Luxury train trip extra special for Alnwick woman whose dad shovelled coal on the Flying Scotsman

Travelling on the luxury Northern Belle train had a special significance for Alnwick woman Gillian Wealls.
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For during the war her late father, Jack Hawkes, was a fireman on the legendary Flying Scotsman steam locomotive which hauled it to Edinburgh.

“It was a brilliant day,” said Gill, 65, “made even sweeter knowing that my dad once shovelled coal on the engine.

“He was very proud of that and often used to mention it.”

Gillian and Kenneth Wealls on board Northern Belle.Gillian and Kenneth Wealls on board Northern Belle.
Gillian and Kenneth Wealls on board Northern Belle.
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Gill and husband Kenneth, 75, who both worked in IT, caught the 1930s Pullman-style train at 7.30am from York.

She said: “We could have got on at Darlington or Newcastle, but boarding York meant we had longer to enjoy the journey.

“Then we waved to everybody as it steamed through our local Alnmouth station on the way to Scotland.”

The couple travelled in the Northern Belle’s Duart carriage, which for many years formed part of the Royal Train.

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“It was beautiful,” said Gill. “In fact, the whole trip was fantastic. The food was delicious and the attentive staff were brilliant.

“I celebrated my 65th birthday this year while Kenneth was 76, and it’s also our 20th wedding anniversary so this was a sort of triple celebration.”

Gill even took home a piece of coal that fell from Flying Scotsman’s tender as a souvenir to remember both the trip and her father by.

The Northern Belle, which has been voted Britain’s most luxurious train, will be back in the North East on Saturday, December 2, for a special Christmas Lunch trip, picking up passengers at Darlington, Durham and Newcastle.

Fares start at £295. For further details, see