18 May 2022
Sunnier weather is upon us, and what better a way to explore the British countryside than on a narrow-gauge railway? Howard Smith shares our top five lines to visit.
Sunny weather: check, car ready for departure: check, sun glasses and sun cream: maybe (we don't want to tempt fate!), socks with sandals: definitely uncheck, narrow gauge railway destination: TBC
Struggling to decide what to see and do this summer? Whether you're travelling solo, or with family or friends in tow, here are our top five narrow-gauge heritage line picks, with a list of events taking place:
1 Talyllyn Railway
Your ticket to discover southern Snowdonia begins here. The first railway to be operated entirely by volunteers can also claim to be located in one of the most beautiful areas of Britain, with rolling hills, woodland, rivers and viaducts. And if you don't want to ride on the railway, you can walk along the coast, too! In addition to its operations, a number of special events are taking place this summer, notably:
- Jubilee at the Talylln: June 2, 2022
- Floral Train: August 09, 2022
- The Quarryman... a Victorian Train experience: May 19, May 26
- Talyllyn Pioneers Train - a journey of discovery: June 9, June 16, June 23
- Anything Goes Gala 2022: July 2/3
- Summer Beer Festivals: July 1-3
- The Awdry Extravaganza 2 - Skarloey Railway Weekend: July 23/24
- Fish and Chip Frydays: August 5, August 12, August 19
- Sunset Steam Specials: August 3, August 7, August 10
- Race the Train: August 20
- Queen's Baton Relay: June 30
2 Welshpool & Llanfair Railway
Remaining in Wales, and travelling an hour or so inland (by car) sees us arrive at Llanfair Station on the Welshpool & Llanfair Railway. In the heart of Wales, this wonderfully-scenic line which negotiates a viaduct and river bridge and provides a running ground for locomotives from around the world to put on a display of steam and smoke as they climb the Golfa Bank. Here are some upcoming events on this line:
- The Beyer Bash: May 20-22
- SteamBricks featuring Brickslive Britannia: May 28-June 5
- Peppa Pig visits: June 26/26
- Gala Weekend: September 2-4
3 Corris Railway
Wales again, and just off the A487 between Dolgellau and five miles north of Machynlleth sees us arrive at this heritage line with big ambitions. What better way to enjoy the summer than a gentle trip down the beautiful Dulas Valley? The more curious can peer around the railway's workshops during the guided tour of the Railway's headquarters at Maespoeth, and after visit its shop and tour its museum at Corris.
Alongside its usual running timetable, don't miss its model railway exhibition on August 27/28 at Plas Machynlleth SY20 8ER.
The event is expected to feature a diverse mixture of layouts in different scales (and usually has at least one where children can try their hand at driving the trains). Trade stands, a Corris Railway Sales outlet and a stand to raise funds for its new steam locomotive is also expected to be present. Refreshments and light snacks will be available. Opening hours are 10.00 to 16.30.
4 Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways
Still in Wales – spotting a trend here? – and heading north west sees us arrive at Blaenau Station on the Ffestiniog Railway. Combined with the Welsh Highland Railway its claim to fame is that it is Britain's longest preserved steam railway. It has a steep heritage too, and this combined with a view of the mountains, glorious rivers, ancient woodlands and coastlines make for an unbeatable experience.
Here are a selection of events taking place on the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways this summer:
- Model Railway Workshop: May 21/22
- Cwrw Ar Y Cledrau - Rail Ale: June 10/11
- Welsh Highland Railway Centenary & Celebrations: July 30/31
5 Leighton Buzzard
Labelled as 'England's friendly little line', and housing one of the largest collections of narrow-gauge stock in England, the line was opened by Leighton Buzzard Light Railway Ltd in 1919 to transport sand, using WW1 surplus materials and equipment. With its steep gradients of up to 4%, the 85-minute round trip of Bedfordshire countryside also offers a view of Britain's biggest onshore wind turbine! Aside from its usual running timetable, here's a list of forthcoming events to enjoy:
- Vintage Vehicles rally: June 26
- Paw Patrol: July 17
- Dinosaurs Day: September 4
We recommend pre-booking tickets for the above events to avoid disappointment. For further details, ticket pricing and timetables, visit their respective websites.
Which is your favourite heritage narrow-gauge railway? Comment below and share your thoughts on the above events – which will you be going to?
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