23rd July 2019


3 minute read

Last updated: 23rd July 2019

THE newspapers, TV channels and radio stations all went crazy covering the story of how Flying Scotsman hauled the Northern Belle from Preston to Carnforth back TWICE on Saturday July 20.

“The world’s most famous locomotive pulling the UK’s most luxurious train” is how many of them billed this special event.

And Granada TV headlined their coverage: “Railway history was made in Preston.” 

Breathless reporter Ralph Blunsom told viewers: “For rail enthusiasts this is a very big deal indeed – a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.”


But not just for rail enthusiasts who turned out in their thousands to line station platforms and bridges and wave as the train thundered passed.

It was an even bigger day for the 276 passengers who travelled on each of the two sell-out trains – among them Huddersfield businessman David Pitts, the Northern Belle’s proud owner.

“I couldn’t have missed this,” he said afterwards. “The food, the service, the train – everything was outstanding. This was indeed history in the making.

”Flying Scotsman is only allowed to make 15 mainline outings every year and to travel 300 passengers miles. 

“So those of us lucky enough to be on board had an experience we will never forget.”

Unfortunately last-minute route changes because of engineering works meant the two trains could not be steam-operated all the way.

Consequently the morning “Spirit of Lunch” trip was hauled by a vintage diesel locomotive as far as Preston where Flying Scotsman was waiting to take over.

But what a thrill that was, watching this magnificent engine billowing out clouds of smoke and steam as it reversed slowly into the platform to be coupled up.

Soon, whistle blowing, it was off, roaring through Blackburn and past Clitheroe, with brooding Pendle Hill, home of the Pendle witches, in the background,.

Then on to Hellifield and through the Yorkshire Dales to Settle before finally reaching Carnforth, where the carefully-restored station has a great railway pedigree.

For it was here that the classic 1940s movie Brief Encounter, starring Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, was filmed.

And if that doesn’t bring a tear to your eye (like Celia’s character in the film), then nothing will!

Leaving Carnforth, with another piercing blow of that distinctive whistle, Scotsman headed across towards the west coast, returning to Preston via Morecambe and Lancaster, before being diesel-hauled back to Crewe.

In the evening the journey was repeated, this time with a Gala Dinner Special and starting from Manchester Victoria. 

Rarely can such a group of well-turned out passengers have gathered on the station’s Platform One. Several bow ties were in evidence, and one chap even sported a bowler hat.

So there was great excitement, with lots of cameras being prepared, as a huge diesel locomotive began approaching.

Alas, it was a false alarm. This was a train carrying biomass to the Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire!

But seconds later a cheer went up and several people applauded as the Northern Belle, respondent in its distinctive burgundy and cream livery, slid majestically into the platform.

Before long those of us enjoying this trip were settled into our armchair-style seats, sipping a glass of cold champagne.

And then came an absolutely splendid dinner – hot smoked salmon with Jersey Royal salad, samphire and salad cream.

Next was Summer green vegetable soup with English rapesed oil.

For the main course there was breast-fed chicken with a herb crust and Cumbrian air dried ham, served with asparagus, young peas, truffled carrots and a herb dressing.

The Great British Cheeseboard followed, and then came a dessert of Summer berry Pimm’s jelly, elderflower and lemon verbena cream with candied orange.

All washed down with a delightful bottle of Cotes du Rhone, followed by a glass of port and then finally coffee and petit fours.

It makes my mouth water again just writing about it!

So compliments to head chef Matthew Green, and all the staff (both on the train and behind the scenes) who worked tirelessly to make the two trips such a success.

What did the Northern Belle’s owner David Pitts say about it? History in the making? An experience we will never forget? 

Hmm, that it certainly was!

This is how the rest of the Press covered the event: