On the evening of Saturday 7 September, the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway (C&PRR) were running one of their after dark steam hauled dining Murder Mystery trains. Under normal circumstances, actors tell and act out the story but late in the evening in total darkness, a real life death was narrowly averted as a heavily intoxicated person decided that the best way home from the pub was to walk a couple of miles along the railway track from Bledlow to their home in Chinnor.
He did not consider that a 200-ton steam train was operating that evening at up to 25mph carrying actors and diners considering the ’whodunnit’ murder mystery victim. The C&PRR is a volunteer operated railway and in the total rural Chiltern darkness, the crossing keeper at Wainhill spotted a moving light approaching him from the direction of Princes Risborough. He quickly realised this had to be a trespasser on the line who could imminently be run over by the 200-ton steam train.
The crossing keeper contacted the steam hauled dining train guard and instructed him to stop it at Bledlow Cricket Club while he walked down the line to challenge the trespasser. His observation of the situation and quick thinking almost certainly saved the man from a certain death.
Unlike modern trains, the 1928 built Great Western Railway steam locomotive used on the line does not have powerful headlamps and it would have been almost impossible for the driver to have seen a man walking down the track with his back to the train. The train was delayed by about half an hour while the trespasser was cleared from the railway track.
Stan Hart, the C&PRR Health & Safety Director commented, “This was a very foolish thing to do. While we operate a heritage railway at much lower speed than the mainline, our locomotives can be just as deadly, and they cannot stop as quickly as a car. No member of the public should walk along a railway line. It is dangerous and a criminal offence. On this occasion, we do not intend taking action against the offender.”
A C&PRR spokesman commented: “A deliberately scary steamy night service will be operating just before Halloween on Saturday 26 October, but as we all know, railway ghosts are run through as they cannot be run over. One thing is certain, the steam crews will be extra vigilant on the lookout for human trespassers and ghoulish screaming beasts of the Chiltern Hills along the line.”