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Review: My magical train journey on the Sunset Steam Express

Vicky Mayer enjoys a magical train journey full of surprises and delight on the Sunset Steam Express

A very warm welcome at Victoria Station

On a warm summer’s evening in July, a sizeable crowd is gathering at platform 2 in Victoria Station. Well dressed and excited, they are all here to climb on board Steam Dreams’ popular Sunset Steam Express as it journeys from London around the Surrey Hills on a round-trip.

Pulling the carriages tonight is the handsome 61306 Mayflower locomotive. Built for the London & North Eastern Railway in 1948, it is one of only two surviving B1 Class locomotives and is powerful enough to travel anyway around the UK.

We haven’t left the station yet but with her handsome green and black livery, she is causing quite a stir with the evening commuters at the station.

First impressions

We’re looking forward to a Pullman style dining experience on board the train and as we’re escorted to our seats, we’re already excited. Our wood-panelled carriage is sumptuously decorated with wing-backed seats and romantic table lamps and the table is laid-out with crisp white linen, shiny cutlery and fresh flowers.

As we ease into our seats and say a friendly hello to our fellow passengers, you can feel a real sense of excitement and anticipation in the carriage as the train pulls out of the station. Choo choo!

On The Rails

There’s nothing quite like travelling on a steam train as it pushes and pulls its way out of the station. Shunting is part of the magical experience and I love the noise they make as they head along the rails. If you’ve never had the chance to enjoy a ride on a steam train, this would be a great first trip. Like popular steam train trips on the Bluebell Railway and the Ffestiniog Railway, this journey will give you a real nostalgia hit.

We’re heading west first and as we pass Barnes and Kew Bridge, passengers on the stations cheer as we come into sight. Everyone loves a steam train and it’s a joy to be travelling on one tonight.

Settling in, we order a couple of glasses of champagne and toast the train and our journey.

What a view

As the train picks up speed (never going over 75 miles an hour) we pass by Windsor, Virginia Water and Chertsey. The countryside here is beginning to look very pretty and the combined hit of pastural views, low sunshine and the sound of the steam train is fantastic.

But like all good journeys, the best is still yet to come. As the sun dips down and we head for a glorious sunset, the glorious Surrey Hills come into view and we enjoy spectacular vistas across the Chilworth, Dorking, Box Hill and Reigate.

The final part of our journey sees us head back towards Victoria Station and past Purley, the landscape becomes more urban as we steam our way back via Croydon, Crystal Palace, and Brixton.

We arrive back in Victoria at precisely 21.45, having enjoyed a fantastic steam train journey that’s lots of fun.

Food glorious food

One of the best aspects of this journey is how it gives you the chance to enjoy a 3-course meal as you enjoy the steam train experience and take in the views.

There are two set menus – one for meat-eaters and one for vegetarians. We opted for the former and it’s absolutely delicious. Meals on trains are often hit and miss but ours really hit the mark. We began with a very light aubergine, red pepper and courgette salad with pine nuts. It whetted our appetites but wasn’t too heavy. The staff on board are very friendly and attentive so you feel as if you’re in a classy five-star restaurant. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to the thought of mashed potato on a hot summer’s evening. But the main course of free-range chicken in a creamy sauce, mash and seasonal veggies was so delicious I soon ate my words.

The courses are spaced out to give you time to digest your food and take in all the lovely views from your carriage. And with a moreish dessert of Windsor & Eton mess followed by coffee and macaroons, you’ll leave the train replete.

Drinks aren’t included in the ticket price but they are pub prices and there is a big choice so you don’t feel ripped off.

Our verdict

This fantastic steam train journey hits all the right notes. You’ll get to travel in style on a cute steam train, eat delicious food and toast the glorious Surrey countryside from the comfort of your stylish carriage.

Whether you’re looking for an amazing date experience, you want to treat someone special in your life or you just love steam trains, the Sunset Steam Express is a trip you will always remember.

What’s on offer

You can choose from a standard ticket which will get you a seat in a 1960s carriage. Drinks and snacks can be bought on board or you can bring your own picnic. A standard ticket costs £49pp. Or you can choose a Pullman Style Dining Experience Ticket. This includes seating in a first-class carriage, welcome nibbles and 3-course dinner. You can buy additional drinks on board. A first-class ticket with dinner costs £129pp.

Get on board

To book a seat on the Sunset Steam Express on Tuesday evenings from now until September see steamdreams.co.uk or call 01483 209888