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What it means to be a Ffestiniog Travel Tour Leader!

As the world of travel and holidays takes a breather during the COVID-19 crisis we thought we would catch up with some of Ffestiniog Travel’s tour leaders and invite them to share some memories and thoughts of their tour leading travels with us. It also provides an opportunity for our regular customers and new travellers to get an insight into their world of escorting passengers to destinations around the globe. We sent each tour leader some guided questions to answer and the result is this interesting blog in which they outline their own personal experiences in the first person. Find out about their favourite Ffestiniog Travel tour, top places to visit, some funny travel anecdotes and what it takes to be an effective tour leader!

Richard LemonRichard Lemon

The very first tour I led for Ffestiniog Travel was a weekend Narrow Gauge rail break to France in 2008 in which I escorted 15 people and my most recent tour was double the size when I led the annual and popular Christmas and New Year in Switzerland festive tour which included up to 30 people. I have thoroughly enjoyed tour leading a total of 12 rail holidays for Ffestiniog Travel and what makes them all special are the people/travellers! When you are responsible for escorting customers who have paid a substantial amount of money for a holiday, it is essential to be able to think on your feet yet be relaxed and to appreciate the fact that every question (whether it appears silly or obvious) is relevant to the person who asks it. Enthusiasm and knowledge of the place you are visiting is essential. The greatest reward of being a tour leader is the pleasure of seeing customers enjoying themselves.

Some memorable tour moments that stand out for me include being asked the question ‘Has he got a body in his case?’! and when I asked a local in Italy where a certain hotel was – only to be told I was standing next to it! There are so many holiday highlights but the one thing that matters most and I always remember is when customers say they have enjoyed it! I look forward to my continued tour leading duties, particularly to my favourite places like Saxony - I have always loved Germany and Switzerland.

John BaxendaleJohn Baxendale

My first tour leading duties for Ffestiniog Travel began in 2013 when I escorted 20 travellers on a Grand Artic Norway & Sweden rail holiday and coincidental returned as tour leader on the same tour in 2019 with 19 guests. The best part of being a tour leader is the great people you meet and the great locations you get to explore. I feel the important attributes of being a tour leader is to be organised and to be able to anticipate. You must have patience, be enthusiastic and interested without being pushy! The main aim is to ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience.

Some of the most unusual incidents while touring was when I was asked if I knew the Queen! Another was a wife’s unforgettable reaction to finding out that her husband had got off the train at an intermediate stop to take a picture and nearly got left behind! The surprise reaction of guests, who were sitting under castle ramparts, when an unexpected Royal Gun Salute began, was certainly an amusing highlight. The best reward for me is getting everyone to the final destination safely and without too much drama!

My favourite destination is the US, particularly New England and Colorado and my ‘bucket list’ top two places to visit would be Alaska and New Zealand.

Alan NortonAlan Norton

There were around 30 guests on my very first FT tour to Corsica back in 2002 – in my most recent tour to Georgia in 2019 I escorted a smaller number of around 18 travellers. Once it is safe to travel again the next tour leading duties will take me to Northern Italy in September 2020 and I return to Italy again in October 2020 for a tour of Puglia.

I have so many memories of my tour leading travels, but what stands out most is a mix of guest interactions and the places visited. I still exchange Christmas cards with some FT travellers, 15 years after first meeting them! Specific highlights include:

  • Watching an incredible Northern Lights show for about 25 mins.
  • Being at Macchu Piccu, a very atmospheric place.
  • Pushing a loco turntable round with a very excited client who felt very daring and later, when he described it to fellow travellers, it was like listening to ‘a child at Christmas’.
  • Very understanding guests particularly on an occasion when our onward flight from Singapore to Borneo was cancelled. One man simply said ‘there are worse places to be stuck’ and another offered to collect my bag so I could concentrate on sorting out how to get to Borneo that night!
  • As an alternative to the typical tour leader umbrella, one client gave me an umbrella from a cocktail to carry.

What makes a good tour leader is being friendly, talking to everyone and not constantly directing people around. You have to be confident but honest if some things don’t go to plan. I have a rule where I explain to guests what the next day involves in detail, but give an outline of the following two days.

I emphasise that it is their holiday and encourage them to approach me if they would like to do something slightly different which we may be able to accommodate. In Europe, when we have a group of seats reserved on a train, I will try to move people around (not splitting couples, of course) so they easily get to meet different people. My reward as a tour leader is seeing smiling faces and when clients tell me excitedly about things they have seen and done on their holiday. My favourite countries to visit are France, New Zealand, Japan and India and one destination that has caught my travel interest is Vietnam.

