SFFdirect loves to hear of local science fiction and fantasy events. So when East Lancashire Railway informed me of their science fiction themed weekend, ‘Sci-fi on the Sidings‘, I just had to go along! The event covered 17-18 August and I attended on the 18th.
Sci-fi on the Sidings is an annual event, now in its fourth year as one ELR employee informed me. East Lancashire Railway is a Heritage railway running 12 miles through gorgeous Lancastrian countryside. The trains are steam-driven and are from the steam period so it is like stepping into the past. As such, it is perhaps not the first venue that comes to mind for a science fiction weekend (although perfect for steampunk lol), but in fact it works really well.
This is the timetable:
The event included the following:
- Attractions/displays were located at three main stations: Bury Bolton Street, Ramsbottom, and Rawtenstall.
- There were people dressed as characters from the Star Wars movies on the trains themselves, walking up and down the aisles. They were also at the stations.
- There were additional attractions/displays at Bury Transport Museum, which is located across the road from Bury Bolton Street Station.
- All the railway stops had signs of their names in Klingon, which were translated by Klingon Teacher Lieven L. Litaer.
Your ticket gave admission to Bury Transport Museum as well as allowing you to ride the trains all day on the line. It took about 35 minutes to travel from Bury Bolton Street station to Rawtenstall station, which is the last stop. I did this and had about 25 minutes in Rawtenstall before riding back to Bury. There was also time each way to get out and look around Ramsbottom.
When buying your ticket you were given this handy sheet listing the attractions so you didn’t miss any:
Star Wars characters on the train:
Marshmallow man and ECTO1 car from Ghostbusters:
Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder in Bury Transport Museum
Doctor Who display at Bury Bolton Street station. It wasn’t on the attraction list for some reason but it was great because there was a Dalek that followed you about saying ‘Exterminate!’.
Station sign in Klingon
I really enjoyed the day for many reasons. The science fiction attractions and displays were really good and it was fun finding them and ticking them off my list. The children I saw on the day were all having a brilliant time!
But even without the sci-fi, the day would have been great. I really enjoyed the train trip – there is something special about travelling on a steam train. And the countryside the line went through was lovely.
The stations were all period construction and felt very special. There were good places to eat and drink at the stations with great food served in the pub at Bury Bolton Street Station.
Also, the Transport Museum at Bury was very interesting. I was particularly taken by a horse-drawn tram built around 1900. It had been restored so it looked like new, and it was incredible to think that two horses used to pull such a massive metal vehicle.
When Sci-fi on the Sidings runs next year I will definitely be there, and I hope to see you there too! Did you attend this year? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Also, if you’re running a science fiction or fantasy event in the North of England in the future, please let me know and SFFdirect will come along and write about it. You can see my posts on Hull Ferens Gallery and Leeds’ Royal Armouries as examples of articles on local events/places.