Going Dutch 2018

Going Dutch October 2018

Day 1: Tuesday 23 October 2018
An ad in Bluebell News had caught my eye - a trip to Bluebell Railway's twin, the Museumstoomtram at Hoorn on the Zuiderzee in Holland, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. When I received the itinerary however, I saw it included two of my pet hates: getting up early, and travelling by train on a Sunday! Ah well, its only once a year, so on Tuesday 23 October it was up at 4am, and an Uber to the station for the 5.47 to St Pancras, where I bought a sandwich at M&S (not needed!) and joined the Going Dutch party in the Eurostar departure lounge. We'd been booked Standard Premier (First class?), so breakfast - and a beer - was included... the first of many meals.

Going Dutch October 2018

It was the direct train to Amsterdam, but we got off in Rotterdam to visit Mini World, a giant model railway and docks, with a GB exhibit under construction. It works on the principle of 1 minute = 1 hour, so every now and again it goes dark and the buildings light up. Then was back to the station for a first class train to Amersfoort, where we were staying for three nights in the rh Hotel, where we had dinner.

Going Dutch October 2018

Day 2: Wednesday 24 October 2018 - First steam trip
We travelled by train to Apeldoorn to join the Veluwsche Stoom Trein, pulled by a giant German loco, 23 076. We had the Wagon Lits to ourselves and were greeted with a huge slab of apple cake for elevenses. This was followed shortly by lunch: soup, mushroom vol-au-vent, cheese rolls and fruit cake! On the way back we stopped at Beekbergen where the loco took on coal and water, and we got to see lots of German locos.

Going Dutch October 2018

Back at Amersfoort we had a snail's-pace walking tour of the older parts of the town, including De Drei Ringen brewery where we enjoyed some of their Dubbel and the obligatory cheese. Then it was to Restaurant Dara, for a middle-eastern 'tapas' (mezze?) comprising an enormous number of dishes that kept on coming. The walk back took us past the medieval bridge all lit up.

Going Dutch October 2018

Day 3: Thursday 25 October 2018 - Utrecht
Another early start and it's the train to Utrecht Railway Museum. After tea and biscuits in the old station we were let loose in the museum, which is more like a theme park, with a dark ghost train, a rollercoaster runaway train 'flight simulator' and a trip 'down a coal mine' in a rickety wooden lift. Lots else to see, including many locos built in Manchester. After a lunch of cheese rolls and soup, it was a short walk to the canal and a boat trip on Domstad round the waterways of Utrecht. The final destination was Oudaen Castle with its brewery and restaurant. Then it was back to Amersfoort for our final night there.

Going Dutch October 2018

Day 4: Friday 26 October 2018 - Hoorne and the Zuiderzee
It was first class again to Hoorne via various diversions, and after dumping out bags at the station, boarded a steam tram to Medemblik to catch the MS Friesland for a rainy day cruise to the Open-Air Museum at Enkhuizen. The Museumstoomtram is more like a light railway, with three steam locos in operation (6513, 7742 and 8107) plus a diesel railcar. At a different time of year, they'd be puffing through tulip fields, but this time of year it's cabbage and cauliflowers! The Zuiderzee I discovered is a fresh water lake, not the sea!

Going Dutch October 2018

At the Open-air museum, we checked out the steam laundry and the smithy and had coffee in the bakery. The post office even sold real stamps (€2.10 for a postcard to UK). We didn't have time to see the indoor museum and it was a long walk to Enkhuizen station - there were shuttle boats apparently. Thankfully, the Petite Nord Hotel was not far away and we checked in and began the long walk (for me) to the restaurant Steak and More, by the harbour, which provided me with a tuna steak!

Going Dutch October 2018

Day 5: Saturday 27 October 2018 - day on the steam trams
Technically a free day, this was a whole day on the MSHM, with a packed lunch provided. So it was down to Medemblik where I took a photo of MS Friesland in the sunshine, then caught the railcar for one stop then back on the next train to Medemblik them finally back to Hoorn stopping off at Wognum to take some pictures of the trains. The Dutch like to put on a performance, so little acts of theatre were enacted at the various stations, getting the kids involves carrying parcels etc.

