Experiences to drive or ride on the footplate of steam and diesel trains are amongst our most popular activities. The chance to spend a day at a heritage railway surrounded by locomotives is pure nostalgia and loved by all ages. Book well in advance for our train driving experiences though, as demand is high! Train driving FAQs
• 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
• 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
• Drive diesel engines at the Great Central Railway • The UK's only heritage dbl track mainline railway • Various diesel driving packages to choose from • Drive, visit a signal box, work sheds & have lunch!
• Drive a steam train for four, full return journeys • Driving steam trains pulling passenger carriages • Share the driving with your friends and family • Become a member of the train crew for the whole day
Simply put, driving a train is a must-do experience that realises all those childhood train driver dreams. Whether it’s a steam or diesel loco, railway fans will love the chance to be the one up there in the cab operating the train.
Who it’s not for:
If you don’t fancy shovelling the coal or actually being at the helm, we also have footplate experiences where you join the onboard crew, but in a more observational role rather than hands-on. if you just want to sit back and relax as a passenger, we’ve got steam train dining and afternoon tea departures galore!
Our train driving and footplate experiences are always really popular. Standard IntotheBlue vouchers are valid for a full year from the date of purchase, but with this activity in particular, you should male sure you book several months in advance with the heritage railway, especially for the most popular months of July and August.
What’s the difference between a steam train ‘footplate’ and driving experience?
The footplate of the locomotive cab is the where the crew is stationed to drive and operate the steam train. We offer hands-on experiences where you will be shovelling the coal, opening the regulator to get the steam going and getting the train moving on the tracks. We also have ‘footplate tasters’, where you’ll be onboard to watch what’s involved in getting a steam train going, without actually getting your hands dirty.
Will I be sharing the experience with anyone else?
It depends on the railway and how they operate their train driving experience days. In some cases, there will be two of you with one on the coal and the other driving, then you swap round roles. Other times it will just be you and the train operator. Check on each train driver experience page for further details.
How long do I get to drive the train for?
That all depends how long the track is! You usually get at least one round trip. All lines differ in length, with everything from a one-mile stretch to a 20-mile voyage. If you need any more info on track lengths and journey times have a read of the ‘What can I expect’ section on each voucher page.
Can I stay at the railway all day?
Some experiences are full day train driving days, so you’ll be kept busy the whole day long with your train crew. On shorter experiences you are welcome to stay and enjoy the heritage railway’s facilities. There are always tea rooms or restaurants on site and very often a museum and loco shed to look round too. In some cases you get a ‘rover’ train ticket, so you can spend the day travelling the trains at your leisure.
Can friends and family ride in the coaches I’m pulling?
If you are on a premium experience where the loco you are driving is coupled up to a rake of coaches, passengers may well be onboard the train. That means friends and family can ride on the train you’re driving - and indeed many operators give a number of passenger tickets to you for this purpose.
Do I need to be physically fit to drive a steam train?
Pretty fit, yes. It’s hot and dirty work shovelling coal into the furnace. You’ll also need to be able to climb up and into the cab of the locomotive. If you need any further info on access, don’t hesitate to call us on 01959 578100, or use the online chat service on our website.
What should I wear for my train driving experience?
Comfortable casual clothing suitable for the weather is key. If you’re driving a steam train you will probably be given overalls to wear and other protective items like gloves will be provided for you. Driving a diesel train isn’t so messy, so no overalls required.
Will I get to change the signals?
As well as driving the train, some experiences will get you to assist with signalling and passing the tokens (used to make sure two trains going in opposite directions on a single track don’t meet!), filling the loco with water and other duties carried out to make sure the trains run on time.
Can I blow the train’s whistle?
Of course! That’s one of the essential jobs just before moving off and when going into and coming out of tunnels!
Will I be driving a diesel or steam locomotive?
A lot of the bigger heritage railways run with both steam and diesel locomotives. Both are great fun to drive and we have vouchers to drive steam and diesel trains. The sort of train you’ll be driving is clearly stated in the description for each voucher, so please make sure you read carefully before you buy.
Does the train I’ll be driving have carriages attached?
In some cases you will be driving a loco on its own. On the premium train driving packages you will be driving a train that is hauling a rake of coaches which might actually be a ‘scheduled service’, complete with paying passengers onboard.
Where can I drive a train in the UK?
There are lots of heritage railways up and down the whole of the country run mainly by enthusiastic and incredibly skilled volunteers. We’ve got a selection of the finest where you can be a diesel or steam train driver for the day: