Steam Trains and Santa
Watching a steam train chug slowly and majestically into the station is a dream for many. It’s evocative of an earlier time when things were done differently, and something about steam engines has caught the imagination of old and young for decades. One of the first ever movies by the Lumiere brothers was called Train Pulling into a Station, and that’s exactly what it is – and yet the public were fascinated. Steam trains were beloved then, and are even more so now.
The good news is that Kent has three different places at which visitors can get up close and personal to these marvellous machines. However, the even better news is that all three have managed to combine their beautiful engines with Christmas, making them some of the best places to take the family for a unique adventure over the festive period.
Kent & East Sussex Railway
The line at the KESR starts at Tenterden and winds its way through the beautiful English countryside for 10.5 miles until it reaches Bodiam, and stops just by the fabulous National Trust castle.
The railway hosts events throughout the year including experiences that mean you can actually drive a steam train, and learn all about how they work; Wealden Pullman dining experiences (some with a theme, such as murder mystery); and spooky Halloween trips. However, it is at Christmas that the railway comes into its own. You can book your unforgettable Christmas lunch to eat on the train; enjoy five sumptuous courses aboard a festively decorated Pullman, and each guest will receive a gift just for coming along and enjoying themselves.
For the little ones, the Santa Special is a must. This particular Christmas event has been going for almost 40 years, and it becomes more magical as time passes. Climb aboard the train and enjoy a round trip of an hour. During the trip, you’ll get to meet Father Christmas himself, and the children will receive a gift. There are refreshments included, and back at the station there is a carousel to enjoy, as well as the Snow Queen to meet and greet. Exciting and memorable!
Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway
With 13.5 miles of track to chug along, the miniature (one-third the size of a standard steam train) engines do a sterling job of entertaining families, and have done so for nearly 90 years.
What’s more, Santa must love his trains, as he is also making an appearance at the RHDR this year. Booking is essential to enjoy a 30-minute train ride from Hythe to New Romney where you will be able to meet the big man himself. After receiving a super gift, there will be time to play in the magical, snowy winter wonderland, enjoy the model railway exhibition, and sample the food in the buffet car. Then, it’s all aboard and back to Hythe as the excited children talk non-stop about what just happened – a spot of Christmas magic.
Spa Valley Railway
Chestnuts will be roasting on an open fire in the waiting room at Eridge Station as you wait to board the Santa Special on the Spa Valley Railway line. Enjoy the refreshments, and then climb on board for your fantastical journey to Tunbridge Wells. On the train, you will meet Father Christmas and his elves, and each child will receive a gift, whilst the adults get a mince pie to munch on. Spot the reindeer as you whizz through the Kent countryside (they’re really there!), and when you disembark you will be able to play with the model railways, have your photo taken with Father Christmas, have your face painted, play with the penny arcade, and maybe even meet the train driver. With so much to do and so much fun to be had, this is how Christmas memories are made.