Amy Moore tracks some railway attractions for groups, with suggestions for itinerary planning and beyond
GLOUCESTERSHIRE WARWICKSHIRE RAILWAY (GWSR)
The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway opens for the new season on March 7, 2015, with services operating every weekend, excluding November. It also runs mid-week from April to October. The GWSR offers a scenic 25-mile round trip between Laverton and Cheltenham Racecourse, tracing the sublime setting of the Cotswold countryside. A return trip over the full length of the line takes around an hour and a half. A single journey takes approximately 35 minutes. The railway is staffed by an army of enthusiastic volunteers who welcome parties of 10 plus and 30 plus at a discounted rate. Refreshments can be provided at certain station stops or onboard the train. A large cafe and modern toilet facilities are located at Toddington station. Each model houses compartments that have been adapted for wheelchair passengers. To book, email firstname.lastname@example.org or for more information visit www.gwsr.com
BODMIN & WENFORD RAILWAY
The Bodmin & Wenford Railway provides a leisurely 13-mile journey through the calming Cornish countryside. Reminiscent of a 1950s steam branch line, Bodmin & Wenford Railway is Cornwall’s only standard gauge railway regularly operated by steam locomotives. Passenger services run from February to October. Trains depart from Bodmin General, which offers free coach and car parking, with guided tours available exploring the locomotive shed. The Bodmin & Wenford Railway has its own First Class Dining Train for private hire, which operates on select dates from March to December. Murder Mystery Evenings are a particular highlight, hosted from June 19 to October 28, 2015. Fares include a steam train journey and traditional Cornish pasty supper served at your seat. Vegetarian options are available. Pre-booked parties of 10 plus receive a discounted rate of 10%, with parties of 20 plus receiving a 20% discount. Group rates start from £7.20. For more information visit www.bodminrailway.co.uk
BUCKINGHAM RAILWAY CENTRE
The Buckingham Railway Centre boasts 25 acres of working museum, housing one of the UK’s largest collections of locomotives, rolling stock and railway memorabilia. Most redeeming is the educational programme provided for school groups, with an aim to cover most of the curriculum. One day’s visit could include a guided tour, a visit to the Schools Railway Express, a train ride, a glimpse at the Dining Coach from Queen Victoria’s Royal Train and The Churchill Coach, where Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower met during World War Two. It is recommended that school groups book by subject, with history, geography, art, technology, literacy, numeracy and science to choose from.
It is also advised that groups allow two or three hours for a visit.
Group rates for 2015 are £7. To book email email@example.com or for more information visit www.bucksrailcentre.org
DARLINGTON RAILWAY CENTRE & MUSEUM
Head of Steam occupies the original route of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, which opened on September 27, 1825. The Stockton & Darlington Railway was the world’s first steam-powered public railway, constructed with the prime purpose of transporting coal. The museum explores the area formerly operated by the North Eastern Railway, while educating visitors on the rich railway industry of Darlington.
Exhibits include Stephenson’s Locomotion No.1 and Derwent – the earliest surviving Darlington-built locomotive. Educational groups could stop at the Ken Hoole Study Centre, dedicated to the intellectual railway historian, which is open every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Parties of 10 plus receive one free pass for every 10 paying visitors, with group travel organisers attending free with parties of 30 plus. School groups can visit Head of Steam free if booked in advance.
For more information visit www.darlington.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/head-of-steam
NORTH NORFOLK RAILWAY Opened in 1887, the North Norfolk Railway offers a 10.5-mile round trip, operating both steam and diesel locomotives between the popular towns of Sheringham and Holt. Offering coastal views, the railway calls at historic stations including Weybourne, which featured in an episode of Dad’s Army, and Kelling Heath Park.
From the end of July until late August, a vintage former London Transport Routemaster bus operates a shuttle service between Holt Station and the town centre, where smaller groups can further explore the area. Complements to the standard scenic train ride include meals aboard The North Norfolkman, in addition to education days for visiting school groups. Discounted rates are available for parties of 20 or more. Groups booked and confirmed at least seven days in advance, with a 25% non-refundable deposit paid, could receive reserved seats. Single journeys are also available, with ample coach parking at either end of the line.
For more information visit www.nnrailway.co.uk
ROMNEY, HYTHE & DYMCHURCH RAILWAY
The 15-inch gauge Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway (RH&DR) has occupied the landscape of Romney Marsh for approximately 87 years, with 13.5-miles of track tracing the route from Hythe to Dungeness. Otherwise known as ‘Kent’s Mainline in Miniature,’ RH&DR powers through four stations, which are all located within walking distance of a beach. BRITAIN’S HERITAGE RAILWAYS Groups can disembark to enjoy coastal/ countryside walks, scenic cycle rides, observe medieval churches and admire iconic lighthouses from a distance. Catering facilities are available at some stations, with two cafés comfortably accommodating up to 70 people. Each serves an array of hot and cold dishes, with reduced rates for coach drivers. Alternate visits include a 30-minute journey to a 1940s themed full-day guided tour, available to book between May and September. Group rates for 20 people plus include one free place for a coach driver and guide, with special discounted rates for school groups. There is ample coach parking available at New Romney and Dungeness Stations. For more information visit www. rhdr.org.uk LLANGOLLEN RAILWAY Llangollen Railway is located in a popular North East Wales town, famous for its International Eisteddfod, and offers a 10-mile picturesque journey. North Wales’ only single standard gauge heritage line has recently been extended from the village of Carrog to the market town of Corwen. Llangollen Railway passes through one of the most scenic and historically interesting valleys in Britain, with the Berwyn Mountains towering above on either side as it follows the course of the River Dee. Trains run daily from April to September. Special events include Jazz Trains, Real Ale Trains, Santa Specials