Ray Smith meets the pressRay Smith

Back in 2008 I had the privilege of escorting my very first FT tour to Spain and Northern Portugal with approximately 30 passengers! In 2020 I led the very popular Indian Hill Railways tour with up to 40 guests. I am looking forward to leading FT’s Japan tour in 2020, if it is safe to do so, and another opportunity to lead two dedicated tram tours - Trams & Trains of Italy and Trams & Trains of Portugal – in 2021 after they were cancelled due to COVID-19. I also return to India in February 2021 to escort passengers on India’s wonderful hill station railways.

In total I have led nearly 40 Ffestiniog Travel tours and the stand out one for me has to be the 2014 Round the World tour to celebrate the company’s 45th Anniversary. I think the important attributes of a good tour leader are:

  • To get on with people and make them feel at ease.
  • Provide guests with the information they require (although on long haul tours the help of the local guides provide this as well).
  • Keep calm, even when things go wrong and do not appear to be panicking, even if you are!
  • Providing suggestions for things to do on free days is very helpful.
  • Knowledge - as a railway enthusiast I consider myself to have a good geographical knowledge of Western Europe. This includes railway and tram systems. I also have information on transport museums. Over the years I have also built up a list of additional places to visit that may be of interest to my travelling groups.

There is nothing better than when, at the end of a tour, members of the group thank you for your services and information. It is particularly wonderful when familiar faces return to travel with Ffestiniog again. I think it is important to highlight the fact that the tours run well thanks to the efforts of the FT team - Ruth, Kate, Awel and Michelle - who prepare the itinerary's and excursions. The extras they do by adding vintage vehicle rides and museum visits make the tours even more wonderful. Full marks to them!

My favourite places to visit include long haul to California/West Coast USA and in Europe I like most countries but Germany is top of the list. Places on my ‘wish list’ include:

  • I have had two failed attempts to lead a tour to New Zealand but circumstances meant it didn’t happen so that is still a ‘must do’
  • I have done south east Australia but I would like to see a lot more of the country.
  • In Europe, I would like to go to Eastern Romania as long as Flavia is our guide. She has good contacts for railway and tram depot visits.

Some little anecdotes from my tour leading travels include one on a trip to Norway when we passed a large hole in the ground - I was asked what are they doing there? (silly question) and I replied, burying an elephant! (silly answer). During a tour to India Ffestiniog Travel General Manager, Maria Cook, joined us. I kept referring to Maria as boss and Maria referred to me as Mr. Smith. One of the group picked up on this and in Coonoor he asked us outside to stand in front of a coach that had "boss" on the front. He photographed us pointing at each other. I still have the photo! My favourite train journey has to be the Trans-Siberian Express on the 2014 Around the World tour followed by The Rocky Mountaineer.

Andrew MarshallAndrew Marshall

I became a Ffestiniog Travel tour leader over 30 years ago in September 1989 when I led a tour to Switzerland for the Rhaetian Railway Network’s Centenary anniversary. There were so many people going that FT had to provide a 'relief' trip. FT founder Alan Heywood took the main party by plane (I think) and I took a party by Harwich/Hoek of Holland ferry then by train through Holland and Germany. There was no Channel Tunnel then. We all met at Chur the following evening. Our own 'private' FT coach was shunted on to the back of the DeuscheBahn train at Basle. A little shunting electric came whizzing along with it from a siding - the coach was emblazoned 'Ffestiniog Travel' (spelled correctly too!) which was just wonderful. My most recent tour was in June 2019 which was the 'Mountains and Coast in Montenegro' Small & Traditional tour. We had seventeen lovely folk on board!" I was due to escort Romania’s Danube Delta in June 2020, but sadly not to be!

