Half term is here!
So just a few ideas for railway days out perfect for families!
1. National Railway Museum
For many the National Railway Museum in York is one of the places to visit for anyone with even just a passing interest in railways. It's also a great family day out for all ages - for the first time visitor, the shear number of exhibits can easily fill a full day and if you return, you'll be amazed just how much you missed first time round!
|National Railway Museum, York|
The big appeal for most people is the collection of locomotives in York but beyond this there's a huge number of smaller exhibits throughout and especially in the Warehouse. The collection is incredibly comprehensive with items from all parts of the railways
Catering is not the best, although very well presented the standard and choice is not what it should be - children's food is only available in the Mallard Cafe in the Great Hall. The restaurant in the Station Hall ceased to provide food specifically for children after it was refurbished. The decor is very nice indeed with a mix of stylised carriage compartments and wooden railway containers, but the level of pretension displayed with the approach to the menu is very inappropriate for a museum which should be catering (figuratively and literally) for all. Those with special dietary needs would be wise to plan ahead.
|In The Great Hall|
It represents one of the best railway days out in the UK!
TIP Join the Friends of the NRM before you visit! For just £20 you'll be able to park for £2 instead of £9, receive a discount of 10% in the shops and a massive discount of 35% in both the restuarant and the Mallard cafe! If a family visit, you'll more than make you money back on parking and food alone at the same time as a supporting a very good cause.
National Railway Musuem
2. North Yorkshire Moors Railway
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is one of the premier heritage lines in the UK. The journey it offers is quite unique, especially with the last leg to Whitby running over the national network once north of Grosmont (pronounced 'Grow-Mont' incidentally). To travel along the full length does take quite a while for the distance covered, but what was once a disadvantage for travellers is now a major appeal for present day visitors - with over an hour and a half on a steam hauled train through a lovely part of Yorkshire on the way to the seaside, it's no wonder so many people visit.
|Goathland Railway Station|
The railway is one which really can provide a full day out, starting at Pickering you could travel all the way to Whitby and spend the day there (and vice versa), or travel the length of the line stopping off at the different stations as you go. The first station after Pickering is Levisham which is a good couple of miles from the village of Levisham, which despite bing a lovely little village itself, most passengers would probably find the walk a little too much! The station itself is perhaps the most basic along the line - there are still facilities for food though, but in the form of a kiosk. the station is also home to the country’s "only professional Artist in Residence on a heritage railway". In summer it's a delightful spot, but in winter, it's rather bracing!
Goathland is an obvious and very popular spot as a result of ITV's series Heartbeat being filmed there - signs proclaim 'Aidensfields' in the village and you can buy sixties themed souvenirs should you want to. The railway station in the village featured heavily during the show's run but it will be known to many younger visitors thanks to its Harry Potter connection. Beyond its media roles, the station is a lovely attraction in itself - a cafe in the old goods shed provides simple lunches and in summer just eating outside watching the trains goes by can be destination enough!
North Yorkshire Moors Railway
3. East Lancs Railway
The East Lancashire Railway runs from Heywood to Rawtenstall via Bury - urban Bury providing a contrast with the scenery of the Irwell Valley.
|Ex-LMS 'Crab' climbing the 'sky jump' on the approach to Bury Bolton Street - this is the view from the Bury Premier Inn!|
Few heritage railways provide a glimpse of how many urban stations used to be when steam still ruled on our railways, but Bury can. Bolton Street Station may be not be the prettiest with its fifties facade, but it has a unique atmosphere and provides the facilities you would expect for a family day. The line links market towns and villages and its character changes completely.
|Bury Bolton Street Station|
The larger stations at Ramsbottom and Rawtenstall both have good facilities for families - the building will appear old to the casual visitor but both main station buildings at Ramsbottom and Rawtenstall are relatively new as the originals were demolished by British Rail, the attention to detail and dedication is a reflection of the railway as a whole. Heywood's facilities are rather basic, but it does have easy parking and is just a mile off the M62.
|Deltic, D9009, at Rawtenstall Railway Station|
The trains themselves are well presented and clean and a very good selection of former mainline locomotives draw the crowds. This is aided and abetted by friendly and helpful staff and volunteers. The whole experience is very good indeed.
And if you choose to stay, the Premier Inn in Bury is a short distance from the railway, many of the rooms over look the line to Heywood - perfect for train mad children!
East Lancashire Railway
Premier Inn, Bury
|Bedale Railway Station|
Wensleydale is perhaps as famous for its cheese as it is for its scenery. And once, a railway ran right through the whole dale.
|A rainy day at Leyburn.|
The line today starts at Northallerton West and ends at Redmire within sight of Castle Bolton running via the delightful market towns of Bedale and Leyburn. Plans are in hand for an extension towards Aysgarth - from the station on a still day you can hear the water at the Falls! Until then, the line can easily occupy a whole day if you use it to travel between the towns and explore each one in turn. The best scenery is between Leyburn and Redmire, just as the hills begin to get bigger and the weather more changeable!
For many years the railway ran right along the Dale, leaving the East Coast Mainline at Northallerton and joining the Settle and Carlisle line at Garsdale (or Hawes Junction as it was) and travelling through some loveliest countryside which England has to offer. However, the through service ended in 1954 and the all passenger services ceased ten years later, after which the truncated line quietly existed carrying stone traffic. This itself came to an end in the nineties and the future looked uncertain. The Wensleydale Railway Association had been formed in 1990 with the aim of restoring passenger services and ten years later secured a lease of the line and began running trains in 2003.
|Crakehall Level Crossing - very much off the beaten track!|
The railway itself is relatively unusual as most trains are diesel hauled/powered with steam reserved for only a few days a year. Don't let that put you off though. The staff are always friendly and helpful and the trains are very well presented. The main stations on the line have good facilities for families, the smaller stations are just platforms really, but if you plan to alight at these, you're probably prepared for a lack of creature comforts!
A delightful line, with a very rural character.
|Aysgarth - the next stop.|
5. Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway
The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway is a real gem of a railway. La'al Ratty, as the line is known, has its origins in a 3' gauge railway which ran from Ravenglass to a terminus at Boot in the valley of Eskdale. The original company was declared bankrupt as long ago as 1897 but kept going, somehow, until 1913 when it ran its last train. This wasn't the end, the line was chosen as a site for a 15" gauge miniature railway, the line rebuilt between 1915 and 1917. As such, it predates the rest of Britain's heritage railways and is historically significant for a variety of reasons.
|Northern Rock stands at Ravenglass station.|
The line runs through beautiful scenery, delicately picking its way through the national park. The lower end of the line is in the delightful village of Ravenglass on th Cumbrian coast and station has an extensive museum about the railway and its history. At the end of the line at Dalegarth you can walk to the local attractions of Eskdale Mill, Stanley Ghyll Force and St Catherine’s Church. With decent facilities at both ends of the line, families are catered for very well - intermediate stations don't have many facilities, but then, that's not what these stations are for. What they do do is provide excellent access for walkers to the National Park.
|Approaching Dalegarth station|
For a family with younger children, the size of the trains is perfect - they don't intimidate but are spacious enough to be comfortable and adults don't feel like they're going to topple off like they may do with smaller miniature railways!
|Rain's not a problem in Eskdale! It seems to make all the colours brighter and richer - open coaches are not so popular in the rain though!|
The experience is very friendly with excellent staff and facilities.
Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway
Seven Acres Park