Visit the best steam railways in the UK

Britain is a country filled with iconic images. It’s city’s cathedrals, it’s love of roasted food every Sunday and what could be more British than a majestic steam train puffing white clouds across the countryside?

While the age of steam pulled trains may have left us a few decades ago, there are now a surprising number of steam preservation railways in some idyllic British locations. Here’s our pick of the best to visit, fun for all the family and an education in to the history of the United Kingdom’s industrial revolution.

Bluebell Railway

Located in the south-east of England, an easy drive from london and near to the M23, the Bluebell Line runs for 9 miles through beautiful rolling hills and pretty English countryside. The preservation railway has been running for more than 50 years now and has the largest collection of working steam engines in the country with over 30 locos and 150 carriages. Its stations and trains are so well looked after it’s often used in period TV shows and movies. Most recently used in the hit TV series Downton Abbey.There are special “steam days” and events throughout the year so be sure to check out their website to find out what’s happening.

Dartmouth Steam Railway

While the Bluebell railways gives you traditional English countryside, the Dartmouth railway takes it to another level with truly breathtaking views of the south-west coast. The 6.5 mile railway hugs the coastline for much of the journey. With 4 stations along the way it’s a wonderful way to visit the “English Riviera”. The pretty west-country town of Paignton is your starting point and gives you great access to a lot of other tourist attractions in the area. They have 6 steam locomotives here with wonderful names like Hercules, Warrior, Goliath and Trojan!

Check out their official website for some wonderful events, ticket prices and information on the railway line.

Keighley and Worth Valley Railway

If you’re heading to the North of England then this heritage railway is one you really should visit. the Keighley and Worth Valley railway once served the villages and mills of west Yorkshire and is one of only two preservation railways in the UK to still run its original route. It’s 6 stations have been lovingly preserved and have often been used in films and TV. With 7 working locos and a number of static display steam engines too there is lots to see and experience here. It’s also in an area of the Yorkshire moores known as “Bronte Country” thanks to the literary family that made this area of England famous in novels like Wuthering Heights.

Visit the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway website for more details on special events and tickets.

Didcot Railway Centre

In the heart of Oxfordshire you’ll find the town of Didcot and right next to its busy railway station you’ll find the equally busy Didcot Railway Centre. This was once Great Western Railway shed for engines and rolling stock and these days houses over 20 steam engines in its collection. Built in 1932 its preserved working sheds are a testament to a bygone era. While it may not be the prettiest of preserved lines its railway history and layout make it an interesting and educational place to visit. They also have some great family friendly special events worth checking out. Visit the Didcot Railway Centre website for more details.

Other steam railways in the UK worth visiting

Here’s a quick run down of other steam preservation railways we highly recommend you visit for a wonderful British day out.

Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway in the Lake District

A miniature railway running though stunning Lake District scenery.

Isle of Wight Steam Railway in the Isle of White

Quaint island railway with ancient Edwardian coaches.

Strathspey Heritage Railway in Scotland

Pretty railway running through typical Scottish scenery.

Llangollen Railway in Wales

Nice route and some very nice stations including LLangollen and Carrog which are right on the banks of the river Dee.

Snowdon Mountain Railway in Wales

Spectacular ride up mount Snowdon on Britain’s only rack railway.

Ffestiniog Railway in Wales

Typical welsh narrow gauge railway with spectacular scenery. Famous for its rugged countryside and pretty little engines.

Isle of Man

On the Isle of man you’ll find whole island of old narrow gauge steam railways, electric tramways, horse-drawn trams and an electric mountain railway. Something for everyone. Check out this website for more information.