I have escorted up to 24 tours which have provided so many memories – but here is a couple that I remember very clearly:

  • Catching a train by the absolute skin of our teeth in Prague takes some beating! We had been staying outside Prague in the lovely town of Karlstejn, south west of Prague and were catching the one train a day from Prague to Poprad in Slovakia that morning. One of the group had asked me to 'allocate' the reserved seats for the long, all day journey to Poprad. So, instead of 'keeping my eye on the ball' I had been doing this on the train journey in from Karlstejn - and had not noticed that we were running later and later. When we eventually pulled in to Prague Smikov, the end of that journey, our connecting train to take us to Prague Hlavni - where the Poprad train left from - was just pulling out on a far platform. No panic, there are plenty more I thought. BUT it was Sunday - and there wasn't another train for an hour! I quickly found the Station Mistress in her red cap to confirm. We now had fifteen minutes to get across Prague to Hlavni before the one train a day to Poprad set off! I instructed everyone down on to the Metro while I quickly bought the 26 tickets at the tobacconist kiosk, showed them to the man on the barrier and we rushed though. Luckily a metro train was just coming in. Despite having to change trains on the Metro eventually we slowly pulled into Hlavni Metro platform and rushed to the main concourse with two minutes in hand. The information board informed us our train was departing from Platform 9, which we reached as the guard was putting the whistle to his lips! Our First Class coach was right there so we all piled in with our cases in a great stream. Before we had sat down (in our allocated seats) the train began to move! At this point we all managed to laugh with relief! Two lovely couples from South Wales, who were travelling with FT for the first time, I assured them that it wasn’t usually like this – their response was "We absolutely loved it - it was so exciting!".
  • On an Indian Hill Railways tour an electricity substation had caught fire five days before we arrived at a particular destination. Everything in the town was lit by candles and our evening meal - cooked by gas, luckily - was by candlelight which very romantic until one worried couple asked "What are you going to do about it Mr Tour Leader?" which spoilt the moment slightly!

My experience has certainly given me an insight into what makes a good tour leader – they include:

  • Loving the group and being there for them.
  • Calmly help and resolve issues should things go pear-shaped
  • Always be patient
  • Make it an enjoyable experience for all the guests
  • Explore new things for the group to enjoy if time allows.

There is no better satisfaction from being a tour leader than hearing that folk have booked again with Ffestiniog Travel!

My favourite places to visit include Switzerland which is like a dream. But who could not fall in love with Montenegro which is described by the phrase "When God put the most beautiful places in the world, a beautiful river here, a beautiful mountain here, a beautiful beach there - when he came to Montenegro the box burst open"! I could not agree more. I look forward to leading my very first FT tour Albania and the opportunity to explore this beautiful and interesting country.

John TeasdaleJohn Teasdale

I went to the other side of the world to escort my very first group of 25 FT travellers to New Zealand in 2007. My most recent tour was closer to home when I took a group of 12 people to explore the Trams & Trains of Northern Germany - bringing the total number of FT tours I have led to about 14.

One of the most poignant memories I have is of a guest on a tour to Switzerland who had a degenerative disease and wanted to "see the mountains" before travel became too difficult. On a free day I took her and her carer on a round trip from Interlaken to Wengen and Grindelwald. The look on her face on the descent into Grindlewald was quite special.

I also remember getting into a conversation with an elderly Chinese man in Hong Kong about the football club I support. He shared a variety of views on the transferred players at the club before revealing he had self-taught himself English by watching Match of The Day!

To be an effective and valuable tour leader I think you need to have the following qualities:

  • Be able to socialise with a variety of people
  • Have good organisational skills
  • Being well prepared and able to cope with surprises!
  • The ability to bring a group together

The pleasure I get from being a tour leader is the opportunity to do something I enjoy in the company of like-minded people.

The favourite places that I have visited include Colorado and Wyoming in the US and Romania. I would still like to take a tour to Australia to include a journey on the Ghan train through the country’s centre and ride the Puffing Billy steam train near Melbourne.

Geoff LumleyGeoff Lumley

I am a relatively new tour leader at Ffestiniog Travel having led my very first tour in 2018 which was the popular annual Snow on the Alps rail holiday with 28 travellers and I escorted 12 guests on the Isle of Man Driving Experience tour later the same year. Despite having a couple of tours cancelled due to Coronavirus I hope to lead the Bavaria and Austrian Tyrol tour later in 2020, if it safe to do so.

So far my tour leading highlight has been a horse drawn carriage ride in the snow in Arosa on the Snow on the Alps tour, a great experience in itself and it enabled those who were not ‘regulars’ on this yearly trip to get to know each other. Other interesting anecdotes include showing someone a beautiful vista of a valley and hills and him saying "I prefer Acton High Street" (London W3)! Finally, returning from the "Snow on the Alps" tour with a happy group and no disasters (despite leaving Liz at St Pancras at the beginning of the tour!).

