THIS month's fad for my five-year-old is Thomas the Tank Engine, so last weekend we went down to York to the National Rail Museum to look at engines.

To complete the rail experience, we took the train. It was an Arriva TransPennine. It was over-priced, over-crowded and filthy.

The first thing that struck us as we clambered aboard was that, although it was 10.50am, the train stank of stale beer.

The second thing that struck us was the luggage. The note on the side of the train said that it terminated at Manchester Airport. This would hint that the rail company was expecting passengers who might be flying abroad, possibly on holiday, possibly carrying a case or two. So there was just enough room to squeeze a shopping trolley behind the seat-backs.

Unable to get a seat, we stood in the carriage-end and watched two large hairballs - like the kind the cat sicks up - roll around the sticky patches on the carpet. The toilet door was beside us, and if we dared look inside there were unmentionable stains on the floor.

At the museum we looked at all the wonderful wood and brass lamps in the clean carriages from the last century. Then we had a ride in a goods wagon pulled by a steam engine.

"This is where they put the cattle on market days and the luggage if you were going on holiday," said the museum assistant. The children looked at him in amazement - not at the idea of cows riding on a train, but at the concept of there being a big room on a train so that valises didn't spill out from under seats and so that the tea trolley could move up and down the aisle unhindered.

On the way home, we again had the misfortune to catch an under-sized two coach Arriva TransPennine. This time, we waded through the debris on the carpet to the one vacant seat.

My daughter squeezed onto my knee and we read her new Thomas book. In it, the Fat Controller said Henry was a very naughty engine and sent him to the engine shed to think about how he could mend his ways and become really useful.

One hopes that Arriva has a similar management training strategy.

ON sale for just 10p at York station was the Selby Post, a local newspaper which is to journalism what the Eurovision Song Contest is to popular culture.

Its front page story concerns a young lady who hit a deer in her car - a sad but simple tale until you learn that this is not an isolated incident. "The bambi-bag total" stands at "a tear-jerking five", and now there are fears that the area "is being over-run by the animals and may be beseiged by beer-swilling numpties who think they are Robert De Niro".

Roe deer, we are told, "are popular with hunters and attract stubbly-chinned poachers with baseball caps and tins of Budweiser, as well as rogues from the North-East."

Inside the paper, under the headline "That's what it's all about", is a story which begins: "A hokey-cokey shoplifter who put a leg of lamb into her bag and then took it back out again was left shaking it all about when she appeared before Selby magistrates this week."

Just like Eurovision, the Post is superbly naff and unmissable - I'm even going on an Arriva train to buy a copy.