The Folk Train is one of those idiosyncratic Sheffield events that you discover upon spending a bit of time in the city. It doesn’t overly promote itself, nor does it need to. It’s something you hear about in conversations, like folklore. And it’s well worth experiencing this fabled railway journey for yourself.
The Sheffield-Edale Rambler Folk Train has been running for over ten years. It departs Sheffield on the fourth Tuesday of every month (usually from Platform 2C but check the departure board at the station) and simply involves a band playing on the regular 19:14 trans-Pennine train in the direction of Manchester Piccadilly. See the programme for upcoming dates.
The Folk Train is a truly one-of-a-kind experience; the surreal combination of folk bands, music lovers, alcohol and regular commuters, on a packed and ageing Northern Rail carriage, makes it feel like something out of the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour. For first-timers it can be a bit stressful as you cram yourself into the carriage, trying to position yourself as close to the band as possible. However, it’s always guaranteed to be a rewarding and uplifting experience. Especially if you enjoy a few drinks beforehand at the Sheffield Tap on Platform 1B.
On arrival in the village of Edale in the High Peak, the Folk Train-ers alight and make their way to the Rambler Inn – a short walk from the station – where the entertainment continues (beware, there’s often a rush to the pub to get served and get a seat). By the time they hop on the 21:28 return train, everyone's warmed up and the smiles on people's faces are priceless, as all are encouraged to sing or clap along with a range of folk acts – from morris dancers to traditional and contemporary folk groups. Before you know it the train's pulling into Sheffield again at 22:03, though most don't want the music or the journey to end.
The Folk Train runs all year round and retains its magic regardless of the season or the weather. In summer, delight in the Peak District scenery on the journey out and enjoy the sights of Edale – which lies in the valley between Mam Tor and Kinder Scout – from the Ramber's beer garden. In winter, wrap up warm, grab a hip flask full of whiskey and enjoy the communal warmth of a packed train carriage and pub.
Whether you’re into your folk music or not, the Folk Train is a really unique, fun and friendly night out, and is one of the little gems that makes Sheffield so special.
- Words by
- Luke Wilson