Summer wine and steam trains…

Over the years I have had more than my share of hairy moments. I have faced down machetes and had guns pointed in my face. I’ve pushed a broken down jeep out of a crocodile infested river and even been smacked in the nuts by a shark! But never have I faced such terror as I did last weekend. The sight of 30 pensioners disgorging themselves from a ferry like a rampaging horde of octogenarian Vikings, all hell bent on a drug and toasted tea cake fuelled weekend, was a sight to turn the bowels of even the bravest of men to water.

It had been sold to me as a ‘Heritage Rail Adventure’, on paper an innocuous and genteel amble around the Isle of Man’s delightful and antiquated rail network. How hard could it be – they’re pensioners for God’s sake? All I had to do was shepherd them around…

…How then do you lose an 80 year old woman with a walking stick?! I mean, I only turned my back for a minute! Then there was the asthmatic Irishman. Except he wasn’t asthmatic was he. No, he had pulmonary fibrosis and he was meant to bring oxygen with him. Instead, he turned up with two bottles of Bushmills! This had disaster written all over it.

Things did improve though. I managed to keep a close check on the 80 year old with the walking stick, although I have to admit I did lose the asthmatic Irishman. The trains and trams also proved to be a popular diversion, in between the endless rounds of tea and cake. The Isle of Man can boast some of the finest Victorian railways left anywhere in the British Isles, with the Manx Electric Railway bearing the distinction of being the longest narrow gauge vintage railway system anywhere in the islands. Now, I appreciate that to the adrenalin junkies out there that probably doesn’t mean much, but to an avid train enthusiast, especially one high on cod liver oil tablets and a surplus of caffeine, this is quite a thing to behold. And, I have to admit, the more I saw of the ingenuity of the Victorians, the more I came to appreciate the sheer genius of the pioneers of Britain’s Industrial Revolution.

In spite of having lived on the Isle of Man for over 15 years, some of this stuff was completely new to me and over the course of the weekend I joined them on steam trains and horse trams, negotiated my way up to the top of the mountain on the Snaefell Railway and even rode on the footplate of the Groudle Glen Railway. Heady stuff indeed and, remarkably, I found that I was enjoying the whole experience immensely. For all my flippancy I have to say I am a great respecter of age. Not only does it bring wisdom, but it also brings some fascinating stories. These were people who had lived through wars and rationing, raised families without the benefit of government handouts and knew nothing about social media sites. We had conversations. Real conversations. And not once did anyone try to update their Facebook status mid-sentence!

 …I do wonder what ever happened to the Irishman though, I never did find him again…

1 comment
  1. Trevor darling, I do loves you and you know what? I really really like Trains. We’ve both got jobs that have us travelling all roun’t world AND we get paid to go on trains! we are super lucky peoples and we both live in Peel and we’re right special. xxxx

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