The National Railway Museum is very much the centre of train activity in Yorkshire. If you have a child that is obsessed by trains, then you will no doubt head here before long. Indeed, it is the biggest railway museum in the world and crams a whole load of engines, from steam trains to Japanese bullet trains into three halls. You can explore the exhibits, and even sit inside some of the carriages and pretend to be a posh family from the olden days.
My two-year-old loves the place. As well as the train exhibits, there is a miniature railway that you can ride on during your visit.
The whole history of the railways is encapsulated in one handy location, with interactive displays and features all around. However, one of my son’s favourite sections is the outdoor balcony that overlooks the arrivals and departures from York station.
One of the most appealing elements about a trip to the National Rail Museum is the fact that entry is free. Of course, the museum does rely on donations among other revenue streams to continue to exist and I would encourage you to donate if you can.
The Keighley and Worth Valley Railwayis a treat for adults and children alike. It’s like stepping back in time as you head into the perfectly preserved stations on the line and witness the gushes of steam coming from the engines that transport you from Keighley into the heart of Bronte Country and back.
You can live out all your happy memories from The Railway Children (filmed at Oakworth on the KWVR line) as you gaze at the beautiful West Yorkshire countryside flying by.
Throughout the year, they put on special events aimed at kids, such as Hallowe’en trains, the Wizard Express and – the pinnacle of the year for trainobsessed children – the Santa Specials. The big man himself makes an appearance in the carriages, chatting with kids and handing out presents, while an array of characters ensure a fun and raucous festive atmosphere.
Just outside of Huddersfield is the Kirklees Light Railway. Staffed by enthusiastic volunteers, this 15-inch narrow gauge railway is another must-see destination for train-obsessed children. There are six different, hand-painted steam trains that run up and down the track from Clayton West to Shelley. It’s a three-and-a-half mile journey through beautiful countryside with plenty to do at both ends.
There are play areas, cafes and a redeveloped miniature railway too, all of which will keep the kids busy. In addition, they run special events such as the Day Out With Thomas, when the Fat Controller pops by, bringing Thomas the Tank Engine, James, Emily, Toby and more with him from the Island of Sodor.
My lad is really into Thomas and so our trip to the Kirklees Light Railway was the stuff of dreams for him. It also worked out well for me because it was not like any branded event I’ve ever been to. Usually when there is a popular, licensed character involved, companies use it as an opportunity to fleece parents. However, the Day Out With Thomas included all sorts of extras in the ticket price, such as face painting, magic shows, bouncy castles and more. This was a very welcome turn of events.
Travelling a little further west you can visit the North Yorkshire Moors Railway sweeping across 24 miles of stunning scenery between Whitby and Pickering, exploring the different themes at each of the stations on the route. This is a proper day out with your train obsessed child and it is even more exciting if they love Harry Potter.
Goathland Station may appeal to adults thanks to its associations with Heartbeat, but kids will know it best as Hogsmede from the Harry Potter film franchise. As with the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, the North Yorkshire Moor Railway runs special events during the year, including a special Christmas Northern Lights extravaganza.
The Settle-Carlisle line is part of the regular train network and, as such, you can take a ride every day including weekends. As you hurtle along the 72-mile journey, you get to glimpse the magnificent Yorkshire Three Peaks, ride over the stunning Ribblehead Viaduct and travel through the Blea Moor tunnel.
“All aboard! Well, you comin’?”
New this December, Wensleydale Railway in Yorkshire is proud to present the memory-making marvel that is The Polar Express!
Book your tickets now at yorkshiredalesthepolarexpressride.com.
Your family can now hop aboard this awe-inspiring steam train (located conveniently off the A1 in Leeming Bar) and begin the journey of a lifetime to the Christmas experience to top all others. Their amazing team of chefs will be serving the richest hot chocolate and tastiest cookies you have had all year, singing and dancing all the while. The conductor stamps your ticket, causing a shower of smiles all round (and a shower of punches all over your table).
Just as you think you couldn’t possibly be happier, the steam-powered beauty will come to a halt… you’ve made it to the North Pole!
Now for the most memorable part of your experience, Santa Claus on board the Polar Express! The ringing of bells dances around the carriage as your child’s eyes grow wide, they believe… And so do you! Santa greets them personally and gives them their first gift of Christmas, a beautiful silver bell! Be sure to check for holes in their pockets before you leave…
Trains run from 23 November to 23 December.
In addition to these suggestions, you could head to the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway, Elsecar Heritage Railway and even the Shipley Glen Tramway, on a much smaller scale. For any train-obsessed child in Yorkshire, these are just some of the many fantastic ways to indulge their passion in this mighty county.