Going Dutch October 2018

My plan was to catch the Hoorn tourist bus (golf cart) to the harbour and the Museum of the 20th century but couldn't find it. So it was back to the hotel and thence to Barrels Pub for a Bock. There was more bock back at the station where we were treated to a slap up dinner of various  stamppot with a couple of veggie sausages for me!

Going Dutch October 2018

Day 6: Sunday 28 October 2018 - Homeward bound via Train World
Lots of changes today: Hoorn > Amsterdam > Rotterdam > Antwerp (the most beautiful station in the world?) > Schaerbeek, where we visited Train World (my second time), to reacquaint with Atlantic streamliner 12.004. and had a lovely farewell meal in their RN Express cafe. Then it was back on the train to Brussels Midi, and on to the Eurostar, economy class this time! At St Pancras, the Thameslink trains were only going as far as Three Bridges, but outside the station it was well organised with queues for various destinations, including an express service to Brighton. I walked home from the station, getting in around midnight and after a day turning back the clocks twice!

Going Dutch October 2018

I must say this was one of the best organised trips I've been on, thanks to Roger Price of the Bluebell. The only money I spent was on the odd beer, postcards and stamps. It was as if I'd given a wad of money (just over a grand) to a butler or concierge and said show me a good time. I did things I'd never do travelling solo, such as going first class, and staying at posh hotels, eating at posh restaurants. It was tiring and intensive, with a little too much walking for me, but I now have lots of happy memories.

More pix on Flickr.


The Duchess at Severn Valley Railway

6233 Duchess of Sutherland at Kidderminster

An email informed me that 6233 Duchess of Sutherland would be rolled out of the West Shed at Butterley after a major overhaul and paint job in LMS crimson, on 9 September. But what caught my eye was that she would be at the Severn Valley Railway 20-23 September for their Autumn Gala (and at the ELR 19-21 October). Further research told me 46100 Royal Scot would also be at the SVR - and 70000 Britannia. So, a trip to the West Midlands was in order. I decided to try a ticket spitting site and got some good prices (scroll to bottom), though I was told had I gone Chiltern Railways from Marylebone it'd be even cheaper.

70000 Britannia at Kidderminster

So, despite a cancellation at London Road and a delay on the 12.23 Virgin train to Birmingham New Street, I finally arrived at Kidderminster, via Smethwick Galton Bridge, a station with an elaborate arrangements of platforms! I managed to get a bus into town and checked in at the Premier Inn. The NUJ were boycotting Wetherspoons so I had a wander round: a pint at The Swan near the Town Hall and the man who invented stamps, and another at Ye Olde Seven Stars, a bit further afield.

34027 Taw Valley at Kidderminster

Day 1 Saturday 22 September
It was a Pokemon community day so it was breakfast at a coffee shop and a wander to capture Chikorita. Three shinies were enough to evolve one of each and so it was off to the station. The first loco I encountered was a surprise: 34027 Taw Valley.

What I discovered about Kidderminster station was that instead of the loco running round and taking the train back, the engine would detach and the loco from the previous train would go on the front, in this case GWR no-namer 2857. This took me to Bridgnorth via the elephants and rhinos of Bewdley, where I missed the return train being pulled by LNER Q6 63395, due to a queue to cross the footbridge. So, got back on the GWR no-namer to Arley where I crossed the line and waited in the rain for the Duchess.

I jumped off at the next station Highley and got an empty 'local' train pulled by GWR 813 back to Arley (Only), where I caught a train back to Kidderminster hauled by 46100 Royal Scot, and what a great noise she made. After a cheeky half of porter in the station forecourt, I went looking for another recommended pub, The Station Inn, the other side of the main line. Then it was a walk back to town via a real find: The Weavers micro pub, my kind of place, where I had a pint of dark mild.

