Our top Christmas steam train experiences for the whole family in 2023

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Heritage railways up and down the country are getting into the festive spirit. Whether it’s the opportunity to meet Santa, impressive light displays, on board pantomimes or more relaxed Christmas dining, your local heritage railway is undoubtedly doing something to celebrate the season.

See below for some of our top recommendations.


Our top 10 Santa Special steam trains

Plenty of heritage railways up and down the UK are giving kids the chance to travel aboard a festive steam train and meet the man himself, often with a special gift included in the ticket price. Here are a few we recommend.

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Avon Valley Railway

What? Enjoy a festive mince pie or biscuit as you steam away on your fifty minute steam train ride with Santa. Then head back to Bitton Station and meet Santa again, with all the good boys and girls receiving a special present – a Avon Valley Railway reindeer-themed plush toy. Plus you can meet some Christmas donkeys at the station!

Alternatively, why not meet Santa as you enjoy a festive breakfast or afternoon tea on board?

When? Saturday 25 November to Sunday 24 December 2023

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Where? Bitton Station, Bath Rd, Bitton, Bristol BS30 6HD

How much? Tickets from £22

Bo’ness & Kinnell Railway

What? Take your reserved seat and enjoy a round steam train trip in a festively decorated carriage, then get off at the North Pole (aka Birkhill!) and meet with Santa, with all children receiving a special present and complimentary festive refreshments available for everyone.

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When? Saturday 2 December to Sunday 24 December 2023

Where? Bo’ness, EH51 9UD

How much? Tickets from £21.50

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Brecon Mountain Railway

What? Travel along from Pant Station to Pontistcill where your kids can meet Santa in his grotto and receive a special present from the man himself. There will also be mince pies, mulled wine or soft drinks available for the adults. While you’re there, why not take a look around the workshop and see where the steam locomotives and carriages are repaired?

When? Saturday 25 November to Thursday 21 December 2023

Where? Pant Station, Merthyr Tydfil, Mid Glamorgan CF48 2DD

How much? Tickets from £19.75

Bure Valley Railway

What? Depart from Aylsham Station on the Festive Express steam train and sit back in your heated private compartment with some festive refreshments. Enjoy a trip through the wintery landscape to Brampton before turning around and heading back to Aylsham, where you’ll have a chance to visit Santa and his elves and receive a personalised present.

When? Saturday 2 December to Sunday 24 December 2023

Where? Aylsham Station, Norwich Road, Aylsham, Norfolk, NR11 6BW

How much? Tickets from £22

Cholsey and Wallingford Railway

What? Join Santa’s elves on a memorable steam train journey on this fantastic heritage railway before meeting Santa, with a special gift for every child. Adults will also receive a nice mince pie and complimentary festive drink while children get a drink and sweet treat from the Christmas Market before departure.

When? Saturday 25 November to Saturday 23 December 2023

Where? Wallingford Station, 5 Hithercroft Road, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 9GQ

How much? Tickets from £20

East Lancashire Railway

What? Meet Santa Claus as you travel on an enchanting steam journey through the Irwell Valley. Start off at Bury Bolton Street Station, where you’ll see Mrs Claus, the talking Christmas Tree, and even a choir of carol singing polar bears. Then climb aboard and enjoy a journey to Rawtenstall and back, featuring a brass band playing festive classics and a visit from Santa with a gift for each child. Plus, there are mince pies and a festive cocktail or soft drink for adults too!

When? Saturday 25 November to Sunday 24 December

Where? Bury Bolton Street Station, BL9 0EY

How much? Tickets from £22.50

East Somerset Railway

What? Take a steam train journey to the North Pole station on the East Somerset Railway’s Santa Special train, where the kids get a chance to meet Santa, and even receive a gift, if they’ve been good! Meanwhile, enjoy some refreshments, including mulled wine and mince pies. Kids will also receive a goody bag of train activities, including colouring sheets, crayons and a Santa quiz sheet. Oh and there’s a balloon modeller too!

When? Saturday 2 December to Sunday 24 December 2023

Where? Cranmore Railway Station, Cranmore, Shepton Mallet, Somerset BA4 4QP

How much? Tickets from £20

Great Central Railway

What? Celebrate the festive season with a steam train journey on the Grand Central Santa Express. Kids get the chance to meet the man himself and receive a special gift, as well as an exciting Christmas Activity pack and a drink and treat. Adults aren’t forgotten either, with a chance to enjoy a complimentary Irish Cream Liqueur and mince pie as they sit back and watch the fantastic scenery through the window.

