These drive a steam train days are amongst our most popular activities. For many, the chance to spend a day at a heritage railway surrounded by steam and diesel locomotives is pure nostalgia. Whether you are a keen mechanical fan, or just someone who appreciates the bygone era of rail travel when there were main lines and branch lines to every corner of the country, you will love it.
We've got a variety of train-themed experiences on offer that involve driving or riding on the footplate of a steam or diesel locomotive. All experiences make for a great day out for the whole family, as there is plenty to do on site. Visit the museums and workshops, take a ride on the train and browse the collector's shop. Be sure to book well in advance for these experiences though, as demand can be high! Read more...
Drive a steam train and conquer the valleys and embankments...
• Drive a Churnet Valley Railway steam train • Toplink, Regulator & Cauldon Lowe courses offered • Drive for 12, 23 or 41 miles of this Staffs track • Includes a Churnet Valley polo shirt & certificate
Go nostalgic when you get to meet mechanical greatness in...
Tenterden Town Station, Kent
• Drive a steam train day from Tenterden in Kent • Be the driver, fireman and guard during your day • Assist with operating the gates and a 'run around' • With breakfast, lunch & all the tea you can drink
A truly nostalgic day as you drive a steam train in...
• Spend the day at the Great Central Railway, Leics • Visit the signal box, engine shed & workshops etc • Be on the footplate for a 16 or 30 mile round trip • Drive with rake of carriages on Silver Experience
Go full steam ahead for a day out discovering the East...
• Unlimited travel on Bluebell heritage railway for two • Pair of tickets to National Trust Wakehurst Place • A full day out of steam locos & gorgeous gardens • Bluebell line links to mainline at East Grinstead
Drive a train along the wonderful Churnet Valley Railway...
• Drive a diesel train in Staffordshire for 12 miles • In the cab of a Class 33 restored diesel loco • A 1:1 experience with you & the expert in the cab • See 'Little Switzerland' as you drive your train
• Ride the East Somerset Railway in Cranmore all day • Standard (min 2 people) and family rover tickets • Hop on and hop off between Cranmore & Mendip Vale • Visit the museum, engine shed, signal box etc
Get to drive a steam train and realise those childhood dreams
It was probably the dream of every youngster - to be a driver of one of these amazing locomotives. Maybe you loved Thomas the Tank Engine, preferred Ivor the Engine or were a number fan of Hornby? Judging by the popularity of heritage railways, it would seem the enthusiasm for these amazing machines is un-waning as we grow up!
What we love about our experience days is the fact that they are offer a really comprehensive itinerary. Many start in the morning with a experienced crew meeting over a cuppa where the running schedule for the day is discussed. You will instantly feel like part of the team, many of whom are actually volunteers with many, many years of experience in engine restoration, maintenance and driving. So much so that's it's a real honour to spend time with them.
Those lucky enough to be going on a footplate experience will then relish the chance to be 'up front' in a wonderful, fully restored loco. We have to say, it's a proper working environment (as the coal fire needs stoking after all!) so prepare for it to be hot, sooty and noisy too. But that's all part of the fun, as you see from this video of a client on their drive a train experience day.
Of course, there's no firing up to be done if you're in a diesel set up - which is one of the reasons why steam locos were superseded by the 'cleanness' of these engines, but it's a real thrill to be at the helm of a early 1950s diesel multiple unit chugging along the railway.
As well as having the chance to be a driver of a train for the day, you might also find out what it's like to be a signal operator. Nowadays everything is fully electronic, but back in the days of steam, each signal box was staffed and it involved shifting heavy metal levers to change the tracks for the trains. As you can imagine, the job came with a lot of responsibility!
Immerse yourself in steam locomotive history for the day
On the vast majority of these steam train locomotive driving experience days, you also get to have a nosey around the workshops. Within the confines of these huge sheds you'll be amazed at the skill and dedication of the restorations teams. Locomotives and carriages are painstakingly stripped down to bare metal and built back up again using traditional engineering methods. Parts are nigh impossible to find, so many are fabricated in-house or reconditioned to as-new quality.
The history of the railway will also be explained to you as part of your day out. There's almost always a museum on the platform too, packed full of memorabilia such as dining car menus, artefacts and old black and white photos. And all from an age where the station master wore a top-hat and tails rather than a high-visibility jacket. Of course, you'll be welcome to ask all the questions you want and you're sure to find an answer with such knowledgeable hosts leading the event days.
Whether you get to ride on the footplate, change the signals or watch from the spare seat in the cab as the diesel driver shunts carriages around, we think you will love the day you spend at these wonderful heritage steam railways. And at last, you might just get the chance to realise that dream you had to drive a train.