Where to find a steam train tour in the UK

photo by CC user Christine Matthews on geograph.org.uk

Enjoy a tranquil view of the countryside with a steam train tour

Touring the countryside has been a favourite activity of both tourist and natives of the UK. Whether a person is looking for a miniature steam engine for a fun activity or seeking a larger steam engine for travel and touring the options are available in the UK if you know where to look. Here are a few steam train tours available in the UK as recommended by the North’s biggest rail company, Northern Rail.

The Ffestiniog Railway

Located in Porthmadog just south of the Caernafon Bay and west of Chester, the Ffestiniog Railway is the world’s oldest narrow gauge railway. The railway was started in 1832 as a practical solution to the transporting and quarry needs in “The Cob” area as well as in the Blaenau Ffesting slate areas. The problem that was present was that the transportation of slate required that slate travel by sea with multiple shifting of product to other transporters. This, of course, was a tedious and time consuming process. It also resulted in a great deal of broken slate. However, it was not until 1856 that contracts and construction began of the Ffestiniog Railway under Charles Easton Spooner. In 1864 passenger trains began to run and have been ever since.

Today the railway still offers passenger tours along the mountainous region in two of the original trains. If you do not want to sit on the train from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffesting, you can ride from Caernarfon. Prices vary dependent upon where you being your tour. Most tickets can be purchased for around £20 with concession tickets available for senior citizens and disabled persons. Upgrading to first class carries an additional charge of £6- £10 each way per seat. Children under 3 are free.

The railway also has several seasonal tours such as the Halloween rides, Victoria day, and the Santa Rides available.

Isle of Man Steam Railway

If you have ever had a child watch Thomas The Tank Engine then you have seen the isle of Man railway system. The author Rev. Wilbert Awdry was inspired to write the children’s iconic stories after visiting the railway system. The locomotives at the station date back to 1874. It is the longest narrow gauge steam line in Britain. The original route is 15.5 miles long and passes through Peel, Ramsey, and Foxdale. As the train route encompasses a great portion of the isle, tourist can enjoy the heritage attractions of the Isle in a relaxing steam engine carriage.

Operation of the Isle of Man Steam Railway is not year round (but nearly) with operations from February 24th to November 5th. The tour runs from Douglas to port Erin and takes approximately an hour. Tickets are around £12 per adult and £6 for children. Where you may not see Thomas and Percy on the railway system you are sure to have a pleasant experience.

North Bay Rail Way

If you would not prefer to ride in a full sized steam train, the miniature railway train, North Bay Railway may be a pleasant change. The miniature railway starts in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. The miniature railway is one of the oldest in the UK and offers a scenic route from Peasholm Park to Scalby Mills stations. Where the train is not as old as some of the steam engines (as it dates back only to 1931) it does have a historical feel when touring upon it.

What makes the North Bay Railway an exceptional tourist option is the option to be the train driver. If you want to tour the countryside from the driver’s perspective then the North Bay Railway offers you the opportunity to do so with one of the 80+ year old engines. Of course, you will not be at the helm alone, a seasoned conductor will help you along the way. The cost is £109 for the experience and includes you and up to 10 people to ride in the train while you drive.

The North Bay Railway tour is ¾ of a mile and relatively cheap at about £3 one way for adults and £3 for children over 3. The railway also offers an annual pass from November of the year till the following year. However, the annual passes are not valid on their special events such as the Halloween Scream Express or the Santa Special.

If you are in the Northern UK look to see which steam train tours are available. While these are just 3 of the biggest selections offered, there are plenty of options covering a vast span of the UK countryside. Whether you are wanting to enjoy the coast or looking for a tour through the mountains, you have only to find the right railway as there is sure to be one that fits your desire.


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