My loyal reader will know by now that am, when it comes to trains, an anorak. Not a serial numbers collector, but I cannot pass by a train without staring lovingly at it. Today, I was totally eclipsed, outclassed, by a trainload of them.

For my birthday, my dearly beloved paid for trip from Bristol to Penzance and back in one day, powered by two heritage class 37 locomotives. What could possibly go wrong? Well, one of the locos wouldn’t start and the other struggled gamely to bring the train to Bristol a mere two and a half hours late. And off we went with a rescue loco, a rail freight class 66, along with the ailing 37. And we made it.

To be honest, I just enjoyed the views and boy do you get views on this journey. The stretch between Starcross and Newton Abbot is worth the price of the ticket all on its own and the road onwards, across soaring bridges and viaducts, uphill and down dale, is not exactly shabby. However, as I was enjoying the ride, hundreds of men were debating the minutiae of a million aspects of diesel locomotives, carriages (these men collect carriage numbers too) and sightings of certain locomotives. All day long. Now, I am an obsessive by normal standards, but this was something else.

They talk in a different language too. There are numerous acronyms and codes and when I foolishly engaged some of them in conversation, I nodded in agreement, or shook my head. I had no idea what they were talking about. But they were happy as Larry, whoever Larry is. They are not kids, either. These are men – and it’s nothing but men – in their sixties and, I suspect, seventies who want nothing more than to measure the speed of a locomotive as it clears Dainton Bank with ten coaches behind. Well, actually, I was quite interested too, But only a little bit.

After over four hours on the train, we spent a mere 90 minutes in Penzance and if I am honest it was far too long. Then we had another four hours back to Bristol. I enjoyed pretty well all of it, if I am being honest, but most of the serious anoraks loved it so much they’d do it all day and every days. Once in a lifetime will do me.