Scots Guardsman (number 46115) is set to pull both the Dalesman and Pendle Dalesman excursions over the spectacular Settle-Carlisle line, regularly voted one of the greatest railway journeys in the world.
And crimson-painted Galatea (number 45699) will haul the Scarborough Spa Express through York to the East Coast seaside resort, where locals reckon you can get the best ice cream and fish ‘n’ chips in the whole of Britain.
Beautifully restored carriages
Coupled up behind each of the heritage locomotives will be West Coast Railway’s carefully renovated vintage railway carriages which date back to the old British Rail days of the 1950s.
But forget those dreadful old BR catering standards of stale cheese sandwiches, mouldy pork pies and weak milky tea served in cracked cups by some grumpy attendant.
These days passengers can sip Buck’s Fizz while tucking into a full English breakfast on the outward journey – followed by a gourmet four-course dinner with wine and champagne on the way home.
And if some of those railway carriages look familiar, then that might be because they starred as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter movies.
So, as you relax with a coffee or a glass of beer, you could be sat in the very same seats which the chums used when heading off to school from Platform 9¾. How wizard is that!
The magic of Scots Guardsman
But then it doesn’t need young Master Potter to turn a train journey into a magical experience. Steam locomotives have had us under their spell ever since George Stephenson unveiled his Rocket in 1829.
And they don’t come much more magical than Scots Guardsman, an 85-ton Royal Scot class engine built at Glasgow in 1927 for the old London, Midland and Scottish Railway.
She will haul the Dalesman, which sets out from York, Normanton, Wakefield Kirkgate, Leeds Central and Skipton, over the stunning Settle-Carlisle line.
This 72-mile route was a triumph of Victorian engineering when it opened in the 19th century, cutting through the northern Pennines and Yorkshire Dales with 22 viaducts and 14 tunnels.
Those with long memories may recognise Scots Guardsman from the old black and white GPO film The Night Mail, set to W H Auden’s wonderfully rhythmic poem:
“This is the Night Mail crossing the Border
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner, the girl next door.”
And as she steams through the rugged but beautiful Dales, it is impossible not to be reminded of Auden’s later verses:
“Past cotton grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses …
“Sheep dogs cannot turn her course
They slumber on with paws across
In the farm she passes, no one wakes
But a jug in a bedroom gently shakes.”
Greek goddess Galatea
While the Dalesman is heading West, the Scarborough Spa Express will be steaming East hauled by crimson-painted Galatea, a locomotive which always reminds me of James the Red Engine in the Thomas the Tank Engine books.
Another former LMS loco, this time (for all you trainspotters) of the Jubilee Class, Galatea was built at Crewe in 1936 and named after a newly launched Royal Navy cruiser, which in turn was called after the Greek sea goddess.
The Scarborough Spa Express will pick up passengers at Hellifield, Skipton, Woodlesford (Leeds), Hebden Bridge, Brighouse, Wakefield Kirkgate and York.
New this year
New to West Coast Railways this year is the Pendle Dalesman train, which follows the same Dalesman route but also calls at Clitheroe and Long Preston.
Also watch out for the Northern Belle – described by Bill Nighy on Channel 5’s The World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys programme earlier this year as “the Grand Duchess of luxury train travel” – which will be departing from several Yorkshire stations throughout this year.
And if you are away in Scotland, then don’t miss the steam-hauled Jacobite Express which cuts through the Scottish Highlands from Fort William to Mallaig.