46100 Royal Scot at Kidderminster

Day 2 Sunday 23 September
Kidderminster has a big bus station but not many buses, and on Sundays hardly any. Google maps told me a 3 bus to Stourport would get me part of the way, but instead of dropping me the other side of the horrible underpass, it carried on for miles before another bus stop, so I stayed on board and exactly an hour later after touring the housing estates of the West MidlandsI was back where I started! Never mind! At the station, 46100 Royal Scot was basking in the sunlight, and that GWR no-namer was ready to take the train towards Bridgend. This time I got off at Hampton Loade and caught the Duchess back to Kidderminster, where I hung about until the train was taken out by 70000 Britannia.

6233 Duchess of Sutherland at Kidderminster

We now had the best possible view of the Duchess, in a siding, awaiting the next train, which I joined. I went back to Hampton Loade and crossed the line to see if there were any pies left on the platform stall, sadly not, so Headed back to Kidderminster pulled by 43106 'The Flying Pig'. Then it was across the road to the Captain Cod chippy for a fish bite (what fish?), chips and mushy peas plus cup of tea for a £4.50 deal then along to the The Weavers again, for two pints, and a walk back to the hotel.

Ivatt 43106 (The Flying Pig) at Kidderminster

Day 3: Monday 24 September
As a bonus I'd decided to ride the Heart Of Wales line from Shrewsbury to Swansea. To get to Shrewsbury I got the 125 to Bridgnorth, then (Google had told me an hour later, but there was one waiting) a 436 to Shrewsbury, where I had 2 hours to kill. Most of these I spent in The Shrewsbury Coffeehouse opposite the gothic station. Eventually our one-carriage train arrived and we began the 4 hour journey through the rolling hills of central Wales. Not nearly as spectacular as the Scottish lines but interesting none the less, with one of the longest announcements ever, what with all the Welsh names as well as the English, many of which were request stops! At Swansea I checked in to the Grand bang opposite the station, and after checking out 4 crap pubs in the vicinity settled for the hotel bar and a couple of pints of Doom Bar.

Llanwrtyd Wells on the Heart of Wales line - Monday

On Tuesday it was back to Brighton via Paddington (my first time there!) and Victoria, where I was grateful for the new lifts, but my journeys always end with those steps at London Road.

More photos on Flickr.

Severn Valley Gala tickets


Edinburgh 2018

Again, just an itinerary:

Wednesday 8 August 2018
Travel via St Pancras and Kings X with a cheeky pint at the Parcel Yard, to Waverley
19.30 Waiting for Godot at the Lyceum
Much more entertaining than I expected!

Gallery Bus

Thursday 9 August
Art bus day
To The Museum of Modern Art 2  (the Dean) for Emile Nolde
and the other one for more art
National Gallery for Rembrandt (very brown) and Barbara Rae's North-west passage
19.10 Limmy's Vines at the Stand New Town Theatre Grand Hall... 'Fine wine!'

Friday 10 August
14.30 Ali Brice's Lemonade Stand at the Hive (Heroes of the Fringe) - recommended by Mike Powell

Sympathetic Magik, Edinburgh

Saturday 11 August
Eevee day with Pokemon on the meadows
Walk to Summerhall via Bristo Gardens
Orson Welles drawings, Kurt Schwitters portraits, Pussy Riot, John Keane

Sunday 12 August
13.00 Mark Thomas. Check up: our NHS at 70 at the Traverse 1
15.20 Simon Munnery The wreath at the Stand
18.45 Kevin Quantum: Vanishing Point at the Underbelly Cow Barn

Monday 13 August 
14.15 The Bench Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre Attic (oh those stairs!)

Baltic, Newcastle

Tuesday 14 August
Away day to Newcastle
Laing Art Gallery for Glenn Brown
Baltic: Lots of art
18.00 Graham Fellows at Newcastle Stand Completely out of character
with Niopha Keegan of The Unthanks

Wednesday 15 August
13.20 Foxdog Studios: Robot Chef at Boteco do Brasil Basement - computer games fun
Evening meal at Thrive, Bruntsfield

82210  in its new LNER livery

Thursday 16 August
Home by delayed LNER train and slow Thameslink (should have waited for the brighton one)


Bergen by train (and ferries) 2

It's always good to get some jeopardy at the start of an ambitious itinerary, stops you worrying about connections etc. The Thameslink timetable fiasco had one silver lining - tickets were valid on Gatwick Express trains, but I'd still have to get the tube from Victoria to St Pancras at rush hour. However on the morning TV news they said a train had broken down at Gatwick Airport and to expect delays... so, I set off straight away. Made it.

