Every once in a while the East Lancashire Railway receives lovely messages from our visitors. Often they wax lyrical about the friendliness and enthusiasm of the volunteers, or the enjoyment they got from a dining experience or event. This however may be the first time we’ve received one in the form of a poem.

Mr Eric Craven visited our Festive Dining train in 2022. Following his visit he had this to say:

“Dear Sir or Madam

Each Christmas, wearing our dinner suits and dickie bows (a different one each year), six of us book on for the Festive Dining Train. Invariably we have a wonderful time. We were all working together for Ofsted at one time which is how we became friends. This Christmas tradition must be in its 8th or 9th year now.

I decided to write a poem to describe our experience. I hope you enjoy the poem. I certainly enjoyed writing it.

I am a 70-year-old poet based on the Wirral in Merseyside. I still also continue to work part-time as a school improvement consultant, but a lot of my time is devoted to writing poetry, mainly whimsical poetry. I do have a website, www.ericscraven.com, I have a poetry book currently being prepared for publication by Austin McCauley publishers. I have also read a few poems aloud on BBC Radio Merseyside.

Thanks for taking the time to read this letter and my poem.

Yours Faithfully,

Eric Craven”

The Festive Steam Train by Eric Craven

It’s Christmas time at the delightful East Lancs Railway.

We’re to be hauled through the Irwell Valley tonight.

We are dining on Christmas fayre with distinction.

‘Eyup Cocker, I’m reet chuffed, we’re gonna be alright.’

The City of Wells shushes her gentle contentment.

From Bury to Rawtenstall, her festive journey to enjoy.

She courteously waits as we embark and sip Prosecco.

In Pullman carriages with silver service – the real McCoy.

With dinner suits and dickie-bows as our agreed attire.

At The Trackside bar we savour a liquid canape or two.

Before pulling crackers, telling jokes and selecting wine.

Shall we have a bottle of red and white, or maybe two?

We settle down to our sumptuous four course festive meal.

Somewhere near Summerseat we stop as they serve the soup.

‘Perhaps another roastie please and a few more sprouts.’

Brian’s Montepulciano wine arrives and he’s cock-a-hoop.

Our waiters and waitresses are impressively longsuffering.

We’ve known their friendly faces for years, one and all.

They make our evening special with courtesy and humour.

Despite trepidatiously thinking they’re in for the long haul.

As the train returns to Bury we finish with a mince pie and coffee.

We leave her and head to The Trackside for more booze.

By now we are well and truly into the spirit of the season.

But soon we wander back to the Premier Inn to snooze.

Another festive train ride over and we are keen to book again.

To experience the crips white linen and first-class service next year.

We choose different designer dickie-bows every time we come.

Constant things though are the Christmas dinner and the beer.

Thanks Mr Craven for sharing this with us.

Find out more about our festive dinners here.