THIS is the Christmas Railroad to Wembley, almost a flight of fancy, though things get off to a distinctly unfestive start.

At Darlington station, a family misses the London train by seconds, claims that they were held up at the ticket barrier. Dad chooses to take it out on the nearest porter, or however those Will Hay toters are these days addressed.

It’s extraordinary how many parts of the human anatomy can be employed as terms of abuse, and not all of them where the poor chap can very comfortably stick his sprig of holly.

Feelings of good will to all are further endangered when the TransPennine Express to Manchester, chronically under-sized and incorrigibly overcrowded, is held for half an hour at Thirsk. They blame a failed train in front.

Trains these days seem to fail even more often than I failed O-level maths (and that’s an awful lot of failure.)

We’re off to watch Avro v West Auckland, FA Vase 3rd round, the usual fellow travellers depleted by illness, injury and a chap on loan to Prague Christmas market.

Avro’s based on Oldham’s outskirts, formed in 1936 as a works team of the acronymical Avro Aircraft Company, best remembered for building more than 7,000 Lancaster bombers and they, in turn, for helping blast holes in German dams.

Last Saturday’s programme calls the match a David and Goliath contest. Faced with the Mohne dam the Lancaster crews probably thought much the same thing.

The company was begun in 1910 by Alliott Verdon Roe, who’d left school at 14, become fifth engineer on a merchant ship and in 1907 won £75 in a Daily Mail competition to design a model aircraft.

A second factory, 1.5m sq ft and reckoned Europe’s biggest building, was built at Yeadon, near where Leess/Bradford airport now flies. It employed 17,500 people, the roof planted with fields and hedges so as to confuse the enemy.

Though the company was taken over by Hawker Siddeley in 1963, the football club still carries the Avro crest, the programme’s called The Bombardier and their wings are there to be clipped.

The website terms them a not-for-profit club. Any amount of Ebac Northern League outfits could similarly be described, though most of them don’t really mean to be.

Rather curiously, the “Forum” page of the website seems devoted to the efficacy or otherwise of Actavis cough syrup.

The club motto’s Carpe diem – Live for today – and that may be appropriate, too.

Both teams are enjoying long unbeaten runs, West in the Ebac Northern League first division and Avro in the North West Counties League first division north, that of Daisy Hill, Lower Breck and AFC Liverpool.

The programme calls it the first division south, but that’s just a navigational error. Ask the RAF, even those guys sometimes got lost.

There’s just enough elbow room on the way down to read the morning papers, The Times reporting the findings of a Harvard professor that a plate should contain no more than six chips.

Chips are starch bomb, he says – again appropriately – The Times adding that the first fish and chip shop was opened by Granny Duce in Oldham in 1854.

Oldham’s glories notwithstanding, the claim appears apocryphal, though Granny Duce certainly knew her onions.

Fat in the fire, we determine to scoff the biggest bag of chips in Lancashire but are thwarted because the tea hut only sells meat and potato pies. It’s possible that they may have a claim to fame of their own, the only meat and potato pies to be vegetarian.

Oldham Central’s reached, via Oldham Mumps, on the MetroLink tram from Manchester Victoria. Mumps, we may previously have explained, has nothing to do with a nasty glandular illness but was that part of town frequented by the mumpers – the beggars.

Just up the road from the station we take shelter in the Ashton Arms on Clegg Street – friendly pub, pleasantly idiosyncratic – and it’s there that an uncommon dispute arises.

A highlight of these occasions is Mr Nigel Brierley’s “True or false” quiz, set by Nigel and tackled, as a team, by everyone else.

“The flushing toilet,” says Nigel, “was invented by Thomas Crapper. True or false?”

Contrary not just to popular belief but to Nigel’s, it’s false. Though it’s one of precious few answers I know for certain – a rare example of plumping the heights – Nigel insists otherwise.

Back home, the internet confirms it. Though Tommy Crapper was indeed a Victorian plumber of some renown, his skills lay elsewhere. “Contrary to lore,” says the website, “Crapper did not invent the pseudo-eponymous bathroom appliance.”

Outside in the wet, the place seems near-deserted. Whether from mumps or some other affliction, Oldham town centre has died.

Like the Railroad to Wembley team, West Auckland are also missing key players. Star strikers Nathan Fisher and Amar Purewal are both out, the former with ligament bother the latter with sickness and diarrhoea.

They’ve drafted in Paul Connor, 40 next month, who hit 85 goals in 384 Football League appearances – most memorably at Rochdale, just up the road – but who has retired three times and not started a game for a year.

“We still have enough to win,” insists long-serving West general manager Stuart Alderson, himself a former Newcastle United full back.

Team manager Gary Forrest, chairman of the burgeoning High Street Group – currently building Newcastle’s highest tower block – is also absent, said to be in New York and no doubt measuring the Big Apple for size.

The first half’s goalless, fairly uneventful, though not soporific enough to explain why a little lad’s come in his pyjamas. Perhaps the widely anticipated extra-time coincides with his bed time.

Though the second half’s much livelier, there’s still no score after 75 minutes when Connor comes off. “I feel like the Tin Man,” he tweets later.

The deadlock’s broken a few minutes later when West’s Steve Snaith volleys a glorious opener, the game settled shortly afterwards when Tom Price dribbles through the home defence.

Our question master misses the second goal, having gone in search of a pseudo-eponymous bathroom appliance.

There’s still time for a 22-man skirmish – Avro aggro – after which a home sub, if not quite holed in the water, is sent for a slightly premature bath. Peace returns thereafter.

West Auckland, twice Wembley finalists in recent years, must now travel to face Northern League colleagues Sunderland RCA on January 5. Hebburn Town and Newcastle Benfield, who also survive to the last 32, are both at home. Avro must fight another day.

Though the return TransPennine service again leaves much to be desired, it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas outing. Carpe diem, as probably they say in Oldham..