Sweet dreams on track

Alan has a lifelong love of trains and recently achieved his ambition of travelling to the Scottish Highlands on the Caledonian Sleeper

Age should never be a barrier to following your dreams and living a fulfilled and meaningful life. Watching television one day, keen train enthusiast Alan spotted an advertisement for Caledonian Sleepers and was instantly captivated. Despite being 79 years of age at the time, Alan asked his support team at Hillview if he could take a trip on one.

The team jumped at the chance to support him to book an 80th birthday adventure in April 2023, arranging the logistics together with great attention to detail. Researching the train routes, Alan chose Fort William as his destination from the many available. The opportunity of taking an additional steam train ride across the world-famous Glenfinnan Viaduct was the icing on the cake!

Regular visits

Alan uses a wheelchair, so accessibility featured highly in preparations. First, he and his support team had to travel to London from East Sussex. Next, they needed to reach Euston before boarding the evening train to Fort William.

Many of the arrangements are already well known as Alan likes to visit King’s Cross regularly to watch trains. This is especially true if a steam engine is due to run. Several times a week, he goes to his local station to watch trains or take a train ride. On other days he might play with his drop-down model railway built into the hallway of Hillview, changing signals and driving the trains along the route.

Cancel and re-book

Due to a spell in hospital, Alan’s Caledonian trip in 2023 had to be cancelled. However, not deterred from his expedition, Alan soon resumed his requests once he felt better. Secretly, the team re-booked the trip and surprised Alan with the news just one week before departure. He was overwhelmed with happiness. A 7-night countdown helped him to see the date coming closer and excitement kept him from sleeping the night before!



Complex health needs

Alan has lived at his house for almost 30 years. Some of the Hillview support team have known Alan for even longer, having worked at his previous home, too. Hillview supports adults with severe learning disabilities and complex health needs including epilepsy.

A loving and friendly person, Alan enjoys greeting visitors by opening the door to them. As a younger man, he liked to walk to the gate to open it as people arrived. He also has strong relationships with his housemates and will sit with them holding their hand if they are poorly. About the house, he likes to be helpful sweeping the floors and considers taking out the recycling as his responsibility.

Bonnie Scotland

As you can see by the photos, Alan’s Caledonian trip in April this year couldn’t have been more fun! Practice Lead at Hillview, Kerry Alpin accompanied him with Support Worker Alan. She said: “He loved the whole experience from sleeping on a train to waking up on one.

“The train staff were brilliant. They made him feel very special indeed with a birthday cake and card signed by all of them. There was even a personalised birthday announcement on arrival in Fort William.”

Having set off after 9pm, the trio arrived at 10am the next day ready for their Scottish jaunt. While in the Highlands Alan enjoyed many trips to the pub where he made lots of new friends. He also took a coach trip to Inverness and the steam train to Mallaig travelling across the Glenfinnan Viaduct. This bridge is famous from Hogwarts Express scenes in the Harry Potter films. Accio! (If you know, you know).

Happy belated 80th birthday, Alan.