Martin Wainwright 

Real ale, jazz and dressing up – just an ordinary day on a northern train

More and more reasons for visiting Ramsbottom this year. Then head for Huddersfield to catch an 'infamous' music train
  
  

One of the world's most cheerful railway is preparing for a summer of fun in tandem with Ramsbottom's First Chop bar.

There's a northern intro for you, but I've always had a soft spot for Rammy since it was home to a Yorkshire fish and chip shop which, as is proper, used dripping.

It is also a stop on the East Lancashire Railway which is forever organising dressing-up trains, poetry trains and especially 'rail ale' trains which have been a great success in recent years. Witness the simple but comprehensive logo of a northern straight glass on a railtrack.

This summer sees three new tours added to the existing programme which features guided beer walks round Rammy, Summerseat and Bury, the UK capital of black pudding. The enjoyment comes with a serious purpose; the line is one of the most effective ways of showing outsiders, especially those from London and the south east, that the Lancashire Pennines are not grim or grey at all.

The railway puts it this way:

Our Ale Trail joins the dots from station to station and unlocks some of the hidden gems along a 12-mile route. We and the First Chop share a passion for fine beers, local produce and local history.

The new tours include an examination of northern cider, which also featured on the Guardian Northerner yesterday with our news from Ampleforth abbey. That's on Saturday 1 September and features sampling organised by cider makers in Holmfirth, (a thriving centre for the drink and also in Yorkshire, it must be added). There's also going to be an American Craft Ales tour which I hope may tempt Northerner readers in the United States; and a Continental beer sampling in May. Full details are on the railway's website here.

Richard Garner, owner of The First Chop says:

The only thing we like as much as enjoying a good beer ourselves is watching our punters enjoy a good beer too. That's why we've put together a range of some of the finest bottled beers from across the globe to compliment our selection of hand picked cask ales from only the best local micro breweries.


The world comes to Ramsbottom, as it always used to do in textile heyday times. And looking ahead, don't forget the Ramsbottom Chocolate Festival returns next March/April. Needless to say, there are always beer and chocolate trains.

Another excellent northern fun line is run by the Penistone Line Partnership whose slogan has a definite ring of Royston Vazey and the League of Gentlemen about it: A trip on the Penistone Line is not just a train ride. It also refers cheerfully on its website to our 'infamous music trains' which run between Huddersfield and Sheffield and are completely memorable. This summer's include jazz, Abba tribute and indie/folk services.

And just to finish. Here's a cracking little film about the East Lancs, full of hissing and hooting and a poetic commentary on the lines of W.H.Auden's Night Mail.