What makes a good tour leader is a balance between being available, but not unavoidable (giving time to those who want company) and the ability to defuse tensions. The joy of being a tour leader is of course the travelling and the added benefit of meeting new people. My favourite place to holiday is North West Scotland and I look forward to visiting Gibraltar sometime soon.

Martin & Liz ShrubsoleMartin Shrubsole

I was called in to escort an additional relief, clockwise ‘Les Petits Trains de France’ tour in 2004 to supplement the original tour that was heavily over-subscribed. We had 26 travellers on the relief tour alone! More recently I escorted a group of 16 on the Appalachian Mountains Trail tour to the US in 2019 and later that year I led the Journees du Patrimoine tour to Vivarais Weekend for a further 16 guests. I hope to lead a tour to Corsica in September 2020 once travel restrictions are lifted.

I have escorted 10 tours to overseas destinations and hosted two UK-based tours for French visitors. My wife has accompanied me on most tours and we work together as a team. Leading these rail holidays has been a major source of joy in our life and we use our togetherness to find solutions to potential problems. Some of the stand-out interesting anecdotes include a question posed by French enthusiasts whilst staying in Caernarfon “ Why, when the hills are covered with sheep, can't we get lamb to eat at the restaurant” ! The 2004 French relief tour will always remain vivid as it was my first and there were quite a lot of ‘loose ends’ to overcome, resolved through "teamwork".

My top tips for what makes a good tour leader include:

  • The ability to quickly put names to faces
  • A willingness to carry out reconnaissance and briefing at each stage
  • To be on top of a situation, even if it is one of uncertainty
  • Fluency in the first language of the host country helps
  • The ability to count and to insist on timekeeping
  • A sense of humour and happy with being ribbed
  • Not resenting the ungracious
  • Ready to be a willing ear
  • Knowledge of Railway Management
  • A willingness to contribute to preparation, ideally before departure and before each day
  • Developing good working relationships with Coach drivers and hotel staff
  • Always on the lookout for details and/or opportunities to enhance experiences (shed visits, footplate rides etc) for travellers
  • Keeping things light

The reward is when everybody shakes you warmly by the hand at the safe return and the friendships that endure beyond the tours. And, of course, the knowledge that there is direct benefit to the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways.

My favourite places to be are home, Vermont, New Zealand, Panama, rural France, and Portmadog in North Wales. My ‘must do’ holidays would be a visit to the Great Lakes and Appalachians in the US - both in the Fall/Autumn.

Dave StowellDave Stowell

The first tour that I led was in September 2016 to the Belgian Ardennes, based in Namur with a party of 12 people. The tour included a visit to the South Limburg Steam Railway in the Netherlands on one of their “special” weekends. Shortly before the tour departed we became aware that this would be a Thomas the Tank Engine weekend! I have however been travelling with Ffestiniog Travel regularly since 1992 and for many years the company arranged all the annual trips I used to run for a private group of friends. The most recent tour I escorted was the festive Christmas and New Year in Switzerland 2019-2020, based in Interlaken and Chur with 14 people in the party. This tour always has a high proportion of regulars every year (although new faces are always welcomed), and indeed I have been every year since 2010 and performed the holiday’s tour leading duties since 2018

I have led a total of 9 FT tours to France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland the Czech Republic and Italy and hope to escort a group on Swiss Alpine Tour, September 2020 (hopefully!).

A fond and lasting memory is of relaxing and chatting over an evening drink with the group on the Christmas tour - always a favourite. Other stand-out moments include being invited personally by Kaiser Wilheim II to join a vintage tram he had laid on especially for us. He was in full ceremonial regalia, complete with entourage! A memorable visit to the Blonay-Chamby Museum Railway, above the shores of Lake Geneva, during its Belle Époque (akin to our Victorian) weekend and the staff had all entered into the spirit of the occasion and were fully dressed in period clothes. Being a Ffestiniog Travel party they made us especially welcome! For good entertainment value there is Alfredo, the Peruvian refreshments trolley steward on the Bernina Express, whose patter and party piece of pouring grappa as the train winds its way through the mountains, is certainly enjoyable!

My list of essential tour leading qualities include:

  • A good sense of humour and patience to cope with the mix of personalities on a tour
  • A level head and adaptability to try and ensure that everyone gets the most from the itinerary and also to cope with the inevitable “operational difficulties” that can occur
  • A keen interest in the places you are visiting and the desire to find out more. However much you think you know there is always something new to discover
  • When I retired I trained as a Blue Badge Tour Guide in the UK and the skills that provided have been an enormous help with assisting group members making the most of their holidays

The best part of being a tour leader is getting back at the end of a tour with a happy group who have all thoroughly enjoyed themselves – and then meeting some of them again on later tours!

