There’s been a resurgence of interest in steam trains lately and Britain’s leading the way. From heritage railway lines in Somerset to narrow gauge lines in Cumbria, here are the best steam train journeys in Britain today!
Britain’s Getting Steamy
English train enthusiasts Michael Portillo and Chris Tarrant have both been party to bringing interesting snippets about railways to our TV screens. Joanna Lumley has also sparked interest in trains with a documentary recording her epic Trans-Siberian Adventure.
After travelling on the most extreme railways across the world, Tarrant came home to make a programme purely on steam trains in the UK. The Railways that Built Britain was broadcast earlier this year.
No matter what your age, the allure of steam trains can’t be resisted. The sound of the engine’s whistle, along with steam floating past the window, evokes a sense of magic and a time gone by in all of us. Even children find steam trains mesmerising.
A journey on a steam train in the English countryside makes for a great family day out. Steam train dining trips are also a great nostalgic experience.
Whether you choose an afternoon-tea train trip with the family, a romantic dinner excursion with your partner, or a murder mystery event with friends, steam train rides are a great alternative way to take in the views of the English countryside.
Where to Book Your Steam Train Journey
Book tickets direct with the railway lines, or through an experience company like Into the Blue. Steam train rides make a fabulous gift for those who have everything.
Here are 4 of England’s best steam journeys to while away a few hours trundling through the English countryside. What could possibly be better?
The Bluebell Railway – East Sussex
The Bluebell railway is one of the first preserved heritage lines in the country, and one of the prettiest. At certain times of the year, there are bluebells everywhere you look (hence its name).
Trains from the 1880s through to the 1960s run on a 22 mile return trip between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead. Stations look just like they did in the 1930s.
Various events operate throughout the year, including family fun days and historical themed days. On selected dates afternoon tea and silver service dining are available.
West Somerset Railway
A branch line of the old Great Western Railway, the West Somerset Railway is the longest heritage railway in England. Ten stations link a 20-mile scenic journey through the rolling Quantock hills and along the cliffs and coast of the Bristol Channel.
The line runs from Bishops Lydeard at the foot of the Quantock Hills to Minehead, a popular family seaside destination. The views along the journey are varied and beautiful.
Events include galas, family days and day excursions. On selected dates you can opt for cream tea specials, cheese and cider lunches, and fish and chips lunchtime excursions.
Steam Engineman courses can also be booked for real enthusiasts.
North Yorkshire Moors Railway
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is a preserved historic railway stretching for 18 miles through the heart of the North York Moors National Park from Pickering to Grosmont, via Levisham, Newton Dale and Goathland.
There’s also a 6 mile extension over Network Rail’s Esk Valley line to Whitby. The stations along the heritage route have been restored to reflect different periods of the railway’s history. Views on the journey are spectacular.
Popular events include the Railway in Wartime, Steam Galas and Santa Specials. At selected times you can book in advance on the Pullman Dining Train for luncheons, afternoon teas or dinner. Heritage steam or diesel footplate rides can be booked in advance on limited dates in the summer months.
One day digital photography workshops are also on offer led by a professional landscape photographer.
Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway – Cumbria
One of the oldest and longest narrow gauge railways in England, the Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway is affectionately known as La’al Ratty (meaning ‘little railway’).
The steam railway runs through 7 miles of spectacular scenery in the Lake District National Park, at the foot of England’s highest mountains.
The journey tales 40 minutes from the protected nature reserves of the Ravenglass Estuary through ancient woodlands and fells of the Eskdale Valley to Dalegarth at 210ft above sea level.
There are several events on offer throughout the year, including adventure picnics for children and families, photography days, Fish and chip evenings, and steam train rides combined with National Park Ranger guided walks.
Have a fabulous rail journey. Choo Choo!