When? Saturday 25 November to Sunday 24 December

Where? Loughborough Central, Great Central Road, Loughborough, LE11 1RW

How much? Tickets from £24.00

North York Moors Railway

What? Step aboard the Santa Express at either Pickering or Grosmont Station for a magical ride through the beautiful North York Moors – with snow, if you’re lucky! Whilst onboard, kids will get he chance to meet Santa and receive a special soft toy present.

When? Saturday 25 November to Sunday 24 December

Where? Pickering & Grosmont Stations, North Yorkshire Moors Railway

How much? Tickets from £30

Severn Valley Railway

What? Start at Kidderminster Station with a walk through a winter wonderland and a complimentary hot drink and sweet treat before boarding the Santa Train. Steam along in your own private compartment or exclusive personal table, taking in the incredible views all the way to Arley station, where you can enjoy a live stage show featuring Santa himself. Upon rejoining the train, you’ll find Santa has left each child a special, named gift on their seat.

When? Saturday 25 November to Sunday 24 December 2023

Where? Kidderminster Railway Station, Kidderminster, DY10 1QZ

How much? Tickets from £37.75 per person


All aboard the Polar Express!

Bring the magic of the beloved movie to life this winter with a trip on the iconic Polar Express.

Up and down the UK, guests are given the chance to experience the Polar Express from the 2004 movie for themselves, watching scenes from the screen play out in front of their eyes, including the dancing chefs delivering you a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

Soon the train arrives at the North Pole, where Santa gets onboard to hand out silver sleigh bells, the “First Gift of Christmas” to each passenger.

And just like the kids in the movie, guests are encouraged to wear pyjamas!

There are lots of Polar Express trains running throughout the UK this December, including those below.

Birmingham

When? Saturday 2 to Saturday 23 December 2023

Where? Birmingham Moor Street Station, Queensway, Birmingham, West Midlands, B4 7UL

How much? Tickets start from £49.00

Caledonian Railway

When? Saturday 2 December to Sunday 17 December 2023

Where? Brechin Station, Park Road, Brechin, DD9 7AF

How much? Tickets start from £28.95

Churnet Valley Railway

When? Saturday 18 November to Saturday 23 December 2023

Where? Froghall Station, Froghall, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire ST10 2HA

How much? Tickets start from £34.95

Edinburgh Waverley

When? Thursday 30 November to Friday 22 December 2023

Where?  Edinburgh Waverley Station, Edinburgh, EH1 3EG

How much? Tickets start from £39.95

Mid-Norfolk Railway

When? Saturday 11 November – Saturday 23 December 2023

Where? Dereham Railway Station, Station Rd, Dereham NR19 1DF

How much? Tickets start from £31.95

South Devon Railway

When? Friday 24 November to Saturday 23 December 2023

Where? The Station, Dartbridge Road, Buckfastleigh, Devon, TQ11 0DZ

How much? Tickets start from £33.95

Swanage Railway

When? Friday 17 November to Saturday 30 December 2023

Where? Swanage Railway Station, Railway Station Approach, Swanage, Dorset, BH19 1HB

How much? Tickets start from £41.38

Wensleydale Railway

When? Friday 10 November to Saturday 23 December 2023

Where? Leeming Bar Station, Leases Rd, Leeming Bar, Northallerton, DL7 9AR

How much? Tickets start from £33.95


Something a little different

Kids too old to want to meet Santa or already done the Polar Express? Whatever your situation, here are few of our recommendations for something a bit different to check out this holiday season.

Train of Lights, Dartmouth Steam Railway

What? This award-winning experience is an absolute must-see. Take a magical journey on a steam train hauling vintage carriages decked out with thousands of breath-taking Christmas lights, both inside and out. Hop aboard at Queen’s Park Station and sit back for a journey through the enchanted forest, featuring brilliant light displays. You can even add-on a meeting with Santa!

When? Friday 24 November to Saturday 30 December 2023

Where? Queen’s Park Rd, Paignton, TQ4 6AF

How much? From £20

Help Santa find his missing reindeer! At Didcot Railway Centre

What? For something a bit different, head along to Didcot Railway Centre, where it’s all hands on deck to find Santa’s missing reindeers before Christmas Eve! Explore the centre’s collection of steam locomotives, carriages, wagons, buildings and artefacts across the 21 acre museum whilst you locate the missing reindeers. Receive a special passport and stocking as you enter and a small gift for every reindeer you find, all culminating in a visit with Santa in his giant toy workshop.