I have many favourite rail journeys in different countries around the world, however if I had to pick one in particular it would be Alp Grüm on the Bernina Pass in Switzerland. The rail journey to get there is spectacular and the scenery is magnificent. Relaxing there outside in the summer with a cool drink admiring the view or sitting indoors in the warm in the depths of winter with a bowl of gulaschsuppe take a lot of beating.

I would like to take a holiday to Norway and see the fjords. The trip would also include a rail journey of course!

Stephen PainterStephen Painter

It was a genteel start to my tour leading career when I escorted a party of just six FT travellers to Canada in June 1989. My most recent tour was in September 2019 when I led a group on the ‘Behind the Scenes of Salzburgerland’ tour. I have led at least one FT tour every year, often more, which possibly adds up to 45 tours in total! I hope to leader the Black Forest Discovery tour in September 2020 once travel becomes safe again.
There are so many memories but my favourites are the amazing excursions we had on the tour to Alaska in 1999. From whale watching, a flight on a seaplane to journeys on the Whitepass and Yukon Railway – it was an unforgettable holiday. No trip to Alaska would be complete without a visit to Chicken (it was meant to be Ptarmigan but they didn't know how to spell it!).

The strangest question I was asked by a member of a tour party was in Switzerland which was ‘Can we do a day trip to Berlin?’

From my experience a tour leader should:

  • Be confident and anticipate possible problems before they occur
  • Take away the worry of travelling from the passenger
  • Help travellers make good use of their time at destinations

You know you have succeeded if you deliver the holiday as advertised and resolve any problems that may have occurred, particularly those that were out of my control.

Switzerland will always be my favourite place to visit to enjoy some great train journeys.

Ken OwenKen Owen

My very first tour leading destination was to Bulgaria in 2018, escorting a Small & Traditional tour group of just 6 guests which was followed in the same year by a tour to Scotland. I returned to Scotland in 2019 escorting a party of 14 travellers.

Bulgaria was very memorable, particularly the farewell meal on the top floor of a building in Sofia. It provided an opportunity to thank and toast all touring travellers individually. Other noteworthy tour incidents included being evacuated from the grounds of Crathes Castle in Scotland during Storm Ali as branches fell from trees. We persuaded our coach driver to head to Deeside in the gale, which involved negotiating a route round two fallen trees, to reach Braemar Castle, which was without electricity, but stayed open and was very atmospheric. Another memory was watching our young Bulgarian guide Yuri, arguing with a local railway employee at Septemvri Station, who refused to allow us to walk up to the depot to see the derelict steam engines we had been expecting to see. He was unsuccessful and as our train set off past the depot, to our consternation, the engines were no longer there.

My experience of being a good tour leader means:

  • Being able to support and sympathise and metaphorically shrug shoulders
  • Keep calm and get on with it when faced with a crisis
  • Being available/accessible when necessary
  • Being enthusiastic
  • Knowing and being prepared for the itinerary day by day
  • Liaising closely with the local leader
  • Ensure you speak to every member of the group each day and listen to what they say

The best bit about tour leading is discovering that the participants have truly enjoyed themselves

My favourite place to visit is always the last new country I have been to - like South Africa last September. I would like to visit Patagonia/Argentina on my next big holiday.

John RobsonJohn Robson

My first tour was Trieste, Tuscany and the Adriatic Riviera in 2009 with about 25 passengers. I did a research trip before leading the tour and I was immediately impressed with Ffestiniog Travel, in having the opportunity to effectively walk through the tour before leading a group. There are not many travel companies who actually check out a tour on the ground. Sadly, not long before the tour there was a major earthquake in central Italy and we were staying in nearby Sulmona. Fortunately there wasn't too much damage in Sulmona and the tour was able to go ahead as planned and the office support was very thorough and the tour very successful, and much enjoyed.

On my last tour I escorted 25 customers to St Goar for the "Rhine in Flames" firework festival which included several short rail journeys along the Rhine, Lahn and Mosel valleys. We joined a procession of about 50 ships for the firework display and were lucky to be on the ship nearest to the firework barge on the river, so had the best possible view of the fireworks. In total I have now escorted over 30 Ffestiniog Travel tours and I had hoped to lead
Dresden Steam Festival, Far West of Ireland and Steaming around the Baltic tours in 2020 but they were cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
I am still hopeful that I will lead the "Wales - Steam, Castles and Slate" tour in September 2020.

