Steaming into West Hampstead for the first time in half a century

The Tangmere’s first trip will be to Lincoln

WITH separate mainline, overground and Tube stations, West Hampstead is no stranger to trains – but even the most jaded North London trainspotter will get a treat next month as the first public steam train in 50 years pulls in at the stop.

The historic engine which will fill West Hampstead’s skies with steam on April 13 is the Tangmere locomotive. The train is one of the Battle of Britain class built during and just after the war at the Southern loco works in Brighton and it was named after the RAF airfield of that name near Chichester.

While most people will only have seen steam trains in pictures – or at most at a steam train fair – the Tangmere is very much ready to be used, and this month anyone can purchase tickets to travel in its luxury interior on a round trip to the historic town of Lincoln.

Operated by Steam Dreams, which runs steam trains to cities with cathedrals across England, the development is an exciting one for company chairman Marcus Robertson.

He said: “This is a first for us at West Hampstead and as far as we can tell the first public steam train to stop there since at least the early 1960s when steam disappeared from most of British Railways lines in London.

“Incidentally it is also probably the first train in history from there to Lincoln, but of course we would be happy to be proved wrong by any readers who know better!

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“We have decided to trial West Hampstead as a number of our trains use the North London line, avoiding the need to go into central London. This particular train starts in Basingstoke and by the time it gets to West Hampstead will have stopped at Farnborough, Woking and Staines. We have chosen West Hampstead as the best place for London-based passengers to join.’’

In bygone years, steam travel was the fastest and most practical way to travel across the UK but recently tourist experiences like those on the Orient Express have elevated it to luxury status – ensuring the journey is glamorous and as much fun as the destination.

There will be four classes on the trip costing from �79 per person. Pullman passengers will have a champagne breakfast on the way down and five course dinner on the way back – a far cry from the buffet trolley on a standard national rail service.

Through the year other trips to Salisbury and Sherborne, Cambridge and Ely, Bath and Norwich will be departing from the stop throughout the year.

Meanwhile in December the trains will ferry West Hampstead revellers to Christmas carols across the country, steaming into cities with cathedrals holding carol services, including Oxford and Winchester College Chapel among others.