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Unmissable Christmas Train Rides in the UK

Monday 30 October 2023

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We all know and love the Polar Express - whether you enjoy the book or the film, or a bit of both! This year, why not live the true Polar Express experience with a magical Christmas train ride right here in the UK? If you've got young children or simply love unique festive experiences, these are our favourite Christmas train rides around the UK for getting into the festive spirit.

To kick off your festive train ride in style, hop on board your local CrossCountry service to arrive at your railway adventure in comfort. Explore the full CrossCountry network to plan your route.

Dartmouth Steam Railway Train of Lights

The Dartmouth Steam Railway Train of Lights begins at Queen’s Park Station in Paignton, taking you through Churston Station and then around the Dartmouth countryside for a true Christmas train ride experience. The vintage carriages are decorated with thousands of lights, which are majestic when travelling through the Greenway tunnel and enchanted forest. You’ll be treated to an incredible view of the Dartmouth Christmas lights reflecting on the river Dart before you arrive back at your destination (Paignton – not the North Pole).

Churnet Valley Railway Polar Express

Beginning at Froghall Station in Staffordshire, the Churnet Valley Railway Polar Express train journey is an hour of pure Christmas heaven based on the film. You begin by being served hot chocolate and cookies by singing chefs. Christmas lights twinkle in every carriage as the train pulls away, taking you through the northern lights. Santa will be onboard to hand out presents to all children, and he’ll even sign your copy of The Polar Express if you purchased it from Churnet Valley Railway. This gorgeous ride through the countryside comes to a close as you arrive back at Froghall Station.

North Yorkshire Moors Railway Santa Specials

With Father Christmas himself bringing the magic to the railway, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway Santa Specials is a more traditional take on the Christmas steam train. Santa Claus wanders through the heritage carriages to meet and give special gifts to all children onboard, with gifts for children of all ages. It’s the ideal Christmas train journey for parents too, with a full hour to admire the stunning views of the Moors in winter. Whether you're in it for the journey or the magic, the whole family is sure to enjoy!

Severn Valley Railway Santa Specials

The Severn Valley Railway offers multiple Christmas train ride experiences to enjoy, meaning you have more opportunities to get involved with the magic both on and off the train. The Santa Trains depart from Kidderminster and include an exciting pantomime show in the experience, wrapped up with a magic steam train journey with Santa. The Enchanted Express experience departs from Bridgnorth, with Santa Claus and his friends guiding you through a magical journey. 

For a truly unforgettable experience, why not book an Enchanted Afternoon Tea or an Evening Yuletide Dining Experience? With luxury refreshments on the stunningly festive train, what's not to love?

Wensleydale Railway Polar Express

The Wensleydale Railway Polar Express begins at Leeming Bar Station, where you’ll embark for the North Pole with hot chocolate and cookie in hand. Meet all the favourite characters from the book and film, including the conductor and the singing chefs. Once you reach the North Pole, Santa Claus himself will hop on to give every child their first gift of Christmas – a silver sleigh bell. Throughout the magical Christmas train journey, the singing chefs will read you The Polar Express, so you really do live out the story.

Great Central Railway Santa Steam Trains

Meet Santa this Christmas on board the Great Central Railway Santa Steam Train. Beginning at Loughborough Central station, you’ll be transported across the Leicestershire countryside to Leicester North, with stunning views outside every window. This award-winning Christmas train ride experience provides enough festive food and drink to passengers to keep the whole family refreshed. 

South Devon Railways Polar Express

Hop on at South Devon Railway to begin your magical Polar Express adventure to the North Pole. As with all Polar Express journeys, you’ll be greeted with hot chocolate and cookies accompanied by a special song, and characters who read the original story throughout the journey. All your children’s favourite characters from the book and film will be present, with a special appearance from Santa as soon as you reach the North Pole. If you purchase a copy of the book through South Devon Railways, you can have it signed by the man himself – something to help your children remember their special day out.

Bure Valley Railway Festive Express

Starting at Aylsham Station, the Bure Valley Railway Festive Express is an hour of festive fun for all ages. You’ll be welcomed with refreshments to take on your adventure, which will take place in your own heated and private compartment. You’ll then depart for the beautifully decorated Brampton Station on a journey through the stunning UK countryside. As you make your way back to where you began, Santa and his elves will be ready and waiting to greet you in his grotto.


If you’re planning a festive train ride, don’t forget to book an Advance ticket via our website or the CrossCountry app. If you need more information, you can contact us here.

Written by Julia

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