We recently spent a wonderful weekend in the historic village of Haworth, home of the Bronte sisters. Whilst enjoying a leisurely pint of real ale in the quaint Fleece Inn on Main Street, we got chatting to Caroline and Steven, a couple of friendly locals, who told us they were volunteers on the local steam train. Steven had even been up at 5am that morning to build the fire to power the locomotive.
We learned that the railway was entirely volunteer-run and we were impressed with the dedication of the people who keep this little piece of history going. It has been in existence since 1867, when it was built by local mill owners. Although British Rail closed the line in 1962, it was reopened again in 1968 and has been operated by local people like Caroline and Steven ever since.
On Sunday morning we headed down the hill to the little station at Howarth and waited on the platform with several other excited passengers of all ages from young to old. There were also a few railway enthusiasts, replete with digital SLR cameras and notebooks to capture the details of the locomotive engine. We had a little browse through the well stocked gift shop while we waited for the train to arrive and bought a few postcards and gifts.
When the loco chugged into the platform, we boarded the train and bought a ticket from the ticket collector, who looked very dapper in his uniform. At the suggestion of Caroline and Steven we decided to sit in the buffet car so that we could enjoy sampling the ale.
Enjoying a pint of hand pulled vanilla stout in the buffet car
Even though it was Sunday morning we thought it rude not to try the hand pulled Vanilla Stout that was on offer behind the bar. We sat back with our beer and admired the retro carriages with wooden finishes, thoughtfully decorated with Christmas tinsel by the volunteer staff.
The locomotive engine is disconnected and brought onto the opposite track
The train pulled out of the station and wended it's merry way through the charming landscape of Bronte country. We passed through Oakworth Station, where much of the 1969/70 EMI production of Enid Nesbit's The Railway Children was filmed.
When the train got to the end of the line at Keighley, we all disembarked to watch the driver remove the locomotive from the rest of the train and take it down the tracks to bring it back so that it faced the other way. It was exciting watching it coming back through the tunnel under a cloud of steam. Then we watched whilst the driver and other volunteers (dressed up in long coats and flat caps) began the process of filling it up with water the old fashioned way - by hand.
Everyone watched as the rest of the carriages were brought onto the other track to connect with the engine and then we all boarded again to ride back to Howarth. Just enough time to enjoy another pint in the buffet car.
Plaque showing that the railway won the accolade Railway of the Year