We were lucky. Thomas the Tank Engine puffed and chugged into town, resplendent in red and blue, with a smiley face on the front of the boiler. As Thomas pulled up, we all applauded and children lined up to climb aboard. Kate got on the footplate of another train’s engine as it stood beneath a water tower getting a drink. We took her picture with a young costumed engineer before she took off for a ride on a miniature train.
By then we all wanted a trip on a train – a proper train! Two trains were running that day, one with an engine over a hundred and thirty years old. After buying return tickets, “round trip” Frances called them, we walked the length of the platform, eyeing the waiting train, debating where to sit. We had a host of different cars to choose from and, as there was no surcharge, we decided to travel first class. Our carriage had serviced the South Coast Railway until the mid-nineteen fifties. The framed mirrors were of etched glass, leather straps lifted or lowered varnished, wood-framed windows. Walnut-framed maps adorned the compartment. Polished brass fittings sparkled. Lace doilies draped the headrests. Kate particularly liked the footrests. The seats were as large and comfortable as armchairs, upholstered in spiky royal blue velvet. Gold braid tassels held back curtains. A small side table stood beneath the window with a vase holder for flowers. This was the way to travel!