Interview with Daniel Puddicombe, journalist & columnist
In this interview Emily Roberts is talking trains with Daniel Puddicombe, a freelance journalist and columnist.
Daniel writes the Down Main column in Steam Railway magazine, which offers expert analysis of the issues that affects today's main line charter scene, as well as contributing news and features to the magazine.
He also written about main line steam for the likes of The Telegraph, Countryfile and Country Life. When he is not working, he is criss-crossing the country behind steam on the main line. In Britain, the most well-known locomotive is Flying Scotsman but Daniel assures us, there are plenty more!
Interview by Emily Roberts
But has Daniel been able to satisfy his obsession for main line steam over the past tricky year?
I've actually covered 10,234 miles on the national network so far this year (my first journey was on 13 April), with 2,892 of that total being behind steam on the 'big railway'. It's been a mix of business and leisure, but there's a fair amount of crossover between the two, as you said.
Generally speaking, are your journeys always on home soil or do you chase main line steam trains overseas too?
Always on home soil. While main line steam does exist outside of the UK, it is rather limited compared to the offering we have in the UK, and my interest lies in UK steam, as opposed to steam overseas.
We're obviously greatly limited to where in the world we can travel to in the world, but we're blessed, as you are champion to, lots of fantastic places to visit by train in Britain. What have you got planned?
Too many to list here! Looking at September for starters, the plan is to travel behind steam to Wales, Cornwall, Scotland, Kent and a few places in between, with positioning moves being undertaken on service trains.
So, we get the steam-hauled train running on the main line, but can you explain what this actually means, as we are hardly going to find a regular Crewe to London being pulled by a steam locomotive, so how does all this work?
It's quite simple, really. A number of promotors run railtours and anyone can book onto the trips. Normal National Rail tickets aren't valid, and very rarely are pay on the day fares available, so a element of planning is required.
It must take some coordinated planning on your part?
A little bit of planning is required, yes – for most trips, it's a case of two nights away at a minimum, but where I can, I try to book onto railtours that are close to each other date-wise. On the day, I always have a Plan B (and sometimes C) if I'm relying on service trains to get to or from the start/end point, as delays can occur, but it's all part of the fun.
What is it about this type of rail travel you enjoy so much?
The ability to watch the world go by while being sat in a comfortable seat. Every journey is different, and I've made so many like-minded friends over the years on railtours.
Have you a favourite rail journey in Britain?
This is a tricky one to answer because there are so many lovely routes, so picking out one is an impossible task, but I can't get enough of the Settle & Carlisle line - every journey over the Long Drag is different, and it is a real test of locomotive and crew performance, with stunning views to boot. Being a proud Devonian, I'd also throw the South Devon Banks into the mix, and I'm a big fan of the line between Edinburgh and Aberdeen as well.
Have you any journeys yet to travel on? The Britain bucket-list?
All being well, later this year I'll reach Lowestoft (the easternmost station on the National Rail network in the United Kingdom) behind steam. I've already been to Penzance (most southerly station in the UK) and Arisaig (the most westerly station in the UK) behind steam, so it would be good to complete the quartet with a tour to Thurso if any promoters are reading this...
Otherwise, I'm hopeful I can have a run over the Highland Main Line to Inverness behind steam at some point, and any tour that enables me to gradually colour in my steam map of the UK works for me.
It looks like travelling overseas will start to pick up again soon, but have you any tips on travelling by rail for those who have now enjoyed discovering more of Britain?
Sit back and enjoy the journey and watch the world go by. Travelling by rail is the best way to see the UK, especially if you're sat in a BR Mk1 carriage with the toplights open and the sound of a steam locomotive working hard drifting into the carriage. Bliss.
So, as with all our interviewees we are interested to know when it all began. Do you remember your first train ride?
I can't remember my first journey, but I would have been very young. It (inevitability) involved steam - on a heritage railway - and I was hooked. As a toddler, I was obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine and Brio, progressing to full-size trains and OO gauge models (my model railway spans two rooms and crosses the stairwell via a suspension bridge) as a child, and now, adult.
Thank you for your time Daniel, we look forward to reading more in your regular column in Steam Railway magazine.
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