I’ve picked 11 heritage railways that I have visited and I can recommend. I think they all make for a great day out and I’ve highlighted what I think is special about each railway. Let me know which railways you have visited and what you think is the best feature of the railway.
Note: in my original list I had 10 railways but my lovely Twitter followers pointed out I had missed out the West Somerset Railway. I must have had a ‘senior moment’ as we used this railway last Summer when we were on holiday. My apologies to the WSR whom I hope will forgive me and thus the list totals 11 !!
11 heritage railways you'll want to visit
I have picked 11 heritage railways that I have personally visited. I live in 'deepest darkest Devon' so this means the railways I visit tend to be based more in Southern England. I hope to get further afield in the next few years.
The Great Central Railway is the UK's only double track, main line heritage railway. It’s the only place in the world where full size steam engines can be seen passing each other – just as it was when steam ruled the rails.
A short heritage railway run by volunteers in the foothills of the Mendips in North Somerset. They run trains about once a month on this iconic line. There is a gift and bookshop, museum, buffet coach, wartime pillbox museum, signalbox and much more to see.
Stunning views from this heritage railway combined with the chance to ride in an observation car make this a fantastic day out. Starting the journey at Paignton (where you can connect with mainline trains) you have views of lovely beaches. After passing through the Greenway tunnel, you see the glorious sight of Dartmouth in the distance. The train actually arrives at Kingswear and you then catch the ferry over to the historic Dartmouth if you wish. Dartmouth has the only railway station in the country that has never had track or trains!
With its gradients and curves you can really experience steam locomotives working hard through the beautiful moorlands of North Yorkshire.
Deep in Bronte country this immaculate branch line with its variety of locomotives and carriages is enthusiasts favourite. The carriages have been very well restored making for great photographs and a very comfortable journey.
One of the many things I like about the isle of Wight railway are the vintage carriages that you can travel in as for me these bring back memories of childhood holidays on the island.
I first visited this railway in the early 1980's when there was hardly any track so to visit it today is a testament to the fantastic efforts of railway enthusiasts.
I can't believe that I missed out the WSR in my original list - the longest heritage railway in England. We used this railway to go on holiday last year as it finishes at the lovely Minehead. I particularly enjoyed the great bookshop they have on the platform at Minehead. I'm adding it to the list now making 11 Heritage railways instead of 10! Sorry WSR but hope I'm forgiven!
The Severn Valley Railway is where I had my stag weekend over 20 years ago so will always be one of my favourite heritage railways notwithstanding the marvelous work by enthusiasts to recreate the steam era there.
At Blaneau Ffestiniog you get two railways for the price of one with a trip to Potmadoc through stunning Welsh scenery and the superb Welsh Highland railway.
The climb from Bodmin Parkway station where you can inter-connect with GWR services certainly challenges a locomotive as the route climbs towards Bodmin general station and is a firm favourite.