Picture this: a vintage steam train draped in Christmas lights, chugging its way through the scenic North Norfolk countryside. It might sound like a magical dream, but guess what? It’s real, and it’s happening at the North Norfolk Railway!
The Norfolk Lights Express turns the route into a twinkling wonderland, treating you to an adventure you won’t forget. Discover the details of this extraordinary holiday steam train experience where lights twirl and colours harmonize in our comprehensive review of the Norfolk Lights Express.
Note: We were invited on the Norfolk Lights Express so that we could share our experience with our readers.
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What is the Norfolk Lights Express?
The Norfolk Lights Express is a festive winter experience hosted by the North Norfolk Railway, capturing the hearts of families since its debut in 2019. Under the cover of darkness, you’ll embark on a magical journey from Sheringham Station aboard a steam-hauled train bedecked with thousands of twinkling lights.
During the 11 mile return trip to Holt, the train’s onboard lights cast a warm glow on the surrounding countryside, offering passengers a unique and enchanting view. Along the way you will pass by colourful dioramas strategically placed along the track. These illuminated scenes, accompanied by on-board narration and music, weave together to tell a captivating story.
It’s important to note that the Norfolk Lights Express does not include an appearance by Father Christmas. If you want to see Father Christmas you need to book one of the Santa Special Steam Trains.
About North Norfolk Railway
Known affectionately as the Poppy Line, the North Norfolk Railway weaves its way along the scenic North Norfolk Coast, stretching from the Victorian seaside town of Sheringham to just outside Holt. More than just a railway, this historic gem is a testament to the dedication of its passionate volunteers, a team committed to preserving the rich railway heritage.
As well as the Norfolk Lights Express in the run up to Christmas, the Poppy Line offers a daily dose of nostalgia at other times of the year. During the February half-term and from April through October, both steam and diesel trains can be found chugging along according to their timetable. The 11-mile round trip takes you on a leisurely ride with some breath-taking coastal scenery and includes a stop in Weybourne.
This railway’s roots trace back to 1887 when it was initially constructed to cater to the burgeoning tourist market. During World War II, the North Norfolk Railway played a vital role, supporting military operations at the nearby Weybourne training camp and artillery range.
Beyond its regular schedule, the North Norfolk Railway hosts a diverse array of themed events throughout the year including the Norfolk Lights Express. From time-traveling back to the 1940s to swinging through the sixties, and celebrating the sheer joy of trains, there’s an event catering to every interest.
Our Experience on the Norfolk Lights Express
Since we were familiar with the charms of the Poppy Line, we were eager to experience the Norfolk Lights Express for the first time. Arriving at Sheringham Station a tad earlier than the suggested 30 minutes, we got to see the Black Price Steam Train decorated with lights, standing proudly under the footbridge which had been illuminated specially for the occasion, with the steam swirly around the engine and lit up in the coloured lights. It was quite a sight and set the festive tone for the evening.
Sheringham Station was decked out in holiday cheer, and the train itself was a dazzling display of lights, sparking our excitement. After a quick check-in, we learned our seats were in the orange car, currently undergoing a sprucing up. While we waited, we headed to the Old Luggage Buffet for a stash of goodies—pasties, mince pies, tea, and hot chocolate.
With our snacks in tow, we hopped on the train. Inside, the setup was like it might have been in the 1950s. It felt like a trip back in time, evoking a nostalgic charm that surrounded us throughout the journey.
At the beginning of the ride, they gave us a heads up that they would dim the outside lights now and then to avoid distracting nearby drivers. Plus, they handed out napkins since the windows could get a bit foggy – thanks to the train being heated with extra steam from the engine.
As we chugged along, a soothing female voice filled the air with tales of Black Shuck, adding a touch of spookiness to our trip. Heading towards Holt, we were fascinated by colourful illuminations and dioramas intricately woven into the unfolding narrative. Adding to the joy, a lively mix of popular tunes played, creating a friendly and vibrant atmosphere.
A 20-minute pitstop at Holt allowed us to soak in the festive décor, watch the engine do its thing, visit the train’s bar, and take a breather. The return journey to Sheringham showcased the route’s decorations once more, and as we neared our starting point, the vibe turned festive, culminating in a joyous sing-along—a perfect ending.
