If you’re a fan of vintage locomotives and the golden age of rail travel, then you’re in for a treat. Norfolk is home to some of the best steam railways in the country, offering a unique way to experience the beauty of the Norfolk countryside.
Whether you’re a seasoned train enthusiast or simply looking for a fun day out with the family, Norfolk’s steam railways have something for everyone. From the historic engines and carriages to the picturesque scenery, there’s no better way to explore the landscape of this beautiful county.
So, sit back, relax and let me take you on a journey through the best steam railways in Norfolk. Get ready to step back in time and experience the magic of the age of steam!
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Where to Find Steam Trains in Norfolk
Steam trains were a symbol of progress and innovation in their time, and many people today appreciate their historical significance. When you get to ride on a steam train, it can be an adventure, like you have travelled back in time.
You can find steam trains in several places around Norfolk. We are lucky to have eight different ones as it takes special craftsmanship, attention to detail, and money to keep these historic railways running smoothly.
As you relax and enjoy the different steam train rides through Norfolk, take in the chugging sound of the engine and the rhythmic sound of the wheels. Notice the smell of coal smoke. The gentle sway of the carriages can be soothing and therapeutic. It’s a sensory experience unlike any other.
Remember these heritage railways may also run diesel trains so be sure to check the details in the timetables.
North Norfolk Railway
Hop aboard the North Norfolk Railway, also known as the Poppy Line, for a journey along the North Norfolk Coast that you won’t forget. This historic railway is almost entirely run by a team of passionate volunteers who are committed to preserving the region’s railway heritage.
You can experience this railway daily during the February half-term and from April through October, with both steam and diesel trains running as noted in their timetable. The train will take you from the Victorian seaside resort of Sheringham to the picturesque Georgian town of Holt, with a brief stop in Weybourne along the way. The round trip ride covers 11 miles, giving you ample time to sit back, relax, and soak up the scenery.
If you’re looking to explore Holt, you can either walk or catch the bus from near the entrance to the North Norfolk Railway Station site, which is about a mile from the town centre. However, if that sounds like too much effort, you can always stay and explore Holt Station itself, which is a faithful recreation of a Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway (M&GN) station.
There are plenty of things to enjoy at the station, including a small buffet and gift shop, a model railway display of Broad Sidlinch, and the William Marriot Museum housed in a recreated goods shed. You can also check out the beautifully preserved goods vehicles in the loading bay outside the museum.
The North Norfolk Railway has a rich history dating all the way back to 1887 when it was built to serve the booming tourist market. During World War II, the railway played a crucial role in supporting military operations at the nearby Weybourne training camp and artillery range.
Despite its ups and downs over the years, the railway was lovingly restored by dedicated preservationists and is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in Norfolk. It’s easy to see why – there’s something for everyone here.
If you’re a steam train enthusiast, you’ll love the special railway experiences on offer, including a steam driver experience and a signalling experience day. Foodies will adore the dining trains offering everything from fish and chips to cream teas to gin tastings. And for those looking for a little mystery, try out the murder mystery train – we enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes-themed one.
The fun doesn’t stop there! The North Norfolk Railway hosts a packed calendar of themed events throughout the year. Their Christmas Lights Express is one of the most popular Christmas events in Norfolk. Whatever your interest, whether it’s the 1940s, the swinging sixties, or trains in general, there’s an event that’s sure to pique your interest.
Plus, getting to this railway is a breeze. You can drive and park at the Sheringham North Norfolk Railway station or take the Bittern Line from Norwich run by Greater Anglia, with the stations just a few minutes’ walk apart.
Get more information here.
Bure Valley Railway
The Bure Valley Railway is Norfolk’s longest narrow gauge steam railway. This delightful train ride goes along the nine-mile long Bure Valley Path and is a wonderful way to see the Norfolk Broads.
It runs between the towns of Aylsham and Wroxham, and the railway passes through stations in Brampton, Buxton, and Coltishall. You can disembark and explore these picturesque Broadland villages. (Note as of March 2023 Brampton, Buxton, and Coltishall stations are closed until further notice.)