When? Saturday 2 December to Saturday 23 December 2023

Where? Didcot Railway Centre, Didcot, Oxfordshire, OX11 7NJ

How much? From £20

Carol Train, Talyllyn Railway

What? If you love a good Christmas carol as much as you love a good stream train ride, this is the festive activity for you! Hop aboard at Tywyn Wharf for an evening of festive cheer, plus complimentary mulled wine and a mince pie, then return to the Wharf for some live carol singing with Totaleigh Music!

When? Saturday 16 December

Where? Wharf Station, Tywyn, Gwynedd, LL36 9EY

How much? From £5

Breakfast or Afternoon Tea with Santa, Avon Valley Railway

What? Enjoy a tasty breakfast or afternoon tea of sandwiches and festive cakes in the first class dining carriage of a festively themed steam train, all while taking in the scenic views out the window. And as you eat there will be a special guest making a visit. Santa will stop by to say hello to everyone and hand out presents to all the children.

When? Saturday 2 December to Sunday 24 December

Where? Bitton Station, Bath Rd, Bitton, Bristol BS30 6HD

How much? From £27.50


Top Christmas steam train experiences for adults 2023

Christmas trains aren’t just for kids either. There’s plenty going on up and down the country this Christmas for heritage railway fans who are looking for something a little more relaxed, or a little more boozy!

Here are some of our recommendations.

Christmas Moorlander Lunch, North York Moors Railway

What? Enjoy a delicious festive meal while travelling through the scenery of the North York Moors National Park. Get your family or friends together and climb onboard a festively-festooned heritage carriage: Pullman Opal, Pullman Robin, Pullman Jos de Crau and Mk1 Carriage No. 4817. You’ll start out with a nice glass of mulled wine before enjoying a decadent three-course meal as you steam through the beautiful countryside.

When? Tuesday 28 November to Sunday 7 January 2023

Where? Grosmont Station, YO22 5QE

How much? £85 per person

Carol Train, Talyllyn Railway

What? If you love a good Christmas carol as much as you love a good stream train ride, this is the festive activity for you! Hop aboard at Tywyn Wharf for an evening of festive cheer, plus complimentary mulled wine and a mince pie, then return to the Wharf for some live carol singing with Totaleigh Music!

When? Saturday 16 December

Where? Wharf Station, Tywyn, Gwynedd, LL36 9EY

How much? From £5

Golden Arrow Christmas Dining Trains,The Bluebell Railway

What? Relive the golden age of rail travel with a recreation of the famous “Golden Arrow” Pullman service which once linked London Victoria and Paris Gare Du Nord. Aboard luxurious Pullman Cars Christine and Fingall you’ll step back in time to the 1920s and 30s, while 1st Class Dining carriage Sapphire relives the 1950s. You’ll enjoy your pick from a tasty Christmas menu as the train steams through the Sussex countryside to East Grinstead and back.

When? Sunday 19 November to Saturday 23 December 2023

Where? Sheffield Park Station, East Sussex, TN22 3QL

How much? From £125

Mince Pie Specials at the Worth Valley Railway

When? Tuesday 26 December to Monday 1 January 2024

What? Extend the season with something a little more relaxed and take a cosy steam trip through the breathtaking scenery along the Worth Valley. With a complimentary mince pie and a buffet car serving real ale, wine, spirits, hot and cold drinks and snacks, you can sit back, relax, and let the hectic Christmas energy melt away…

Where? The Railway Station, Haworth, West Yorkshire BD22 8NJ

How much? Day rover ticket from £18.90

Festive Gin Trains, Severn Valley Railway

What? Are you a fan of both gin and steam trains? If so, the Festive Gin Trains at SVR couldn’t be more perfect for you. Step on board at Kidderminster and enjoy a Gin and Tonic made with Piston Gin’s London Dry. Then sit back and enjoy the ride as you taste the exclusive-to-the-SVR Coal Infused Gin, which will be available to purchase for an extra special Christmas gift or treat.

When? Tuesday 19 December to Thursday 21 December

Where? Kidderminster Railway Station, Kidderminster, DY10 1QZ

How much? £220 for a table of 4


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