The fun didn’t stop there. As we disembarked, we got to watch the train decouple from the carriages at one end of the train, and take it’s place under the illuminated footbridge once more, just as it had when we arrived: the engine adorned with lights with steam swirling around it. The ideal curtain call to our Norfolk Lights Express adventure.
Review of the Norfolk Lights Express
There’s something extra special about riding a historic steam train, but when it’s adorned with twinkling lights and gliding through enchanting illuminations, the experience becomes downright magical.
The Norfolk Lights Express brilliantly weaved the landscape into its light show, adding an extra layer of magic. What took the enchantment to another level was not only the mesmerizing outside illuminations but also the way the light spilled into the train, crafting an unexpectedly romantic atmosphere.
And let’s talk about the music – it added a whole new layer of fun! From one beloved song to the next, it kept the joy alive. As the journey neared its end, the tunes shifted to Christmas classics, prompting a lively sing-along that had everyone in high spirits.
This festive escapade isn’t just for the young ones; it’s a perfect treat for all ages. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy the sheer joy of riding a steam train? The Norfolk Lights Express is the ultimate family-friendly experience that promises fun for everyone on board.
We plan on including Norfolk Lights Express adventures in the holiday seasons to come as we can only imagine the fantastic possibilities for even grander and more dazzling displays in the years to come.
Is the Norfolk Lights Express Worth It?
The Norfolk Lights Express is undoubtedly worth it for the enchanting holiday experience it brings. The magical atmosphere created by Christmas lights and seasonal décor is sure to get you in the holiday spirit. It’s a unique journey aboard a historic steam train adorned with lights, offering a charming and memorable experience that stands out from your typical train ride.
Norfolk Lights Express FAQs
You can ride the Norfolk Lights Express most evenings 10 November 2023 – 1 January 2024. You can check the timetable here.
The 11-mile long return trip takes about 1 hour 40 minutes including a 20 minute stop at the Holt Station.
You can treat yourself to snacks and drinks from the Old Luggage Buffet at Sheringham Station, and here’s the bonus – you can enjoy them on the train! Plus, the bar car on the train is open before the journey and during the stop at Holt.
Yes, the Norfolk Lights Express is a fantastic experience for kids. It’s a steam train ride with a festive holiday atmosphere, twinkling lights, and captivating illuminations that create a magical journey that children often find enchanting.
If you are looking for more family-friendly activities, you should check out our post about things to do in Norfolk with kids.
No, if you want to see Father Christmas on the North Norfolk Railway you should take one of the Santa Specials trains.
The Norfolk Lights Express exclusively operates during the evening hours when darkness sets in. Adorned with Christmas lights, the train travels through enchanting illuminations and captivating dioramas.
Yes, you’re welcome to take photos. Keep in mind that since the train is usually in motion, capturing photos of the illuminations might be challenging. It’s advisable to seize photo opportunities when the train is stationed at either Sheringham or Holt Stations.
In most carriages, seating is arranged around tables for four people. If your party doesn’t fill a complete table (or tables), there’s a possibility you’ll be seated with another group. If you want to make sure you have your own table, there are a few private compartments on each train, accommodating up to six people, that can be reserved.
Absolutely, it’s crucial to make advanced bookings for the Norfolk Lights Express as tickets often sell out well in advance.
2023 ticket prices vary from £22.50 to £30.00 per person, depending on the travel date. Additionally, there’s a limited availability of private compartments for up to 6 people on each train, with prices ranging from £150.00 to £210.00 per compartment.
Certainly! Indeed, every service includes a wheelchair-accessible compartment for a wheelchair user and their group. To secure your spot, kindly contact the booking team at 01263 820800 (Option 4 then 1) for reservations. It’s important to note that space is limited, and allocations are made on a first-come, first-served basis.
For wheelchair users who can transfer out of their chair and walk a short distance, accommodation is available in the standard saloons.
The trains are warm and dry, thanks to the engine’s spare steam heating. They can operate in almost all weather conditions. Even with a bit of rain during our journey, it didn’t dampen our enjoyment.
There is a large car park right by the Sheringham North Norfolk Railway Station.