Thursday, May 21, 2015

Full speed ahead for the Jacobite Steam Train

Jacobite Steam Train in Scottish highlands

The Jacobite Steam Train rides again.

Narrowly avoiding a shutdown of its ability to operate any trains on Britain's rail lines, West Coast Railways had its weeks-long suspension lifted on May 8. The company was able to meet a series of conditions laid out for reinstatement. And with its operating license unsuspended, last week the company renewed operating its popular Jacobite Steam Train rides through the Scottish highlands.

West Coast Railways very narrowly avoided having to cancel the tickets of thousands of passengers who anxiously awaited a yea/nay about whether their trips would proceed. As many as 85,000 people will take the steam train journey from Fort William to Mallaig (and back) between May and October.

Jacobite Steam Train at the station in Mallaig
Our family and friends get ready to board the train for its return journey.
I have been closely following this story for weeks. I won't rehash it all here. Briefly put, some train operators on one of West Coast Railways' steam trains in England appear to have purposefully disabled an automatic braking system, which caused their train to proceed through a red light and come within less than a minute of striking a separate passenger train crossing its track. If the two trains had collided, it would've been one of the U.K.'s worst train crashes ever.

Although the agency responsible for overseeing the U.K.'s rail lines, National Rail, has reinstated West Coast Railways' operating license, it is still investigating the incident. National Rail continues to assess the company's safety certificate, and if it revokes that certificate then the trains cannot run. Over the coming months, National Rail will make checks on the operation of West Coast Railways trains. Furthermore, a criminal investigation continues into the incident which caused the suspension.

For now, at least, West Coast Railways continues its business. Steam train enthusiasts, as well as Harry Potter fans (the Jacobite Steam Train served as the "Hogwarts Express" in several films), can breathe a sigh of relief. Of course, though they no longer need worry about whether the train will continue to run, they may replace that worry with concern whether the trains will be operated safely.

All in all, I'm happy the steam train will run again. We have a train-mad toddler who is due for another ride this summer. Fingers crossed that lessons have been learned, new safety procedures are in place, and the journeys go smoothly.

Am I crazy for thinking about going again? Too big a risk? Or too much ado about nothing?

Jacobite Steam Train, the "Hogwarts Express"
The Hogwarts Express immobulus spell has been lifted.


For more about the Jacobite steam train, see here:



For more about the Glenfinnan Viaduct, see here:

For more about West Coast Railways' license suspension, see here:


  1. Just one incident, not too risky. We'll say prayers for you!