Nostalgia trip on a white-whiskered railway

Jane Mercer and her three children visit Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, Yorkshire
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The Independent Travel
The venue

Keighley and Worth Valley Railway is home to The Railway Children (the 1969 film, rather than the book) but it is not until you read the small print in its information pamphlet that the connection becomes apparent. With typical Yorkshire bluntness there's little fuss made of the fact. A glitzier operation might have been tempted to sell red-flannel petticoats for visitors to tear up and use to flag down the 11.29 before fainting on to the line a la Jenny Agutter.

This west Yorkshire railway has gas lights and coal fires, cosy compartments and billowing smoke. It belongs to an era when life travelled at a gentlemanly pace - and trains were on time.

The 10-mile round trip from Oxenhope to Keighley and back takes in the Bronte country and the rolling Yorkshire moors, with their peat and heather hillsides and wooded slopes. The line boasts Britain's smallest station, Damems, plus five other beautifully restored stations which, at this time of year brim with flowers.

The visitors

Jane Mercer took her three children, Emily, 9, Sam, 8, and Lottie, 4, to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway for the day.

Emily: "The toilet paper at the stations was disgusting! It was really hard and horrible but everything else was great. It was just good being on a train, especially one that was so old. You get your own compartment and there's a corridor outside where you can walk up and down so you get a chance of having a whole window to yourself to look at the countryside or to look into the compartments at the other passengers. There are curtains at the windows, and blinds. There's even a mirror above the seats in each compartment. Everything smells different on the train because of the smoke and it sounds different to a modern train.

lt was fun looking round the stations. There is no electricity so they were all lit by gas lamps. It must have been fun travelling in the old days. There's a good souvenir shop at the station at Oxenhope with lots of things for children to buy and plenty of Thomas the Tank Engine things. There's also a cafe in an old train on the platform - it's one of those that doesn't go anywhere. My mum really liked it."

Jane: "I went to the railway as a treat for the children but to be honest it's as much of a treat for adults. There's something about old steam trains that brings out the kid in you. It's all that nostalgic smoke and the lovely upholstered seats in your own private compartment. You just can't help bouncing up and down and fighting to sit next to the window.

The children loved it, too. lt was very educational without them realising. It gave them a real taste of how people travelled before we became so dependent on the car, and of how stylish trains were before we progressed to the functional, hi-tech versions they know today.

It's a good thing that the tickets for the railway are so flexible, otherwise it would be impossible to know whether to concentrate on absorbing the atmosphere of the trains or to sit and look out of the window and soak up the Yorkshire countryside.

As it is, you can get on and off the train as you like, stop for a picnic or just explore one of stations on route. It was quite a cold day when we went so we were able to enjoy the warmth of a blazing coal fire in the waiting room.

There's nothing gimmicky about the railway. Local people use it as a mode of transport. lt connects with the national rail network at Keighley so a lot of people on the train were actually going somewhere."

The deal

Location: The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway is at Keighley,West Yorkshire: with easy access from the M62. Accessibility by rail is particularly good as the branch line shares the station at Keighley with the national rail network from Bradford, Leeds and Skipton.

Facilities: Buffet cars on some trains, plus buffet facilities at Keighley and Oxenhope Stations. "The food is basic but good," says Jane. "You wouldn't want it to be wholefood or trendy, it would spoil the nostalgia trip."

Toilets: Strictly lavatories and ladies rooms; restored but original. Expect hard loo paper and few home comforts. Well maintained, though.

Museums: Railway museum at Oxenhope plus Vintage Carriages Trust Museum at Ingrow West. Bus service links Haworth Station with the Georgian parsonage where the Bronte family lived.

Cost: Family day rover pounds 14, family return pounds 12, day rover pounds 6, full-line return pounds 4.80, children 5-15 half-fare, children under five free.

Opening times: The railway operates a train service every weekend throughout the year, and Monday to Friday during holiday periods. More information on 01535 647777.

Child friendly: "Very," says Jane. "The staff are all enthusiastic and willing to answer the children's questions, particularly the white-whiskered gentleman in the souvenir shop."

Special events: 12-13 Oct Wheels in Motion weekend; 20 Oct Vintage Train day; 21-25 Oct heritage diesel service.

Nicola Swanborough

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