Bergen by rail 4

The other major worry was right at the end of the trip when the German ICE train from Cologne to Brussels arrived 45 minutes late, and on another platform! By the time we were detoured because of people on the line, we arrived 1hr 21minutes late. Of course I'd missed my Eurostar and I was imagining all kinds of scenarios - staying the night in Brussels, buying new tickets and claiming back on the holiday insurance, etc. I needn't have worried - the Eurostar check in person just booked us on to the next train. Back at St Pancras, a Thameslink train turned up and I got back to Brighton in time for the last train to London Road. Phew!

So when people say the trains always run on time in Germany? That was a long time ago. There was another delay from Cologne to Hamburg when a thunderstorm caused the train to be late by about 50 minutes, but as Hamburg was that day's destination, no connection to worry about, just a late night.

Apart from that, there was one other change to the plan. The train from Hamburg to Copenhagen was meant to drive on board a ferry (yes, the train went on the ferry, like the old Golden Arrow). Only it didn't - the train terminated at Puttgarden, we got onto buses, the buses drove onto the ferry for the 45 minute passage, then we rejoined the buses to travel all the way to Copenhagen Central station (mind those cyclists!). I had to get to Nørreport station for the shuttle bus to the ferry port, so I bought a ticket from a machine using my card, was directed to platforms 9 or 10 by a helpful member of staff, and a local train came straight away. Getting across cities from ferry port to station was a major worry - if I ruled the world, there would always be a bus linking station, town centre, ferry terminal, and major tourist sights. Like there isn't in Bergen!

Bergen of course was the highlight of the holiday. I'd originally thought of going on a cruise up the fjords, but a) thought I could do it cheaper, and b) didn't want to be cooped up with all those Daily Mail readers. Two overnight, reasonably sized ferries were enough for me! So I googled 'steam railways in Norway' and found the Old Voss railway with its 1913 4-6-0 loco. Digging deeper, I found that about six times a year it featured in a Heritage Tour, comprising a steam ship (also built in 1913) SS Stord 1, the aforementioned steam train and vintage buses. At around £40 this was the bargain of the week. The whole holiday was built around this Sunday event. I arrived far too early at the steam ship - the ticket said 10am, I arrived at 9.30am but the actual sailing wasn't until 11.15am. The Stord I was delight - we could go anywhere - on the bridge, even down some greasy metal steps to the engine room, where a Cheshire built steam engine could tear your limbs off. No stoker, it was fuelled by oil!

On the Monday I'd booked another tour - Norway in a nutshell. This involved an early start to collect the tickets for my self-guided tour from the station, and as stated earlier there didn't seem to be a bus or tram linking the area of my hotel at the harbour fish market to the central station. Found it and joined the queue. First leg was a trip up the Bergen-Oslo railway I'd travelled down on. You could take the tour in any order and I was delighted when most of the train got off at Voss. The rest of us carried on to Myrdal where we climbed aboard the Flåm Express for a scenic journey down to the fjord.

The start was in the clouds, but we stopped at a waterfall and were encouraged to get out... to our surprise, music started and a faraway Huldra in a red dress did a dance up on the rocks. At Flåm I visited the museum, gasped at the huge cruise ship in the harbour and got on our modest ferry to sail down two beautiful fjords. I was surrounded by Taiwanese girls ('Were not Chinese! We hate the Chinese'), so didn't get out on deck.


At Gudvangen we got onto buses for a truly hair-raising descent into the Nærøydalen valley via 13 hairpin bends and two waterfalls. It is one of Northern Europe's steepest roads, and the driver took it very slowly!

