A few years ago, I could have told you there was a heritage railway somewhere in the local area. These days, thanks to being mum to two young boys, I could practically tell you the timetable at Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway.
Being “train daft”, last week, we even celebrated the four-year-old’s birthday with a trip on a steam train –an ideal day out when you’ve got a wide range of ages to please.
It’s a place that stirs wild excitement in the heart of children – but there is also an indefinable magic for grown-ups of all ages.
With the line now extended as far as the new stop at Manuel and the treasure trove that is Scotland’s largest railway museum, it’s a place you could spend a long time in. And that, of course, where the Station Buffet comes in.
Recently, it has been taken over by Karen McCritchie, who is determined to put local produce at the heart of the menu. That’s not, perhaps, what you expect from a place that’s big enough for frequent coach parties and which has to please visitors aged from just a few weeks old to 101.
But sure enough, the burgers are hand-made, as is the coleslaw. The rolls are from Bo’ness baker Oliphants – and the sausage and haggis served at breakfast time are from Patricks of Camelon.
There’s also the intriguing Ash Rabbit Stew, which is only available as a special on certain days, so I couldn’t try it. It is based on a recipe originally cooked in the firebox of a steam train – check out YouTube “B&KR ash rabbit stew” – and I’m assured no rabbits are harmed in its preparation.
What is on the menu, however, is a melt-in-the-mouth burger, which comes on a plate laden with chips, a dressed salad and, of course, that lovely creamy coleslaw.
From the Trainee Train Drivers menu, the boys opt for the Great Train lunch box. Normally, with such meals, the sandwiches are tiny and wrapped in plastic; these are full-size and obviously freshly made. They come with juice, crisps, a piece of fruit, chocolate and crayons. The kids can also take the box on the train.
For those with no desire to become a train driver, an increasingly popular option is the afternoon tea selection of sandwiches and cakes, served in the buffet car with a generous slice of nostalgia. But do book as it sells out quickly.
Back in the Station Buffet, there’s another local speciality on the menu. Yes, cheesecake from Absolutely Sweet of Bo’ness. Hoorah!
Check the timetable as the Station Buffet only opens when the trains are on – but it’s well worth making tracks to.