Reminiscence and celebration on care home trip to heritage centre

Residents of a Bicester care home found an outing to a railway museum was a trip down memory lane.

World War Two recollections came flooding back when the residents of Launton Grange paid a visit to Buckinghamshire Railway Centre in Quainton, near Aylesbury.

For the 13 residents and four members of the care team, the day out was a cause for celebration as well as reminiscence: the group outing was their first since the start of the pandemic.

Helen Steele, 94, found travelling on an old style steam train triggered memories of her evacuation.

Helen, who was just 12 when war broke out in 1939, said: “I was evacuated during the war to live with relatives in Scotland. The trip up from London took at least eight hours – it seemed to go on forever.

“I can remember the moment the train left the station and I waved to my mum. I was travelling on my own and I had a suitcase and a name tag pinned to my blazer.

“When I arrived in Edinburgh, my uncle was waiting for me.

“The railway centre visit has made me want to go on lots more day trips. A man put a driver’s hat on my head! He was a very nice man.”

To Joyce Teat, 96, sitting in the vintage carriage reminded her of day trips and holidays in her younger years.

She said: “The train was just like going to the countryside. I could remember waving out the window to people I was leaving behind.”

But for former engineering patternmaker Barry Newton, 74, dreams of becoming an engine driver would have to wait for another day. A miniature steam train enthusiast since his teens, he was the first to suggest a trip to the heritage centre, but was unwell on the day of the outing . A second trip is planned.

Danielle Garnon, lifestyle manager, Launton Grange, which is operated by Ideal Carehomes, said: “This was the residents’ first big day trip since lockdown and there had been much discussion about where we would go.

“In the end, the railway centre was chosen because several of our residents used to work in the railway industry and a couple are keen model railway enthusiasts.

“We took a mini bus and all went as a big group and enjoyed the day out, of course adhering to Covid guidelines. We got to sit in the carriage of the steam train and have a ride. This brought back many memories and created a lot of conversation about being evacuated and other times on a train.

“After enjoying a really lovely day out, we know this will be the first of many exciting trips initiated by the residents.”

Attractions at the heritage centre include vintage railway carriages from the earliest days of the 20th century, including one used by Winston Churchill during WWII, an LNWR locomotive dating back to 1847, a Victorian station building and a 1km long miniature railway.

Launton Grange, a residential and dementia care home on Skimmingdish Lane, Bicester, opened in October 2020. Operated by Ideal Carehomes, it is currently welcoming new residents.