The single journey between Aylsham and Wroxham takes 45 minutes, giving you plenty of time to relax and enjoy the experience. And if the weather is good, why not walk or cycle one-way and take the train back? If you get hungry, you can check out the 80-seater Café at Aylsham Station serving everything from a cup of tea to a full meal.
The railway also offers souvenir shops, free car and coach parking at both Aylsham and Wroxham Stations, and special wheelchair accessible coaches that allow both wheelchair and able-bodied passengers to travel together. Plus, there are disabled toilet facilities at both stations for your convenience.
Trains operate daily from April to October, with special events taking place throughout the year. And if you’re part of a group of 20 or more, you can take advantage of discounted group rates.
But the fun doesn’t stop there – the Bure Valley Railway also offers a one-day course that lets you get behind the controls of one of their unique narrow gauge steam locomotives. Please note that this experience is only available for people aged 18 years and over who are suitably fit.
Get more information here.
The Mid-Norfolk Railway offers visitors a glimpse into the region’s railway heritage. As the longest standard-gauge heritage railway in the area, the Mid-Norfolk Railway is a must-visit destination for train enthusiasts and history buffs alike.
The railway runs through the heart of Norfolk, with headquarters in Dereham and services running south to Wymondham Abbey Halt station. The Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust, a registered charity owned by the railway’s members, is responsible for the management and operation of the line.
The railway started from humble beginnings, with services running between a temporary halt in Toftwood alongside Rash’s Green and Yaxham. The line is currently being restored northwards towards North Elmham and will eventually run to the railway’s County School Station.
The whole railway is like a working museum, with sights, sounds, and smells evocative of the 1950s and 1960s under the nationalised British Railways. The railway’s aim is to tell the story of this historic line from its opening in 1846 right up to the present day.
When you visit the Mid-Norfolk Railway be sure to check out the museum room at Dereham Station where you can browse through a selection of local and regional railway exhibits and even talk with the steward on duty.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the Mid- Norfolk Railway’s special events. During the Christmas season, they offer a special Polar Express service, and on select days they serve an afternoon tea.
Get more information here.
Wells & Walsingham Railway
The Wells & Walsingham Light Railway is the smallest public railway in the world! This charming railway runs between the beautiful village of Walsingham, a renowned pilgrimage centre famous for its snowdrops, and the lovely seaside town of Wells-next-the-Sea.
Hop on board one of the steam-operated or diesel-powered trains, and choose from an enclosed ‘all weather’, covered or open carriage. As you embark on the half-hour journey through picturesque countryside, you’ll pass by a hill-fort and a real ghost platform. It’s an experience you’ll never forget!
You can start your journey from either end of the line, and there’s no need to book in advance – just turn up and join the queue on a first-come, first-served basis. If you want to bring your dog(s), they are welcome to join you as long as the train is not too busy.
When you ride the train, you can park your car at the Wells station for just £2.50 and leave it there while you explore the town. If you get peckish, you can grab a snack from the Signal Box Café – a charming tearoom and shop located in a converted signal box.
It’s worth noting that the Railway closes during the winter months for maintenance, so be sure to check the website here for more information.
Bressingham Steam & Gardens
Bressingham Steam and Gardens is a unique steam attraction located on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. This timeless museum has something for all ages to enjoy together, from Alan Bloom’s collection of plants to impressive displays of industrial, mainly steam-powered engineering and narrow gauge steam lines.
Bressingham Steam and Gardens is a charity that has been open to the public since 1961, welcoming thousands of visitors over the years to experience the magic of steam. The museum is a place where the founder, Alan Bloom, wanted a hands-on approach for all the family to have fun.
You can climb aboard one of their magnificent steam engines to explore the beautiful gardens of Bressingham. There are over four miles of narrow-gauge steam lines and four journeys to choose from.
Their cafe “Carriages” has been refurbished and is now open. It has a tasty new menu to go with the new look. In addition to the café, there is an ice cream hut that sells locally made ice creams, and visitors can also purchase snacks, cold drinks, and ice creams from the museum gift shop.
From the cafe, you can marvel at The Gallopers, one of the finest three-abreast carousels to be seen anywhere. This carousel was built in 1897 by Savages of King’s Lynn and can reach speeds of up to six revolutions per minute, while swinging out some 15 degrees. Adding to the magic of the ride is a Bruder-built, 48 keyless Chiappa organ.
