John Travolta has paid a surprise family visit to a heritage route in Bedfordshire.
Leighton Buzzard Railway, which might optimistically have hoped for sunshine rather than stardust in its 45th tourist season, welcomed the Grease, Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction star following a request from his minders last week.
© Stephen Walter, courtesy TAG Fine Arts
“A call came into Page’s Park station asking whether we were running that day and if we could accommodate a celebrity and his entourage,” says Mervyn Leah, of the volunteer-run site.
“Intrigued, we said yes, and around midday a couple of men with American accents arrived to check out the location.
"They were satisfied with what they saw, and said they would be back for the 2pm departure, asking if we could reserve some seats for them.
“Shortly before 2pm, another phone call came in: they were stuck in traffic, could we please hold the train?
“So the train was held, and in rushed a couple of Range Rovers a few minutes late.
“The occupants headed for their reserved compartment, while one of the entourage settled up at the Booking Office.”
Opened in 1919, the site is one of the country’s best narrow gauge tracks. Some enthusiasts were quick to identify the actor.
“One of our more star-struck members recognised Travolta immediately,” says Leah.
“After their 70-minute round trip, the star agreed to do a quick photoshoot with his small son Ben, for whom the trip had been organised. Then they were away in the Range Rovers to their hotel.
“It was actually the hotel which had suggested the Leighton Buzzard Railway as a destination, having a stock of our leaflets on display.”
Only a few shots bear witness to an extraordinary couple of hours, but the unannounced visit has made for valuable publicity.
“The media reaction was immediate,” adds Leah.
“Photos and stories appeared in at least three national newspapers and our locals, plus regional radio and TV stations.
“It was all over the internet. Our website visit count increased four-fold overnight.”
Travolta’s next film, in which he plays a European tourist, is scheduled for release later this month.