Other highlights included the Oslo to Bergen train line itself - very scenic with ice and snow, but lots of tunnels - and the fabulous Fløibanen Funicular. It wasn't working the first night, but was the second night - and at 10 quid, well worth the experience. The ferry from Bergen to Hirtshals was great too, especially since I had a porthole! I'd prebooked the Commanders Buffet at 30 quid and did my best to consume as much seafood and Carlsberg the 90 minutes allowed. I watched a covers band called Waterproof until time for bed - my taster of life on a cruise ship over.

Oh, and I didn't expect it to be so hot! Packed wrong things...

First time in Hamburg
First time in Denmark
First time in Copenhagen
First time sleeping on a boat
First time in Norway
First time in Oslo
First time in Bergen
First time on a fjord
Furthest north I've been

More photos on Flickr

Full Itinerary here >


Bergen by train (and ferries) 1

Bergen by rail 3

First, a big thank you to The man in Seat 61 for the invaluable info on getting anywhere by train.


Here's a brief itinerary.

Day 1 Thursday 7 June 2018
1. Train: London Road to Brighton
2. Gatwick Express to Victoria (delays! Thameslink timetable chaos plus broken down train at Gatwick)
3. Tube to St Pancras (sardines!)
4. Eurostar train to Brussels
5. ICE train to Cologne
6.Train to Hamburg (thunder and lightning, 50 min delay)
Hotel Novum Continental in Hamburg

Day 2 Friday 8 June
7. Train from Hamburg Hbf to Puttgarden
8. Bus to ferry M/F Deutschland
9. Ferry to Rødby in Denmark
10. Bus to Copenhagen
11. Train to Nørreport station
12. DFDS shuttle bus to DFDS Ferry Terminal in Dampfærgevej
13. Sail overnight on MS Crown Seaways from Copenhagen to Oslo (no window in cabin)

 Rail journey from Oslo to Bergen

Day 3 Saturday 9 June
Ferry arrives in Oslo at 09:45
Walk to Central Station
14. Train from Oslo to Bergen (scenic, snow, lots of tunnels)
15. Bergen light railway (Bybanen) towards fishmarket
Magic Hotel Korskirken, Bergen (free breakfast)

Bergen by rail 3

Day 4 Sunday 10 June
Bergen Heritage Tour
16. Steam ship SS Stord I from Holbergskaien to Garnes.
17. From Garnes to Midttun with steam train
18. From Midtun by veteran bus back to Holbergskaien
Magic Hotel Korskirken, Bergen


Day 5 Monday 11 June
Norway in a nutshell Fjord cruise 8.43 at railway station
19. Trolly bus towards station
20. Train to Myrdal (most people got off at Voss)
21. Flåm railway down (Kjosfossen waterfall with dancing Huldra)
22. Ferry Skagastol from Flåm to Gudvangen (Taiwan girls)
23. Gudvangen to Voss by bus (via hair-raising hairpin descent)
24. Train from Voss to Bergen
25. Bybanen towards fish market
26. Fløibanen funicular back at Bergen
Salt cod at Bryggeloftet & Stuene
Magic Hotel Korskirken, Bergen

Bergen by rail

Day 6 Tuesday 12 June
27. Taxi to Fjord Line ferry terminal
28. Sail on MF Bergensfjord from Bergen to Hirtshals (got a porthole! Commander's buffet, Waterproof covers band, 10 quid pint Carlesberg)

Day 7 Wednesday 13 June
29. Shuttle bus (DKK30) to Hirtshals station (just ticket machine and shelter)
30. Local train from Hirtshals to Hjoerring (no cafe, no ticket office, text toilets, accident bike and old man)
31. Train from Hjoerring to Århus (coffee)
32. Train to Hamburg
White asparagus and Duckstein at Baumann's Bierbar
Centro Hotel in Hamburg

Bergen by rail 4

Day 8 Thursday 14 June
33. Train from Hamburg to Cologne (coffee and roll)
34. ICE from Cologne to Brussels (40min delay, then mad rush change of platform get to Brussels 1hr 21min late)
35. Eurostar to St Pancras (booked on next train, no charge)
36. Thameslink train to Brighton (hurrah!)
37. 11.41 Seaford train to London Road, and home.

More photos on Flickr.

Bergen by train (and ferries) 2 >