I stick to Europe as that is what I know well. I have led two Ffestiniog Travel tours to Wales and find it a wonderful country. There is so much to see and do. In many ways, you don't need to go any further afield. This particular tour demonstrates what can be done in Wales with a wide variety of visits, as well as Narrow Gauge Steam Railways. My favourite is travelling on the Welsh Highland Railway behind one of the Beyer Garratt locomotives. There is a bit of a family link here as my grandfather-in-law was Thomas Rothwell who was the Chief Draughtsman in charge of the drawing office at locomotive builders Beyer Peacock, who designed and built these magnificent locomotives. On one of the tours of Wales I met another traveller who had been an apprentice in the drawing office at Beyer Peacock and Tom Rothwell had been his boss!

There are lots of travel stories and anecdotes to share including the comment made by one customer "Can gents use the ladies loos on Italian trains?" Toilets on some Italian trains are not unisex and the social norm is that it is more acceptable for women to use the gents than vice versa!
On a tour of Norway the group was waiting to take the train to Bodø but an exceptional snow-melt had caused flooding and had washed the line away, so replacement buses were arranged. To keep the group together, I suggested that we head for the furthest bus, which no-one else was walking towards. By chance this was the first bus to leave. As we travelled, the amount of water around us was rather alarming. Water was washing away soil from under the carriageway and the tarmac was crumbling away. It looked very dubious. Not long later the driver was phoned to find out where we were as the police had closed the road behind us (effectively the only road north). We were one of the last vehicles allowed through, and the rest of the buses hadn't made it. We never found out what happened to them, but they probably had to go via Sweden, a massively long diversion

What makes a good tour leader involves a number of things:

  • Ffestiniog Travel founder, Alan Heywood, gave me good advice before leading my first tour. He stressed the importance of allowing everyone to be as independent as possible whilst still being available to give advice (not instructions).
  • Avoid offering too much information in one go.
  • Most FT passengers are very knowledgeable and resourceful, but always look after the less experienced ones.
  • Getting the group working together is an important skill.
  • Starting the conversations and mixing the new passengers with the more seasoned hands soon makes a lot of advice available to all. Most build their own confidence up fairly quickly.
  • I always have a personal plan for free days, and pass this on to the group so they can join me if they wish. Sometimes I change it to fit in with what some members of the group want to do, especially for newcomers who want a bit of support.
  • Ffestiniog Travel’s policy of using rail passes wherever possible does facilitate flexibility and independence.
  • A primary skill is solving potential minor issues before the group are aware, so what they see is a perfect seamless tour. If the group think the leader is doing nothing, then it shows the leader is on top of the job!

My reward as tour leader is simple - Ffestiniog Travel passengers are a joy to be with. They bring so much knowledge and so many ideas. Whilst many may be railway enthusiasts, they also have many wider interests, which make for interesting conversations.

I love Norway (and the rest of Scandinavia). I did quite a bit of work for IBM Nordic in Kobenhavn (Copenhagen) and have travelled extensively in the region using an InterRail pass. Trondheim in Norway is a favourite with its splendid Nidaros Cathedral (dedicated to St.Olav). I was in Trondheim when the city celebrated its 1000th anniversary in 1997, and enjoyed many concerts going on to midnight and beyond (still warm and light) in the main city square.

It is difficult to pick a favourite tour as I find something remarkable in every one (this is a reflection on how the tours are put together by a really highly skilled team). If I had to choose I would say the Narrow Gauge Steam in Eastern Germany, especially the Harz Railway and the line on Rugen.

In 2019 I found the Jindrichuv Hradec to Nova Bystrice narrow gauge line in the Czech Republic fascinating. Also on the same tour, the Waldviertelbahn narrow gauge lines from Gmund in North Austria were a treat as was a visit to Cesky Krumlov, which far exceeded my expectations. 

I still haven’t made it to the summit of Snowdon so this is definitely on my ‘to do’ list. I've tried four times on the Snowdon Mountain Railway, but weather conditions prevented each train getting to the summit! The railway to Narvik in the north of Norway is one I've never managed to travel on, even though I've tried many times, so I would still like to do that.

On the Slow Train by Michael Williams
Ticket to Ride by Tom Chesshyre
 

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