People very rarely just get on a long distance train for the fun of it. Excluding a few rail enthusiasts, people are going shopping, attending an event, visiting friends and relatives, a funeral, a job interview or whatever.
They need a reason to take the trip. LNER, the operator of trains on the East Coast Main Line, devised a day of activity with the City of Lincoln and advertised a special trip on a scheduled train at 0806 from London Kings Cross to Lincoln on Saturday 3rd July. Luckily, I was already in London.
The excursion did not have a specified return service. Passengers could choose how long they wanted to stay, including overnight. I elected to leave at 1912 and took an East Midlands Train to Newark North Gate where a short connection enabled me to catch the train north to Durham.
Lincoln City and its suppliers pulled out all the stops to welcome the special visitors. There was free food on the platform before you even got on the train, and goodie bags containing vouchers, mead, blackcurrant jam, rapeseed oil, and numerous vouchers for things I might like to do when there. I had booked a first class ticket, and the carriage was not crowded. A breakfast platter arrived with Lincolnshire sausage, bacon, egg, hash browns and baked beans. With so much effort having gone in to planning the Lincoln Experience Train, it must have been galling to find that a signalling problem in the Welwyn area delayed the train by around 50 minutes into Lincoln. 50% refund! More galling still for the customers who knew that had the train been a further ten minutes late, the one hour rule on delay repay would have got them all their money back for the journey! Anyway, breakfast on 3rd July was the first I had on LNER before the first lockdown, and was accompanied by two more bottles of free gin which arrived with plum bread and general jollillity all round.
On arrival, I did not head into the city centre, but headed south on the High Street through the southern outskirts of Lincoln to South Park, where I passed a glorious collection of high-end Victorian houses. At Canwick Road I met a brief shower, where I sought protection in a handy bus shelter. Climbing the hill, I found my objective: the International Bomber Command Centre (IBCC) commemorating 57,861 men and women from 62 nations who died in Bomber Command during WW2. Opened in 2018, the Chadwick Visitor Centre was impressive and informative with videos, exhibition and ephemera, and the spire and engraved metal memorials (in the same type of metal as the Angel of the North) was quite moving. Overlooking the city, the land is on a long lease from Jesus College, Oxford.
It was the first day of the open top tour bus but it doesn’t serve the IBCC. It should. I found a Stagecoach bus into Lincoln, and spent the rest of the afternoon following the Imp trail also inaugurated the same day, making my way north to the Castle, up the very Steep Hill which is a big surprise for anyone who thinks Lincolnshire is flat. I did not have time to see the Magna Carta, but enjoyed an ice cream and a rest on the grass until it was time to walk across to the Cathedral for Choral Evensong at 1730. There were only five adult choristers and a conductor, but they packed a punch. Meanwhile my Delay Repay from LNER was confirmed on Monday morning.