Bressingham Steam and Gardens is open from the end of March through October, but not all attractions are open every day. They also run some popular special events. It’s best to check their website for the details here.
Whitwell & Reepham Railway Station
Whitwell and Reepham Railway Station stands in the mid-Norfolk countryside, just a stone’s throw away from The Marriott’s Way and a mere mile from the charming market town of Reepham. Thanks to the efforts of rail enthusiast Mike Urry, who purchased the derelict station in 2007, the Whitwell & Reepham Railway Preservation Society Limited was created, and the station was lovingly restored to its former glory.
The team at Whitwell and Reepham Railway Preservation Society Limited have ambitious plans for the future. They want to eventually extend the line along Marriott’s Way to recreate the 7 miles (11 km) Themelthorpe curve to Reepham railway station and then possibly link it up with either the North Norfolk Railway or Mid Norfolk Railway.
For now, you can visit the Whitwell and Reepham Station which has a museum, gift shop, a garden, and The Sidings café. If you visit on a weekend, you can take a train ride along the track. On the first Sunday of the month and on Sundays of Bank Holidays, you can experience the magic of a steam engine. On other weekends, the diesel train takes over.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the special events held at the Whitwell and Reepham Station throughout the year, including the ever-popular Steam Rallies. It’s free to visit the station and museum (except on gala days), but there is a small charge for train rides. Get more information here.
Barton Miniature Railway
Barton House Railway is a miniature ride-on railway located in Wroxham, that offers visitors a traditional railway atmosphere and allows the whole family to enjoy the nostalgia of the golden age of steam. There are two separate lines, The Midland Railway (3.5″) and The Riverside Railway (7.25″), and a third, The Museum Line, is currently under construction.
The Riverside Railway was opened in 1980, and the line was extended by a further 200 feet to a second riverside terminus during the winter of 1980/81. In 2001, the Midland Railway reopened after being temporarily closed for repair, and in 2013, the railway celebrated its 50th anniversary.
In addition to riding the trains, you can explore the extensive museum of railway artefacts, enjoy homemade cakes and light refreshments by the river, and observe the signalman at work in the full-size original signal box that acts as the control centre of the railway.
Work on the Barton House Railway began in 1960, and the railway was officially opened in 1963. Until 1970, all £600 raised went to the Wroxham Church Restoration Fund. From 1971, all receipts have been in aid of other charities.
If you want to visit the Barton House Railway, it’s best to check their Facebook page here to see when the trains will be running. They also have some really fun special events throughout the year that you won’t want to miss!
Eaton Park Miniature Railway
If you want to ride a miniature train in Norwich, you can do it at Eaton Park. The railway consists of two tracks; the original elevated 5″ gauge Heritage Track and the Mainline, a longer ground-level dual gauge track that was opened in 2006.
Most of the trains you’ll see on the Mainline are of the larger 7.25″ gauge, and the track is around 800 metres long. The Heritage Track, parts of which date back to the 1960s, is the raised level 5″ gauge track. It was originally opened as a circular line and then extended to its present form in the late 1970s, but it is currently closed for refurbishment.
On the Mainline, they can include an accessible carriage, No. 7, that is suitable for wheelchair users, accompanied prams/pushchairs, guide dogs, accompanied dogs (at staff discretion), and people who are unable to ride on the existing “sit astride” carriages.
The Norwich and District Society of Model Engineers is responsible for building, developing, running, and maintaining the railway and they are all unpaid volunteers. The trains run every Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays from Easter to the last Sunday in September. Occasionally, pop-up trains are available as well, but this is dependent on volunteer availability.
Also, don’t miss their special holiday Tunnel of Lights trains, which have become a tradition in Norwich at Christmas. You can find out about the pop-up days and other events on the Eaton Park Miniature Railway Facebook page here.
What is the Best Steam Railway in Norfolk?
Norfolk has many wonderful steam railways so it is not easy to pick one that is the best. It is going to depend on your personal preferences. Our favourite is the North Norfolk Railway because we love the views of the coast, but you can’t go wrong with any of the options on this list.
More Steam Attractions in Norfolk
If you enjoyed these steam railways, you might also like to visit the steam museums in Norfolk.
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