Glorious fried breakfasts, free coffee, Charlie Watts, Jenny Agutter and a carriage full of gun-dogs - why Caroline Boucher loves the 10.06 to Penzance. A few years back there was a huge outcry when First Great Western threatened to axe the sleeper train to Cornwall. I’d be much sadder if they did anything to jeopardise my favourite train journey in the world – the 10.06 from Paddington to Penzance.
There’s a whole raft of reasons that this is such a special train – from its speed (fast from Reading to Exeter) to its quirkiness which starts at Paddington where guessing the platform it leaves from will always end in defeat. It is entirely random and crowds of people hurtle from one side of the station to the other. I regret to tell you that I travel first class. Stop howling now. Book in advance and do the maths on a tank of car fuel and wear and tear on your nervous system and head for coaches G and H with a clear conscience. Fellow passengers could well include Charlie Watts (immaculately suited behind the Herald Tribune, he gets off at Exeter); Michael Caines, Michelin chef from Gidleigh Park, ditto station; explorer Robin Hanbury-Tenison (Bodmin Parkway) and Jenny Agutter (gets off after me, but I think it’s Penzance). Jenny travels with her long-haired dachsund. She usually sits in the little bit between coach G and the buffet car and spreads out dog bed, bowls, provisions and her adorable dachsie does nose-to-nose with other dogs. Which brings us to dogs. Warmly welcomed and travel for free! In winter, well-trained gundogs tuck under the tables while their tweedy owners stow their shotguns in the overhead racks. There have been sightings of the train held at Exeter by the guard while a new puppy is walked up and down the platform to do its business and save the train carpets. The rest of us try to keep our pets out of the main aisle where the next joy – the trolley – has been known to mow them down. The trolley does frequent trundles up and down first class with FREE coffee, teas, waters, biscuits, crisps, fruitcake, nuts etc. Best saved for after midday. The savvy traveller will have ordered breakfast from the Travelling Chef (no need to leave your seat, they come round with a pad) when the train is still crawling through Notting Hill. Savvy, because due to glorious quirkiness, the train only leaves Paddington with two dozen eggs. So you need to get your egg order in fast. The range of accompaniments is huge – bacon (you can stipulate the degree of crispiness), sausage, beans, smoked salmon, fabulous fried bread. Bliss. And the chef has been known to exit the kitchen at last orders and dispense unwanted sausages to the dog population. Another quirk is that it’s always, always absolutely freezing. Vicious air-conditioning in all seasons, so bring a sweater in August. So it hurts me to share this gem. You may already bask in its rays. But if you haven’t already done so, give it a go.