It's that time of year again, Santa Specials time, and it doesn't seem like 5 minutes since the last lot, how quickly this year has shot by. My first visit took place on Sunday 1st of December, and as per usual, two trains were running, both topped and tailed with a steam loco on one end and a diesel at the other, very handy for supplying heat for the train and no time wasted 'running around'. On one of the trains was steam loco spamcan 'City of Wells' 34092, with diesel 'Captain Bill' 33109 at the other. On the other train Standard 4 '80097' was doing the honours, with Class 45 45108 on the rear. Both trains seemed to be packed to the brim, these events are certainly very popular, and the passengers seemed to be enjoying the music and entertainment as well as the visit from Santa with the prezzies.
It was a very cold day though with clear skies and frost, but some sections of the platform remained frozen all day and certainly fit in well with the Santa theme, as did my red nose which must have had a few of the passengers thinking that either Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer was on the platform, or some bloke trying to do Alex Ferguson impressions. The downside for me in such weather was that the platform buffet doesn't open during the Santas as very few passengers get off the train, so I had to make several trips to Greggs in the town centre to avoid freezing to death - at this rate I'll be getting an invite to their Christmas party this year as their best customer!:-) The good news at least though is the buffet will reopen on the 29th of Dcember again rather than the usual early February, so that will at least help to stop me from turning into a block of ice during the New Year. I had only planned to stay for a few hours, but with the very unusual light and the strange pink glow that filled the sky, it would have been a crime not to take advantage of it. It was a good job the Buffer Stops pub was still open, by the time I'd finished the station staff had closed up and gone home, so at least I could get out that way and not have to climb over the fence again as occasionally happened in previous years - well I am getting a bit old for that sort of thing now unless I really have to!:-) I should be back again for some of the midweek diners, hopefully it should be a bit milder for my next visit.
My first midweek visit for the Festive Diners took place on Thursday 5th of December, and I have to say that the weather looked anything but festive, it was a more normal ELR grey, wet and miserable, not a bit of white stuff anywhere in sight. L&Y 2890 was hauling the Dining Train this time. Back for more Festive Diners again next week no doubt, and with a little snow forecast it might actually be beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well it was back again for a quick visit to catch the Festive Diner on Thursday 12th of December, but no sign of any snow, just rain, rain and more rain, and lots of it at that. Not that I'm complaining of course, I like it grey, wet and miserable like that! :-) 80097 was doing the honours this time, and if Larry Grayson had been there I'm sure he would have probably said something like "What a grey day!" :-D
Another quick visit on Sunday 15th of December, or rather two quick visits, as I called there to get a shot of the 1233 arriving before nipping off to Blackburn for yet another Santa Special railtour. After that I just had time to catch a few shots of the 1645 service on my way back. I was back again on Tuesday 17th of December, as there was a Festive Diner train running that day. I hadn't planned to go, but it was very foggy in the area where I live and I'd thought that if it was like that in Rawtenstall it would be nice to get a shot of 52322 appearing out of the fog. Sadly, as is often the case, many of these Pennine valleys have their own microclimates, and when I reached Rawtenstall it was blue sky and sunshine which was exactly what I didn't want. Typically, just after the train departed the clouds rolled in again just to take the mickey.
My next visits were on the 19th, 22nd and 24th of December, and I was surprised to find that A4 Pacific 'Union of South Africa' was hauling some of these, even though it wasn't rostered until the 'Mince Pie Specials' on the 26th and 27th. Not that I was complaining, I always love to see an A4 pacific in action, and it was just a pity that it was getting dark by the time I arrived there on the 19th. Sunday 22nd was another busy day, with me there for nearly every service, and the final day of the Santas, Christmas Eve, saw me back again, but as is often the case, the services terminate in mid-afternoon to allow everyone to get home early. It was a damp and miserable day, which of course I like, but I must admit that after the amount of hours I've spent standing out in it over the past few weeks I was definitely ready for a good rest, which with no buses operating around here until Friday 27th, I was going to get whether I liked it or not. Considering that December is usually reckoned to be a month when not much is happening I think this has been the busiest one I've had in a long time, so thanks to all at the ELR for keeping me occupied.
After my visit on Christmas Eve I had planned to return on the 27th to have a ride behind the A4 on the 'Mince Pie Specials', but the Universe decided to have a laugh at my expense and get its revenge for saying all those nasty things about Christmas, and gave me a really nasty cold and chest infection (serves me right for getting wet and standing out in the cold all day on my last visit which probably lowered by resistance), and so I was left stuck at home fuming at not being able to get out. Oh well, I was determined to get out on Sunday 29th for the final steaming day of the year, even if it killed me, which it might well have done, but thankfully it was fairly mild that day and i think being out in the fresh air doing something I like did me far more good than any amount of medicine would have done. I didn't venture away from the station at all as I really didn't have the energy, but thankfully the station buffet had reopened, so at least I had somewhere to go for a warm and some badly needed hot drinks this time. Spamcan 'City of Wells' was running on the stream diagram and the DMU on the diesel turn, and both were very busy for most of the day. I hadn't intended to stay for more than an hour or so, but as per usual common sense was replaced by the desire to take photos, and when it looked like we were going to get yet another of those spectacular colourful sunsets I think the only way they would have got me off the station would have been on a stretcher. I never did have much common sense, and at my age I doubt that will ever change! :-)