- a thematic guide to Britain
heritage of steam : preserved railways, trains and other events
the demise of steam trains on Britain's railways, thousands of
enthusiasts and volunteers have been
working hard to ensure the survival of this great British invention, on
heritage railways and other special events around the country.
- a brand new steam locomotive built by volunteers
crazy, the British? Or is
it just nostalgia? Not content with
having saved and preserved almost 400 steam locomotives (enough to run
a full-scale main-line railway, if oil and electricity were to run
out), they recently lauched a brand-new steam locomotive, built from
scratch by a small army of volunteers with the necessary technical
And it was not just any locomotive! The "
Tornado " is a massive mainline express engine, an A1 class
"Pacific", built from the original plans of A.H.Peppercorn ,
was chief engineer of the London & North Eastern Railway after
second World War. This class of locomotive was built to haul the
heaviest of mainline trains between London and Scotland, a distance of
over 600 km or 400 miles. In February 2009, the Tornado, brand new, was
the first steam locomotive in the 21st century to pull an express train
from the north of England to Kings Cross Station in London -
speeds up to 70 mph or 120 km / h . Since then, it has clocked up a
speed of over 100 mph (160 km/h) on a specially authorised test run.
locomotive has joined the small family of steam locomotives that are
authorised to haul special trains, which run almost every weekend of
the year, on the national rail network. (Schedule of special
Britain's steam heritage
Swanage Railway, in Dorset
for a moment of nostalgia, and to take a trip into the past on a steam
train, there's no need to follow Harry Potter in search of some
Hogwarts Express, or to book a seat on a special event train for
railway enthusiasts: it is much easier than that!
in Britain at the best rates
Britain has more than a hundred lines or museums
trains. "Heritage lines" and regular heritage trains also operate on a
sections of the national rail network. All in all, visitors have a vast
choice of steam-hauled trains, running over
distances ranging from a couple of miles to over 40 miles (almost 70
km), and double that for those who do the round trip.
Most of these lines offer a steam-hauled service every day in
and August, every weekend in the spring and fall; and of course,
many of these lines are among the most visited tourist sites
their region . All these lines operate wholly or largely through the
efforts and dedication of hundreds of fans and enthusiasts, who
volunteer every weekend, to help provide an authentic visitor
experience and a trip into the past.
to the many heritage railway routes, Britain also has a numpber of
major railway museums, including the National Railway Museum in York,
the world's biggest railway museum.
You will find
below a selection of some of the best heritage steam railways in
Britain, the ones that offer the longest or most picturesque trips, or
those that are most interesting in terms of the material used.
After that, you will find a list of top railway
museums in England.
Top ten lines: a selection of the best heritage
lines with steam traction.
The West Highland Line : From Fort William to
Mallaig , Scotland.
Highlands - southwest of Loch Ness
the trains are privately run, the line they use is part of the national
rail network. But every day in summer , a private company operates a
daily service on this spectacular steam line which is 42 miles or 67 km
long . Apart from those used for the trip, there are no other steam
locomotives on this line . The Glenfinnan Viaduct (pictured ) was the
first bridge in the world to be built in concrete , it appears in the
first Harry Potter
The Ffestiniog Railway . North Wales
Wales - from the coast to Snowdonia
the most famous of several narrow gauge lines in the Welsh mountains.
0.6 metre gauge Ffestiniog runs for 21.5 km from the port of
Porthmadog, on the west coast Welsh to Blaenau Ffestiniog, once an
important slate-quarrying town in the mountains of Snowdonia . The line
uses historic stock (locomotives and wagons) carefully preserved and
renovated... or built from scratch.
The Ffestiniog is
directly linked to the "new" "Welsh Highland Line" - a fantastic
project which has seen the total rebuilding of an old narrow-gauge
line, which had previously been abandoned for half a century. The WHL
runs for more than 40 km, between Caernarfon and Porthmadog - through
the Snowdonia National Park . All in all, the west coast of Wales has four
narrow gauge railways, with very old steam locomotives. The other two
are the Talyllyn and the Vale of Rheidol railway.
Best railway museums
The National Railway Museum,
Northeast England )
in 1975 , the museum has brought together under a single roof the
various museums that existed before then, some of which had begun to
preserve steam locomotives as far back as the mid-19th
In other words , this is a unparalleled museum , which tells the story
of railways in Great Britain and of steam locomotives from the very
beginning. This is also the largest railway museum in the world, and
has already attracted over 20 million visitors .
Didcot Railway Centre
Oxford, 50 miles west of London.
The world 's largest collection of steam locomotives formerly belonging
to the same company - in this case the Great Western Railway.
Twenty-four steam locomotives, including examples in working order, of
the most powerful locos of the historic GWR, the " kings " and
castles ". Steam trains are operated on special "steam days".
Tysley Locomotive Works
Birmingham. West Midlands
Another site with more than twenty steam locomotives, some of which are
used for hauling steam specials on the national network.
The Midland Railway, Butterley , Derbyshire.
collection of steam locomotives, including two large "Pacifics" of the
former LNWR. In addition to steam locomotives, the site also has
displays of industrial and agricultural machinery, as well as
Photo above: an
exceptional event; steam returned briefly to the London
Underground, for a few nights in 2013, to commemorate the 150th
anniversary of the opening of the
world's first underground railway.
Photo © JR - About-Britain.com.
their earliest beginnings in the late 18th century, and in particular
since the start of the "railway age" around 1830, railways have been
aprt of the landscape in Britain. Today, the steam train
experience, with its steam and smoke and unforgettable sounds, survives
on about a hundred heritage railways up and down the country
– and also
with the many steam-hauled special trains that now run again on the
nation's main rail network.
A special steam train
running at speed on the mainline network.
A children's favourite
- Thomas the tank engine, on the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire
The Ffestiniog, one of
the great little railways of Wales
: Website photos and texts © About-Britain.com 2009 -
except where otherwise indicated.
Creative commons photo credits:
Ffestiniog railway: : Rob Phillips.
"Tornado" from Freephotouk.
North Yorks Moors railway by Cooldudeandy01.