In a small town in the north east of Scotland something magical happens on December weekends. People begin to gather at an old Victorian railway station. Regular trains have not run here since 1979 but today the ticket booth is open and manned by a young man in a three piece suit and hat, there is bunting on the platform and the smell of burning coal in the air.
There is excited chatter from the expectant crowd, many of whom are dressed for the occasion in festive jumpers. Slowly a string of carriages puffs in to view behind a gleaming engine. The doors open and the passengers climb on board, hurrying to find their allocated seats. The conductor checks the platform for stragglers and then they’re off, the winter landscape passing slowly by to the accompaniment of an orchestra of mechanical clunks and clicks and sighs.
A whispered rumour spreads, He has arrived, the man himself, followed by an elf helper with a trolley of presents. He stops and talks to every child, photographs are taken, secret wishes shared and, as quickly as He came, he is gone.
The train stops at a station four miles down the track. Legs are stretched and refreshments bought from a café in a converted carriage. The return journey is filled with laughter and the sound of rustling wrapping paper. There is a little light sleet in the air, of is that fairy dust.
The Brechin steam railway is staffed by volunteers and funded by donations. It runs four miles along a branch line of what used to be the Caledonian railway, to Bridge of Dun. As well as Christmas trips, you can ride the train most weekends between June and September.