage societies and run on short stretches of track up and down the country – often along parts of routes closed down in the middle of the twentieth century due to being considered unprofitable. Many of these societies also display non-running locomotives and rolling stock along with related memorabilia, while some offer members of the public opportunities to experience engine driving for themselves.

Sir Berkeley,a standard Manning-Wardle class L 0-6-0ST, giving a driving lesson to a visitor at Middleton Railway, 3rd July 2016

It goes without saying that steampunks generally like steam trains, and various railway heritage societies like to encourage their visits. This year I’ve been to a steampunk event at the Middleton Railway near Leeds, and travelled at a specially discounted rate to Haworth by virtue of turning up in full steampunk attire.

More on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway once the fun of our Hootenanny is over and done with…



  1. Fascinating as always, Stevie. Happy memories of getting smuts in my eye hanging out of the window, and standing awe-struck on the platform as the massive drive-wheels rolled to a stop in front of me, after a mighty quaking of the platform… Nothing like a steam engine!


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