Kitten von Mew waving to the crowd with The Berliner military steam train behind.
Burlesque in Berlin! Just incase you didn’t get the title of this blog post!
I had been looking forward to this legendary trip for a good year! A chance to see and ride on an original military steam train, see Berlin and be part of this amazing journey…the first of it’s kind in fact!
Having flown from Birmingham to Hamburg (thank goodness they will start flying direct to Berlin from June!) and figuring out the trains (ignore the boards and ask the ticket information guys), we headed to our hotel! After around 9 hours of travelling, we were looking forward to getting refreshed befor eheading out at 6.30pm for my performance at RAF Gatow!
This collection of aircraft hangers and military displays is now in a maze of new housing estates, which have been built on part of the old airfield. A complete treasure hidden away, RAF Gatow is a wonderful museum and was the perfect place for the Airlift Spirit Evening. It brought together ‘puffer nutters’, war veterans and people who wanted to do something unique with their weekend; all of whom I would see again on the locomotive.
RAF Gatow from inside the hanger, taken by Kitten von Mew
The Black Kilts Pipe Band (hilariously only 1 of the guys is Scottish and the rest are German, wonderful chaps!), some Irish dancers (also all German) and a choir were entertaining that evening and I was to do my RAF Fancy Fan Dance, extended with a few songs to lift the mood and ease the Vets in to the fact I was wearing rather little under my wool coat. Atleast most were sitting down, but I wanted them to be of fit enough health to enjoy their steam train trip too…
Kitten von Mew with some of the Black Kilts Pipe Band, Berlin 2012. Taken by Mr Mew
The performance went without hitch and although my little RAF cap refused to behave, I mentally ‘had words’ and it decided to more or less play ball. I sang a couple of my favourite Gracie Fields numbers before slipping into my regular burlesque act, but this time having my spitfire shaped nipple pasties to greet the crowd with a wiggly-jiggly fly-past.
Kitten von Mew at RAF Gatow, Berlin. RAF Fancy Fan Dance performance. Photo taken by a shy fan!
Singing in my RAF outfit at Gatow. Taken by a shy fan!
You ask for security and this is what you get…
The next day was the start of the big event! Our first look at the awesome steam train with 15 carriages and a diesel engine on tow! We all placed outselves on the platform, awaiting the arrival of a looming loco, only to realise that it had pulled in behind us at the wrong platform. I had to laugh as it was a very ‘It’s behind you!!!’ moment. I was wearing my ATS corset for photos and kept it on for a good couple of hours before needing to change into something a little more practical. The weather on Friday had been rather a heatwave, so I think a lot of us were surprised how chilly the following day was!
My ATS corset outfit made by G.Hodder out of an original (moth eaten and no good for wearing) uniform. She did an amazing job and this corset will be making an appearance at War and Peace Show this year!
With a quick stop at Marienborn Station to take a look at the engine and derelict building, it was time to jump aboard for our next stop at Helmstedt. On the Saturday, this stop was particularly lovely! The sun shone and the crowds greated us at the station waving Union Jack flags! The Black Kilts Pipe Band led a procession to the pretty town square where the major and other VIP’s gave a speech from the balcony of an old building…briefly interrupted by the adjacent church bells ringing out God Save The Queen as it struck on the hour.
By this time my feet were rather aching as I forgot that although my 1940’s style shoes look gorgeous, inside the shoe itself, my toes are boshing into each other like a rowdy pub brawl. It was starting to get a little chilly, so after a quick picture with Peter (an artist we met on board who painted a special picture for the journey), Mr. Mew and I staggered back up the steep hill to the station. Luckily we had bought a rather whopping piece of strawberry sponge at a market stall as we didn’t have time for breakfast that morning!
Peter the steam train artist with his specially commissioned painting of The Berliner
After kicking my shoes off in carriage 13 and rearranging my ‘Little Piggies’ into a respectable line, I was soon asked by the official photographer to go to the front of the train, so that when when we arrived at Hannover, we could hop off the train and do a PR shoot at the front of the engine. I put on my Iron Maidens again and staggered drunkenly (but glamorously) to the front carriage. We then tottered to the front of the train for photos and I even managed to get up to pose with the engine driver!
With the engine driver of The Berliner at Hannover Station
After the shoot I asked Mr. Mew for his photo before we got back on the train…Just after pressing the shutter button I realised that the train was pulling away from the station…
Mr Mew by The Berliner at Hannover
Unfortunately we hadn’t realised that this was a scheduled 2 hour stop and in our haste to do the shoot I had left my handbag, money, phone and coat in the carriage. As my toes waved white flags of surrender, Mr Mew and I made our way down the steps to the shopping mall to shelter from the cold breeze and find a seat. Unfortunately unless you were at one of the eateries, there were no seats at all and as we wondered around the shopping centre I stared enviously through the windows of shoe shops with comfy soles and comfy souls in coffee shops enjoying a warm drink.
After an hour and a bit, we managed to blag our way into the 1st Class DB lounge at the station, where we flopped into comfy red leather chairs for half an hour. I had to verbally lash Mr Mew to the seat when he saw the complimentary drinks available as we had already pushed our luck with the manager!
Poor feet. That is the look of someone who doesn’t want to play anymore…
At last we got back on the train and the shoes came back off! Once warmed up my spirits rose again and at 8.10pm we made our way to the restaurant car where the lovely catering staff had prepared us some cheesy potatoes and smoked salmon (our first proper meal of the day!). We could have been eating lobster for all we cared, it was wonderful! On the way there I was cornered by a group of passengers in the bar carriage who requested a song. I don’t know why nerves didn’t take hold, especially with acapella of which I had never done, but I sang We’ll Meet Again and a song from my new act. They all joined in and we had a wonderful time!
The next day I made sure I was dressed dar more comfortably in my Heyday trousers and a knitted top made for me from an original pattern. I was now able to enjoy the journey far more! Learning from mistakes of the previous day, the train manager put the hilarious Rabbi on to the tanoy system with each stop and for regular information updates. He had us all in stitches!
I got to meet some fabulous people on the trip and spent most of Sunday collecting autographs in my souvenir brochure before breaking down in tears at the end of the journey when we pulled into Berlin for the last time. It was a wonderful experience and I met some amazing people who had been on the military steam train in the war and beyond!
Meeting a veteran on the steam train who rode on The Berliner when he was 19 years old!
Name: Sue underwood
Subject: military train
We had such a wonderful weekend on the military train in Berlin, you made it all the more special with your wonderful voice & burlesque show, you were wonderful. we were the loudest on the train, hope you enjoyed our singing. love sue & the rest of the gangxxx
Name: John R. Wesley
Just going through the rushes of my very amateur video of Saturday’s train and have a nice shot of you at Marienborn with the loco. Sally and I will be thinking of you and Richard with much fondness on June 2nd. You really made the event swing from beginning to end – you both must have been exhausted, but what a fantastic contribution you made to an extraordinary and fabulous day.