Steam train trips in the UK are offered by an abundance of heritage and tourist railways. We are very fortunate to have the choice of visiting a steam railway in most parts of the country. Indeed, the Heritage Railway Association report that an incredible 185 of member organisations regularly open to the public. I’d like to thank all the campaigners, volunteers and staff that strive to keep the railways open and running.
I have been fortunate to enjoy train trips at several heritage railways. Listed below are my reports from a railway enthusiast’s perspective. Click on the photos or headings to read my full reports and see all the photos.
The North Norfolk Railway operates between Sheringham and Holt through a delightful area of North Norfolk designated as being of outstanding natural beauty. There are historic stations, a museum of the railway’s history, a museum signal box and a children’s activity carriage. There are also buffets and souvenir shops. However my review concentrates on the locomotives and the beautifully restored carriages. I also managed to take a look into the shed to see what work was going on at the time of my visit.
Take a steam train trip on one of the resident locomotives and enjoy beautifully restored carriages. This railway regularly has visiting ‘big name’ locomotives and on my visit I was lucky enough to see Tornado 60163. The railway has seven and a half miles of track through varying scenery and is well worth a visit.
The scenery on this picturesque line is breathtaking from the sea views across Torbay to the River Dart. I thoroughly enjoyed my train trip travelling in the Devon Belle Observation Carriage. This historic coach, built in 1917 originally as an ambulance vehicle for the London & North Western Railway, has recently undergone a major refit and the result is superb. At Kingswear, you can take the ferry to Dartmouth station. You will find yourself at the only station in the country where trains have never stopped!
It’s easy to take a train trip on the Epping Ongar railway if you are visiting London. It can be conveniently accessed from London Underground. Vintage buses start from the front door of Epping and Shenfield stations, whisking you back in time to period stations. I have to confess that I love heritage buses so to start my visit this way was an added treat!
The West Somerset Railway is the longest heritage railway in England. You can start your train trip in the depths of the countryside and finish with sparkling sea views. Covering 20 miles of countryside and 10 beautifully restored stations, the WSR is a delight. The West Somerset Railway has a fantastic stable of locomotives. You can never be sure which ones will be hauling your steam train. You might get a very nice surprise as I did when I last visited.
Based at Dereham, Norfolk, the Mid Norfolk Railway operates along 11 miles of track to Wymondham. Travelling on a heritage DMU here gives a great opportunity to view the line ahead from behind the driver’s cab. There are not many train trips in the UK that afford such a vantage point. Winner of Heritage Railway of the Year Award in 2013, this railway is a great day out for enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike.
In April 1969, I read an article in Railway World magazine about the closure of the Waverley Route. The report had a profound effect on me which has stayed with me throughout my personal professional life. However on 6 September 2015 I’m delighted to say that the line re-opened from Edinburgh to Tweedbank. Passengers can once again enjoy train trips on this line. Run by Network Rail, the line accommodates the occasional steam train trip and I was very fortunate to get a ticket for one of these memorable journeys.
Whilst not technically a ‘steam train trip’ since the carriages do not move, Carriages of Cambridge is a fantastic place to visit. A visit to a restaurant located in a colonial railway station in India provided the inspiration. The tea rooms offer a complete railway experience. You enter through a railway station complete with signal box. Dining is atmospheric in Pullman Style Carriages alongside platforms and a 1920’s station house. I was delighted to come across this new addition to railway preservation and only wished I lived a bit nearer!
I have always wanted to visit the Llangollen Railway but had never been. As part of the trip, we had organized a visit to the workshop and saw working being done on the LMS Patriot project locomotive 5551 The Unknown Warrior. There was also partial new build steam locomotive 6880 Breton Grange, LNER locomotives and GWR Pannier 6430. Finally a ride on a Class 104 DMU brought back some happy memories.
The Telford Steam Railway has considerable industrial heritage. It is now home to a variety of locomotives and rolling stock including Barclay fireless locomotive works number 1944, Diesel Shunters, Class 108 power cars and Class 37 locomotives. I report on a tour with one of the fantastic Telford Steam Railway volunteers as our guide.
The Heritage Railway Association
The Heritage Railway Association or HRA is a voluntary run trade association representing Heritage & Tourist railways, related Museums, Tramways, Cliff Lifts, Railway Preservation Groups and related organisations. An interactive map showing all of the heritage railways can be found on the website of the Heritage Railway Association here.
I hope to enjoy more steam train trips in the future. It’s great to see both steam and diesel locomotives re-creating the past. I also enjoy the little details that make the railways so authentic. Of course, being a railway engineer, a glimpse of the engineering works makes my day out complete! I’ll update this post and share with you what I love about these great days out. If you’ve had a great day out at a heritage railway, please let us know in the comments below.