BODMIN & WENFORD RAILWAY
As the summer winds its way ever onwards, it still fills me with delight to think of how many days are left before returning back to reality. There is still time to go out and explore, to have fun and exciting excursions that ordinarily wouldn’t be had.
And now, I ask you a question - what is more exciting than seeing an original 1940s steam train? Going on an original 1940s steam train! On Thursday last week, that is exactly what myself and my partner, Sami, did. Inspired by seeing an old steam-engine at Plymouth station the previous Sunday when dropping our friends off, the excitement that filled us inspired me to research how and where we could go on one ourselves!
Early last week, the weather wasn’t brilliant, with rain that never stopped for more than a few minutes, and wind that whipped through windows, making houses whistle and howl. I was worried that summer was over far too soon. However, that didn’t stop me from booking a day out to the Bodmin & Wenford Railway, for an authentic steam train experience.
"What is more exciting than seeing an original 1940s steam train? Going on an original 1940s steam train!"
Waking up on Thursday morning, to my absolute delight, the sun was streaming through the skylight, deciding it wasn’t quite done with summer just yet. Sami and I donned our vintage style outfits (necessary when going on a steam train!), myself opting for a 1950s-style dress, while Sami went for a late 1800s look.
We boarded the not-so-vintage train at Plymouth station at 9:45am, bringing along my homemade scones and raspberry jam (with shop-bought clotted cream… I can’t make everything!), and set up our breakfast on the lids of tupperware containers to watch the changing scenery.
Seeing the cramped urban landscape dissolve into the vast rolling hills of the countryside, our eyes darted about, wanting to absorb each and every new sight. Sounding like children, we pointed out bridges, buildings, and animals to one another every few minutes.
Before we knew it, we had arrived at the first station - Bodmin Parkway. With thirty minutes of wait time before the first steam train arrived, I got myself a coffee from the quaint little station cafe and sat in the warm sunshine, taking in the dainty platform.
Before long, we could hear the iconic chug of the steam engine. I couldn’t contain the excitement, and while photographing the absolutely beautiful machine pulling up to the platform, my grin stretched from ear to ear.
"The smell of the steam drifted through the carriage, filling our noses with scents of history"
"I couldn’t contain the excitement, and while photographing the absolutely beautiful machine pulling up to the platform, my grin stretched from ear to ear"
Once it had come to a halt, the staff needed to reorganise the train for returning back the way it came. Meanwhile, we found a seat on board. Like a hummingbird rushing from flower to flower, I flitted around the carriage, unable to settle for long before rushing to another window to see what felt like a glimpse into the past. The smell of the steam drifted through the carriage, filling our noses with scents of history, our ears pricking up with the classic steam train’s whistle. It was, quite honestly, magical.
While taking a moment to settle, the wonderful Ticket Inspector Aaron came through, holding up an envelope saying ‘Amelia Rodger’, and asking if this was me. Inside were our tickets for the day. Aaron had recently been given the role of Ticket Inspector, and wore his new badge with pride. “I’m train mad, I am!” he informed us.
After pulling into Bodmin General, we made our way to the refreshments centre, where two small bottles of Prosecco awaited us (an added extra I had purchased when booking the tickets - cream teas are also available online to pre-book!) and sat in a nearby converted train carriage to drink the refreshing bubbles while watching the train restock with water for the next stint of our journey.
"Sat in the nearby converted train carriage to drink the refreshing bubbles"
As the sun beat down on the small station, we got aboard the train again for the next venture out, this time going to Boscarne Junction. Another number of minutes with me scurrying around with my camera, photographing all that caught my eye. Poor Sami was the focus of my camera’s attention for a good while as we travelled through forests and hillsides - his outfit matching the atmosphere of the carriage perfectly.
"I flitted around the carriage, unable to settle for long before rushing to another window to see what felt like a glimpse into the past."
Pulling into Boscarne Junction, we saw that the single-platformed station ran alongside a pathway for a walking and cycle route, signposted as the Camel Trail. This trail runs along the former railway trackbed, in all spanning eighteen miles! It also has a bicycle rental shop at the Boscarne Junction end, thankfully, so no need to walk.
While waiting for the train to swap directions again, Sami decided that it was time I had a taste of my own medicine, and took my camera to photograph me. As a photographer, not much fills you with more anxiety than someone taking pictures of YOU! However, thanks to the sunshine, the excitement of the day (and yes, quite possibly the prosecco), I laughed my way through, and in the end, enjoyed being the object of my camera’s focus for a change!
Returning to Bodmin General for the final time, we realised we weren’t quite ready to end the day there. I asked the warm-natured Guard on the train whether we were able to get the later train returning to Bodmin Parkway. He informed us to ask at the ticket desk, but presumed that due to the quietness of the day there was likely no issue.
"I asked the warm-natured Guard on the train whether we were able to get the later train returning to Bodmin Parkway."
True to his word, the ticket inspector unquestioningly booked us onto the final train at 15:45! This gave us a few hours to walk into Bodmin town. In search of food and a drink, we were recommended Hole in the Wall by some very kind locals - a quaint little pub, with trinkets galore on the ceiling, and a comfortable outside seating area.
Though our time in Bodmin was brief, we adored walking around the sights, taking in the old architecture and quirky shops. Before we knew it, it was time to make our way back to the station and board the final steam train to Bodmin Parkway.
However, the kindness and generosity of the fantastic volunteers at Bodmin & Wenford did not end there. The Guard offered myself and Sami our own compartment for the final journey, in the carriage right behind the steam engine herself. This was the absolute cherry on top of an already amazing day.
Savouring every last moment of the sounds and smells coming from the train, we sat back and relaxed into the comfortable seats of our own compartment - feeling truly blessed for such an experience.
But as all good things must, the journey came to an end, and as we left we made it our duty to thank the staff on board, from those in the engine bay to the wonderful ticket inspector and the guard.
Savouring every last moment of the sounds and smells coming from the train, we sat back and relaxed into the comfortable seats of our own compartment - feeling truly blessed for such an experience."
If you are in the South West and ever stuck for something to do, I couldn’t recommend the Bodmin & Wenford Railway enough. An experience worth having, even if just for the excitement of being on an original steam train!
This has left me glowing since Thursday, and I hope that the images, and possibly the nostalgia of them, have brought a smile to your face on this Bank Holiday Monday!
Thank you as always for reading, and wherever you are, I hope you have a very Happy Monday.