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The Royal Windsor Steam Express with The Steam Dreams Rail Co

I was last on a steam train some 20 years ago when I went on the Bluebell Railway from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead. Despite working in the travel industry, the only train rides I have experienced since then have been commuting on a packed train to London. I, therefore, jumped at the chance to join the first steam departure from London’s iconic Victoria Station in over 50 years. 

I was onboard The Steam Dreams Rail Co’s service of The Royal Windsor Steam Express from London Victoria to Winsdor and Eton, and we were being pulled to England’s historic town of Royal Residents by the 61306 Mayflower, one of the only two surviving B1 Class Locomotives. This new service is running every Tuesday until 14th September and there’s three departure times to choose from: 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.  

The departure was at 11.22 a.m. prompt from platform 2 and we checked in at a pop-up booth right next to the platform. There was quite a lot of excitement about the Mayflower’s arrival and train enthusiasts were poised with their cameras to capture the moment. We are all captivated as it slowly chugged into the station.

When we stepped onto the train, we were instantly transported back in time to a regal, bygone era and we were shown to our table in the Pullman Dining carriage. Steam Dreams offers three classes of travel – Pullman Style Dining, First Class and Standard Class. In-line with current Covid regulations, guests were placed apart, which was pretty easy to do, if not naturally done, in the spacious Pullman carriage.

I felt like Her Majesty The Queen sitting on her throne in the comfy gold and black embroidered chair in the 1950s carriage. The table was already laid in preparation for brunch and even though we were travelling in the midday sun, I loved having our own private table lamp, also gold in colour.

With a glass of champagne swiftly in hand, we began our slow withdrawal from the station and travelled across Grosvenor Bridge, which opened on 1 October 1860 like Victoria Station and which was the first bridge to span the River Thames. The journey to Windsor was due to take about an hour and a half, so for the first time in a long time, I sat back to relax and admire the views. Passing Chelsea Bridge on our right, our route took us alongside Battersea Power Station via Putney and into Imperial Wharf, before we passed through a lot of unrecognisable stations, apart from Chiswick, Hounslow and Staines… I’ve heard of them.

After about 20 minutes, we were out of the centre of the city, surrounded by greenery, and brunch was served. The on-board kitchen was designed specially for Steam Dreams by a Michelin starred chef and the team have mastered the art of serving fine-dining whilst travelling at speed. The Mayflower can get up-to speeds of 75mph but I don’t think we ever hit that speed on our journey though, it certainly never felt like it.

The Eggs Royale were plentiful, warm and delicious. The modern approach to dining with quality, seasonal ingredients, really worked within the confines of the vintage carriage we were travelling in. Fresh orange juice, teas and coffee were also served.

I don’t want to spoil too much but the highlights of the journey for me were definitely spotting King George VI Reservoir and pulling into Windsor and seeing the castle in the distance. On arrival into Windsor, guests can explore the town at their leisure, before easily making their way back from Windsor and Eton via regular National Rail Services. Steamboat tours and hop-on tours of Windsor can be pre booked before the departure. I enjoyed a leisurely stroll around the castle grounds – The Royal Standard was flying so The Queen was home – before walking over the Thames Path and observing the swans and various water activities taking place on the river.

Steam Dreams is also offering a regular train service from Victoria to The Surrey Hills this summer. The Sunset Steam will take guests on a picturesque trip across the Area of Outstanding National Beauty at sunset, with dining options available too. Steam Dreams offers journeys to over 33 different destinations ranging from coastal towns, cathedral cities, heritage railways and National Trust properties. 

The whole journey was prompt and well organised. I was already expecting wonderful things from the experience and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I think I’ll do a longer service next time though as I loved the romance of rail travel whisking us away into our own little world.

Travelling on the Royal Windsor Steam Express costs £39pp in Standard Class, £59pp in First Class and £89pp for Pullman Style Dining. 

To book, visit www.steamdreams.co.uk 

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