Because of planned engineering work, this Belmond British Pullman trip, which was originally down as a Surrey Hills, was re-routed round Kent. This made for extra planning before the trip, but also gave us the opportunity to fit Clan Line with the Golden Arrow regalia.
We arrived at London Victoria seven minutes early, and, despite the rain, a good number of the passengers came forward to see and photograph the locomotive.
Departure was one minute late, but the climb away from the station was impressive. By Bellingham, we were one minute ahead of schedule, but were brought to a stand at Shortlands Junction, after catching up with a preceding train. After another superb climb, we were forced to stop at Shortlands Station. Due to this, by Swanley, we were running eight minutes behind schedule. Despite some fine running, and excellent performance by both loco and crew, speed restrictions meant that we were unable to make the time up, and we arrived late at Margate. Because of media coverage the previous day, we were greeted by a platform-full of spectators, which was very nice to see.
Departure from Margate was about ten minutes late, but the footplate crew soon started clawing back some of the lost time. We had made up two minutes by Minster, but we were brought to a standstill at Sturry by a lineside trespass incident. By the time that we reached Ashford International, our pathing stop had been used up.
Arrival at our next pathing stop, at Lenham Loop, was about eight minutes late, and late running service trains meant that we were further delayed, and we didn't reach our water stop at Harrietsham until six minutes after the scheduled time. Here, we were, again, greeted by a platform-full of people who had come to meet us. Sterling work by the support meant that we were only one or two minutes late as we left.
Despite some good running, we were again held up, this time by reports of a bridge strike in the area. At Swanley, we were delayed by going through platform three rather than the planned platform one. This meant that, by the time that we got back to Shortlands, we were about twenty five minutes late. Here, we were re-routed via Kent House and Herne Hill, and we finally arrived back at Victoria twelve minutes late.
At the end of the day, we had some happy passengers, after a tour round a very demanding route.