Fancy letting off some steam? Then go loco and hop onboard a spectacular steam train in this unique and exhilarating experience.
Enjoy the ride of your life as you learn everything there is to know about these historic locomotives from friendly experts – then it’s time to pull out all the stops, take the controls and drive it yourself. Driving these enormous engines is no mean feat, but you’ll learn all the tricks of the trade including how to pull off and come to a smooth stop. It’s just the ticket for train spotters, buffs and enthusiasts everywhere. All aboard!
The Steam Engine Driving Experience is the ultimate day out for any steam or rail enthusiast. Along the same lines is the Drive A Diesel Train Experience, which is similar but focuses instead on diesel-powered locomotives rather than steam.
On the day you will be introduced to your instructor and shown around the engine, before being taught some of the basic skills required to drive a steam or diesel locomotive. Fire it up and learn how to pull off and stop smoothly.
Experiences vary, but some include lunch, locomotive yard tours, signal box tours, etc. The experience will normally be shared with a small number of other participants, with each person taking it in turns to be on the footplate.
If you want all of the fun but none of the work, look out for the cab ride experience. You'll get to sit in the prized seat at the front of the train next to the driver, enjoying watching them safely navigate the tracks.
It’s full steam ahead in this wonderful experience which is perfect for anyone with a one-track mind! Go off the rails (not literally) and enjoy a memorable day out learning everything there is to know about steam or diesel trains, before getting the chance to step up to the footplate and drive one yourself.
All aboard! - What You Need To Know
- WHEN: Events take place on selected dates throughout the year.
- WHERE: Locations vary, but the most common ones are in Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Kent, and Derbyshire.
- WHO: This is a thrilling experience for engine enthusiasts everywhere. If you love trains and have always dreamed of becoming a train driver, this is your chance, at least for a day.
- OCCASIONS: This would make a great birthday or Christmas present, as well as a memorable Father's Day gift.
- PRICES: You can find taster experiences from around £60 per person but the more meaty experiences range from around £200 to £800 each. (correct at the time of writing)
- QUESTIONS: Need help? Ask questions here and I'll try to help as best I can
- TRIED THIS?: Would you recommend it? Share your thoughts here
Top train driver experiences
There aren't a massive quantity of train driving experiences on offer, but there is a healthy amount of variety in what is available. Here's some of my favourites that sound right up my street.
Steam Train Driving Taster at Sherwood Forest Railway
Hop on the footplate of a 5/8th scale steam engine on a 15'' gauge railway in Sherwood Forest. This introductory one-to-one session begins on an easy section of the track before you tackle the entire length of the railway. You'll learn lots of tips and information as you navigate two level crossings, a tunnel, and two stations.
Introductory Steam Train Driving in Yorkshire
Drive an 1960s engine that would have been used by the National Coal Board. You'll spend an hour driving a classic full-size heritage steam engine. Your instructor will guide you through firing and driving procedures as you man the controls.
Extended Diesel Train Driver Experience at Spa Valley Railway
If you'd rather experience the power of a diesel locomotive then hop into the cab of a Light Engine or Class 207 DEMU 1317. In this experience you'll drive from Tunbridge Wells West to Eridge and back again - twice. You’ll even cross with the Spa Valley passenger services at Groombridge.
(Photo credit to Films42)