9 unmissable Christmas steam train experiences for 2023

Christmas 2023 is coming around fast, bringing with it lots of things to look forward to. Get into the festive spirit this winter by boarding any one of these classic steam trains in England. From meet and greets with a certain Mr Claus to illuminated rides through the countryside, the whole family are sure to have an unforgettable time on board these fabulous Christmas trains. 

More Christmas 2023 events and things to do:

20+ Christmas events for 2023 | Best places for a 2023 Christmas break | 2023 Christmas events in stately homes | Christmas markets 2023


Christmas steam trains: Bure Valley Railway's Festive Express

Aylsham Station, Norfolk

Take a steam train from the twinkly lights of Aylsham Station in Norfolk to Santa’s Grotto, where Father Christmas will greet you from his railway sleigh, filled with yule-time gifts for all the kids. While at the Grotto, there will be songs, games and refreshments for everyone – think mulled punch and mince pies – as well as time to get a few snaps with the main man himself. Running for over 25 years, these festive-themed journeys are always a hit so get in quick.

When? 2 to 24 December 2023

Have the ultimate Christmas day out

Christmas steam trains: Dartmouth Steam Railway's Train of Lights

Paignton, Devon

Steam train covered in neon lights making its way through the forest

Steaming through wooded glades and along the south Devon coastline, the Dartmouth Steam Railway’s Christmas services are guaranteed to get filed under “warm and fuzzy Christmas Memories”.

This award-winning steam train experience is a magical after-dark journey on a train decorated with thousands of glittering lights - both inside and out. After leaving Queen's Park Station in Paignton, you'll embark on an unforgettable journey through an enchanted forest filled with twinkling light displays before enjoying the train's vibrant reflection along the River Dart. If your train trip isn't the same without a visit from Father Christmas himself, be sure to book yourself onto a Train of Lights + Santa service. 

When? 24 November to 30 December 2023

Feast your eyes on the Train of Lights

Christmas steam trains: East Lancashire Railway Santa Specials

Bury Bolton Street Station, East Lancashire

You’ll hear the brass band play traditional carols before your eyes meet a platform decked out with hundreds of Christmas trees and sparkling decorations at Bury Bolton Street Station. On your journey to Rawtenstall, inside warm vintage carriages, you’ll meet Santa and his crew as they hand out gifts and spread Christmas cheer. Grown-ups get a Christmas tipple and mince pie too as you’re pulled through the Lancastrian countryside by a handsome locomotive.

When? Selected dates from 25 November to 24 December 2023


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Step into a Christmas wonderland

Christmas steam trains: Great Central Railway’s Santa Steam Trains

Loughborough Central Station, Leicestershire

An hour of enchantment awaits as the young and young at heart chug their way from Loughborough to Leicester North. On a Santa train, have a chat with St Nicholas himself and make sure everything is in order for the big day –  he’ll even give you a present in person and there’ll be enough tasty treats on board to keep the whole family refreshed.

For an evening of colourful festive joy, opt for the Winter Wonderlights steam train ride to witness the railway like you've never seen it before.

When? When? 25 November to 24 December 2023

Meet Father Christmas this winter

Christmas steam trains: Severn Valley Railway Santa Specials

Kidderminster Station, Worcestershire

Elf in facemask standing at front of steam train

Roasted chestnuts, live music and festive magic fill the air at Kidderminster in Worcestershire, where you board your vintage steam train to the village of Arley, where'll you be treated to an extra special Christmas stage show. On the way back, Father Christmas passes through the tinsel-clad carriages handing out gifts to all the children, and stopping to chat about what they’d like for Christmas morning.

When? 25 November to 24 December 2023

Enjoy a festive steam train ride

Christmas steam trains: North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s Santa Specials

Pickering Station, North Yorkshire

Kids will be doubly excited to go through their list with Santa in his special grotto on-board the North Yorkshire Moors Railway's Santa Express. Travel through the stunning North York Moors National Park on an old-school steam train and celebrate the most wonderful time of the year in beautifully decorated heritage carriages. You'll embark on an adventure the whole family will never forget. 

Alternatively, have a cracker on one of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway's festive dining services. The Christmas Moorlander lunch is served onboard, in one of the heritage carriages decked out in Crimbo decor. You'll be treated to the likes of mulled wine, spiced root vegetable soup, turkey with all the trimmings, a choice of pudding and mince pies all the while rolling through the (hopefully white) Yorkshire countryside. 

When? Selected dates from 25 November to 24 December 2023

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Get tickets for this fabulous Santa Express

Christmas steam trains: Kent & East Sussex Railway Santa Specials

Tenterden Station, Kent

Kent & East Sussex Railway train in the snow

Roll through the south-eastern landscape on a festively decorated steam train. Look out for Santa and his handy elves with their sacks full of goodies, and tuck into mince pies and chocolate as you pass fields of green (or white – fingers crossed!). When you arrive back at Tenterden, there’ll be ample time for family photographs, rides on the beautiful Victorian carousel and a visit to the station's Christmas model village.

When? 2 to 24 December 2023

Take the ultimate Christmas break

And something for the grown-ups to enjoy...


Christmas steam trains: North Yorkshire Moors Railway's Christmas Moorlander and Great Western Saloon Lunches

Grosmont, North Yorkshire

It's full steam ahead for a festive feast on board North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR)'s charted Pullman Dining Train this winter. Choose from the Christmas Moorlander sit-down lunch, or privately hire the Great Western Saloon carriage for 18 of your nearest and dearest for a seasonal buffet, all while enjoying unforgettable views along the 18-mile heritage line, through the North York Moors National Park.

The Christmas Moorlander Lunches start at £85 and will be served in decked out heritage carriages, beginning with a warming glass of mulled wine, before choosing from a three-course menu that includes prawn cocktail, roast turkey and Christmas pudding - among others. Yum!

There are also bespoke packages available to privately charter the opulent Great Western Saloon carriage for a return journey form Grosmont to Pickering, that caters for up to 18 people and includes your own member of staff to look after your group and assist with the food. 

When? Selected dates from 28 November 2023 to 7 January 2024

Enjoy a decadent Christmas lunch on a steam train

The Polar Express Train Ride at Swanage Railway

Swanage, Dorset

Board this very special train, based on the magical movie starring Tom Hanks. The Polar Express will take you on an hour-long journey on Swanage Railway's heritage line, where you will reach "The North Pole", and be treated to a delicious hot chocolate and cookie - and a special present on the return journey! Actors on board the train will dress up as characters from the film; you can join the fun too, as you're encouraged to wear your best pajamas and dressing gowns on the train. Just make sure you bring outdoor shoes with you, in case it gets muddy outside. 

When? 17 November to 30 December 2023

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Get set for a cosy Christmas train ride
20 Nov 2023(last updated)

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Easter events in 2024

  • 1

    Aylsham Station, Norfolk

  • 2

    Paignton, Devon

  • 3

    Bury Bolton Street Station, East Lancashire

  • 4

    Loughborough Central Station, Leicestershire

  • 5

    Kidderminster Station, Worcestershire

  • 6

    Pickering Station, North Yorkshire

  • 7

    Tenterden Station, Kent

  • 8

    Grosmont, North Yorkshire

  • 9

    Swanage, Dorset

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