There's something truly extraordinary about driving a train and - if you haven't done so yet - you'll definitely want to after reading our interview with Ecclesbourne Valley Railway. Not only will you be driving a giant diesel train, you'll also travel through picturesque countryside and enjoy a delicious lunch on board. Keep reading to find out more about this truly exceptional experience.
Q1: Firstly, to really understand the success behind Ecclesbourne Valley Railway, we’d love to hear the history and how you’ve grown into a Heritage Diesel Railcar Centre of Excellence?
We’re proud to be a Heritage Railway Centre of Excellence. The railway is host to one of the largest collections of 1950s diesel railcars in the country with a variety of unusual and interesting railcars for the public to enjoy. Our first railcar arrived when the railway was only just beginning, back in 2004 and since then we have built up our collection to include rare and unique trains such as the Derby Lightweight single car called “Iris” and the special Class 119 W51073. “Iris” and the two classmates which are being restored by our volunteers at Wirksworth are the sole surviving of their type now and are locally significant as they were built just down the road in Derby during the 1950s. The Class 119 was also restored by volunteers and is special, as it is also one of only three surviving coaches of that class and features a rather luxurious First Class area. The young volunteers who worked tirelessly on the project were rewarded with a visit from HRH Prince Charles in October 2015 who met them whilst riding on the train they had restored.
Q2: For anyone who’s never driven a diesel train before, why would you recommend this experience?
I think it is every boy’s dream to drive a train! They’re big, heavy and exciting machines to be around. Diesel trains of this age evoke memories of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s when many people travelled to school on them. It is all about the nostalgia.
Q3: From feedback of customers, what is the highlight of this train driving experience?
Customers have said that the initial excitement of getting in the driving cab for the first time is fantastic. There’s a real sense of anticipation, as you wait to board and an even greater feeling of power when you start to move.
Q4: During the journey, what are the most attractive viewpoints you’d expect to witness?
The Ecclesbourne Valley features beautiful views as you make your way down the valley. After leaving Wirksworth there are open fields, the river and not forgetting the wildlife. Watch those pheasants! My favourite point is near to the former Hazelwood Station site where the river runs adjacent to the track on one side and you have stunning views of the rolling hills on the other. It is important to watch where you’re going though if you’re driving!
Q5: We’ve heard you serve a delicious lunch in the Pullman Buffet Car, but can you tell us a bit more about what to expect and why the food is such a hit with your customers?
The Buffet Car at Wirksworth is a set of converted railway carriages themselves so you really get an unusual experience whilst you’re having your lunch. There’s no getting away from the railway during the day!
Q6: What is your most memorable moment, on one of your train driving experiences?
We have had all sorts of people try their hand on one of our experiences including Sir Patrick McLoughlin who was Secretary of State for Transport at the time and senior management at a local bus company. Teaching somebody important to drive a train is always satisfying!
Thank you very much to Leigh Gration from Ecclesbourne Valley Railway for answering our questions about your wonderful Diesel Train Driving Experience. It's amazing to hear that you're ensuring memories of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s remain active throughout today's world.