We stayed at the Ramada Hotel in Loughborough for the weekend so we could visit the heritage Great Central Railway. The hotel was reasonably priced, clean and comfortable. The breakfasts were quite expensive so we chose to eat at nearby Wetherspoon’s. For the evening meals there were plenty of places to eat and drink in this pleasant town.
The heritage railway station was difficult to locate owing to the lack of brown signs or finger posts. However, by using google maps on my Iphone, we managed to find it via a nice canal side path.
We chose to visit on the 1940’s Wartime Weekend. As well as the genuine steam trains there were re-enactors in authentic costumes and the whole effect felt quite realistic. Loughborough Central Station became the British Home Front where there was speeches by dignitaries such as Winston Churchill, the King and Queen, a wedding dress display,a ladies hair salon to obtain the vintage look, a Home Guard display, an unexploded bomb and various singers.
The British and American Military Base was at Quorn & Woodhouse station. Here we saw the military display of guns and uniforms, the Anderson shelter, an agricultural display of vintage vehicles, the land army with working equipment, an air raid with pyrotechnics and fire engine, a Spitfire, a wedding ceremony, stage performances and a Hurricane flypast. Of course while we were there we had to partake of tea and cakes in the vintage tearoom.
Leicester North became Le Birstall, a French themed station. There was a skirmish between the Germans, the British Paratroopers and the French Resistance. We were entertained here by a singer Maddie Brown (Edith Piaf) and there was French bread, wine and cheese on sale.
The most unsettling experience was at Rothley station, which was German Occupied Territory. As well as being authentic it showed the horrors of war, a particularly graphic field hospital with a “surgeon” removing shrapnel from an injured soldier. There was a burlesque singer Liberty Pink (Lily Marlene), a beer bar, a bratwurst cart, military vehicle display, signals equipment, field kitchen, anti-tank guns, officer’s map table and mortar sections. When a train came into the station the re-enactors in German infantry uniform lined up and kept a stern expression, which was quite unnerving. There was a battle re-enactment between the Wehmacht and the 82nd Airborne Division,
A remembrance service and poppy drop from a vintage aircraft took place on the Sunday. It was an evocative commemoration of life in wartime Britain and we found it an interesting experience.