Indeed, by the time the train rolls into Sheffield he will have been singing sea shanties for the best part of an hour and downed three pints of the locally brewed bitter. The 7.15 is no ordinary commuter service. On the first monday of every month the two-car Sprinter casts off its end-of-the-day torpor to become a rattling, rollocking folk club on wheels.
Musicians occupy the centre seats and strike up a jolly reel as soon as the train pulls out of Huddersfield, while a makeshift bar is hastily erected by the guard's van. At the first stop on the route through the Penistone Hills, tentative foot-taps have begun. At Barnsley the hand- clapping has become infectious. By the time we get to Sheffield, the 7.15 is no longer a train - it's a party. As Paul, our man in the pin-stripes, says: "The folk train combines my three favourite things in life: trains, folk music and beer.
But this musical heaven has an earthly mission. The folk train is organised by the Penistone Line Partnership, an alliance of enterprising rail enthusiasts and local councils, which feared that cuts would devastate rural train services.
The partnership persuaded Regional Railways North-East to let it tempt commuters back to the track with live music and beer.
"Reels on wheels" has been a runaway success. The 7.15, which had been running half empty, is packed on folk nights, as is the jazz train and blues train which run on the second and third Mondays of the month.
Overall passenger numbers on the route are up by more than 10 per cent and extra services have been laid on. Of course, lots of the "commuters" are die-hard folkies or jazz fans who would travel on the back of a sidecar in Siberia to catch a few bars of their favourite music, but many are converts to railway travel. One typical rail recruit is Alastair Bailey. "I live about 100 yards from the station, but I had no idea there was a train service until I heard about the music trains," he says. "Now I leave the car at home and use the train every day."
Other passengers are interested in simply having a good time. "It's a good night out," says Ruby Baron, one of a group of six women from a local community centre. "There's a bit of music, you go through lovely countryside and you can have a drink. But, don't tell anybody, I've brought my own," she says. The Penistone Line Partnership is continually coming up with ideas to attract more passengers to the line. Travellers have been treated to poetry sessions, drama nights, Santa Specials and even an Easter Eggspress, when train staff put on rabbit costumes to give out chocolate eggs to children and daffodils to adults. At summer weekends, hikers trains have been organised to deliver passengers to some of the most delightful walking country in Yorkshire.Reuse content