James Clark steps back in time aboard the Sunset Steam Express with Steam Dreams from London Victoria.

Let’s face it, catching a train from London Victoria station during rush hour can be a nightmare, but the Mayflower could be about to change that. At least on a Tuesday.

We were excited to hear that the immaculate steam train dating back to 1948 was starting to chug out of London Victoria every Tuesday from June to September. It promised to spoil passengers, and after lockdowns we wanted to be spoilt.

Sunset Steam Express

As we joined the fast-moving queue on platform two familiar feelings of tension when catching a train dissipated when we were greeted by a very friendly and professional lady, who directed us to carriage C. At that moment and as if by magic, we stepped back in time to a bygone era that my parents and grandparents often spoke about.

London steam express
The Sunset Steam Express departs form London Victoria station

At the time of booking, there were various seating options available, but as this was the first time we had met since November 2019, we decided to splash out and enjoy the Pullman carriage.

As the train blasted out of London Victoria at exactly 6:15pm, we settled down with a glass of wine and happily chatted with each other and the smartly dressed staff, heading up and down the aisle ensuring everyone was perfectly happy. Only the likes of Victor Meldrew from the 90s sitcom One Foot in the Grave would be able to find something to complain about.

The wood panels, comfortable seats, perfectly set tables, table lamps, curtains, and huge windows for the views of the Surrey Hills ahead reminded me of the film Murder on the Orient Express. The only things missing were the huge clouds of passengers’ cigarette and cigar smoke – and the murder, hopefully. Combined with the engine’s huffing, the scene was set for an epic journey.

Dining Pullman Style

Pullman Style Dining
Pullman Style Dining

All the food is prepared freshly on-board by the locomotive’s chef. We decided to go for the set three-course menu. The perfect choice for us as we were able to chat, enjoy the beautiful views and not have to think about ordering. The food just came to us.

We tucked into chargrilled roasted aubergine and courgette on a bed of rocket with roasted pine nuts and balsamic glaze to start, followed by British free range chicken breast with a cream white wine and tarragon sauce, mashed potatoes, seasoned and sautéed leeks and other seasonal vegetables. For desert we opted for the Windsor & Eaton Mess, coffee and truffles, followed by plenty more wine.

All too quickly, it was 9:45pm and we were pulling back on to platform two at London Victoria. We disembarked with the urge to do it again and a sense of achievement. Finally at the age of 45, I can tick steam train journey off the bucket list.

The Sunset Steam Express with Steam Dreams

Runs on Tuesdays from now until 14 September (excluding 7 September), departing from London Victoria. Prices start from £59 per adult and £45 per child. To book visit: www.steamdreams.co.uk.