A ride on a steam engine is enthralling whether you are four or forty-four. All aboard: come and explore some of the best steam railways in Yorkshire.
The bellowing steam, the thick smell of coal burning and the rich aroma of lubricating oils filling the air: it takes you back to an earlier era. If you’re old enough it may even bring flashbacks of a youthful trip to the big city. Prior to electrification and diesel trains, the steam train was a common sight on UK railways and Yorkshire was no different. The sprawling network of rails led businesspeople and day trippers to all the corners of this stunning landscape. The Yorkshire region is lucky enough to have some of the best-preserved historic steam lines in the country. As a bonus, Yorkshire is the home of the National Railway Museum situated in central York. So once you’ve got your fill of riding on a steam engine, why not explore this fabulous museum to discover the evolution of railways and the trains. The best bit, the museum is completely free and a great day out — the perfect location for children and adults alike.
So if you’re ready to ride the rails, we’ve detailed the best places in Yorkshire to see and ride on historic steam trains.
1. North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Our top steam railway
Also known as the NYMR, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is a railway line that stretches for a massive 18 miles through the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. One of the largest heritage railways in the UK, it carries an estimated 350,000 passengers a year. Based in Pickering, the railway is a charitable trust run by around one hundred full-time staff and an army of volunteers (believed to be around 500) who adore the world of steam. During the summer, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway hosts a festival of steam, welcoming various guest engines and carriages to the rails. Visitors get the chance to see and ride on many unique engines. Starting at Pickering station, the line runs through stunning scenery, stopping at various historical stations, one of which you may recognise from the Harry Potter films as Hogsmeade station. The train line ends in Whitby (please note not all services go all the way through to Whitby as this is part of the national rail network), the perfect location to pick up some fish and chips before heading back! Many services have dining facilities and provide a steam experience; however, don’t be surprised to find a heritage diesel-pulling rolling stock on occasion. One of the stations, Grosmont, has the workshops and rail sheds where you can access the steam engines not in service or under restoration.
North Yorkshire Moors Railway,
12 Park Street,
2. Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
Just north of Skipton, the gateway to the dales, you will find the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway. This heritage steam railway has a track of just four miles that runs between the Embsay station and Bolton Abby station. Whilst a short ride, it is perfect for families, with lots of parking and even a tea room at each station to allow you to fill up on homemade cake. The railway has a range of engines, covering both diesel and steam, most weekends you will find steam engines running up and down the line tooting the whistle as they go.
Bolton Abbey Station,
3. Keighley and Worth Valley Railway
The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway is one of the most famous steam heritage lines in the country. The line links iconic towns and villages synonymous with ‘Bronte country’; additionally the line is well-known for the role it played in the Railway Children film from the 1970s. The five mile line hosts a variety of steam engines running most days during the summer with yearly services during the entire year. Secial events during the year such as ale trails, carol rides and even a gala of steam give visitors something different to their usual steam train ride. The railway has a fantastic collection of locomotives, many in use and used throughout the year on the line, most stations also have some form of attraction such as engine sheds at Oxenhope. If you visit, ensure you jump off at Howarth and explore the culturally significant village.
Keighley & Worth Valley Railway,
The Railway Station,
4. Wensleydale Railway
Like the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, this heritage railway operates one of the longest tracks in the country, around 22 miles long, giving passengers a real taste of longer journey times under steam locomotion. Running from Scruton to Leyburn, there are constant talks of extending the line when funding allows. However, unlike many heritage railways, the Wensleydale Railway does not have a large collection of engines or carriages. Whether steam hauled by a steam locomotive or powered by heritage diesel, a trip exploring this extensive line will be enjoyed by all.
Leeming Bar Station,
5. Middleton Railway
The Middleton Railway is based in Leeds and is believed to be one of the oldest active railways in the world. As a colliery railway first built in 1758, the railway was designed to take coal to the markets of Leeds for sale. The Middleton Railway is a comparably short line; visitors get to experience steam on about a mile of track that runs through Middleton woods. Like most heritage railways, Middleton has a fantastic collection of engines from working engines through to those undergoing extensive restoration. The site also benefits from a museum that will entertain all those that visit.
LS10 2JQ England
Yorkshire has a rich industrial heritage that, combined with the unique landscape provides the ideal backdrop for a steam train ride. The region is lucky enough to have a number of leading heritage steam railways, and many often operate heritage diesels. Whether puffing across the epic moorlands or winding through dales, the chug of an engine provides a feeling of magic unlike any other form of transport. Most locations are geared up for families and activity encourage visitors to engage with staff to learn more about the steam engines, rolling stock and the history of the carefully restored stations. Car parking is also rarely an issue at these locations, with ample space you will be able to park with ease, usually after enjoying a scenic journey to the station.