5 Great Steam Train Journeys

Date published: 19 Mar 15

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Relive the bygone age of rail travel on one of Great Rail Journeys many tours within the UK and mainland Europe that incorporate wonderfully scenic journeys on historic steam railways. The Steam Rail ToursCollection  features journeys on a number of the UK's well-loved steam railways, including the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, the Severn Valley Railway and the Ffestiniog Railway. A little further afield, the steam rail tours give the opportunity to experience the wonderful steam railways of Germany's Harz Mountains and the Achenseebahn and Zillertalbahn in the Austrian Tyrol.

Avon Vallet RailwayAvon Valley Railway

The journey on the heritage Avon Valley Railway travels along the surviving section of the Mangotsfield and Bath Branch Line, through the region's charming scenery on a preserved train, running for three miles between Oldland Common and the station at Avon Riverside.  For practical purposes the journey begins at Bitton, the intermediate station, from which the train travels northwards, passing through the charming countryside that climbs away from the River Avon. The noise of the steam trains echoing around the lower valley creates an atmospheric sound.

The line then reaches the flatter terrain of the outer region of Oakland Common, before it runs into a wooded area, where country trails and winding paths run in view of the tracks.

Arriving at the line's northern terminus, Oakland Common, the locomotive is uncoupled from the train and runs around to the other end for the return journey, which is especially popular with rail enthusiasts. On reboarding the train and travelling southwards back to Bitton the train goes  through lush green fields and into the idyllic rural scenery sloping down to the river, before finally journeying along the valley and then across the river itself before arriving at Avon Riverside station. Again, the engine swops ends before returning to Bitton.

Read more about the Great Rail Journey Tour

Jacobite Steam TrainJacobite Steam Train
Explore Scotland from Fort William to Mallaig

Scotland excels at scenic railway journeys, and the route taken by the  Jacobite Steam Train  along part of the West Highland Railway and the Mallaig Extension Railway, reintroduced in 1984, is widely regarded as one of the finest. Since the earliest days of the railway, powerful locomotives have been required to negotiate the demanding gradients presented by the Highland terrain.

Today, four beautifully restored steam locomotives, with a distinctive maroon livery take turns to make the eighty-two-mile return trip from Fort William to Mallaig and back: the Lancashire Fusilier and its sister engine the North Briton; the Lord of the Isles, and the Sherwood Forester, hauling original 1960s British Rail First and Standard Class carriages.

Great Rail Journey Tours including this journey:

•  Edinburgh, The Highlands and Islands
•  Western Islands and Hebrides

North Yorkshire Moors RailwayNorth Yorkshire Moors Railway

The English county of Yorkshire is famous for its wild, open and unspoilt landscapes through which the North Yorkshire Moors Railway runs. Covering a distance of 29 kilometres (18 miles), through the beautiful North York Moors National Park, it connects the picturesque market town of Pickering and the village of Grosmont.

The railway first opened in 1836 as the Whitby and Pickering Railway moving goods and passengers to and from Yorkshire's east coast, but was closed in 1965 due to the Beeching Report. Salvation for the Whitby and Pickering Railway arrived via an enthusiastic and dedicated preservation society who arranged open weekends and 'steam galas' to fund the re-opening of the line, which was achieved in 1973. Today, carefully-restored carriages are hauled by diesel and steam locomotives along the pretty route, which reportedly features one of the oldest railway tunnels in the world.

Great Rail Journey Tours including this journey:

•  Yorkshire and Northumberland
•  Grand Tour of the UK
•  Harrogate Flower Show
•  Yorkshire at New Year


The fabulous journey on the Zillertalbahn (or the Ziller Valley Railway) goes along a 19-mile route from Jenbach through the grandiose mountain scenery to Mayrhofen at the other end of the valley. The trip begins at Jenbach station, which is served by lines with three different gauges, the narrow-gauge train turns southwards entering the broad valley floor, where the scenery is superb; the lush, flower-filled meadows and striking farmland leds to the base of the snow-dusted peaks a little further off. The train continues on past clusters of classic Tyrolean villages, traditional wooden Alpine chalets, frescoed buildings and decorative churches.

Keeping the meandering River Zill in sight, the journey moves on past slopes of thick forests and fertile fields, beneath the backdrop of the rocky peaks.  The finally train arrives in Mayrhofen, with its charming cobbled streets and cable cars for exploring the nearby mountains.

Great Rail Journey Tours including this experience:

•  Lake Garda
•  Austrian Alps All Inclusive
•  Austrian Christmas & Italian New Year
•  Railways of the Austrian Alps

Brocken RailwayBrocken Railway

The Brocken is the highest peak in the Harz Mountain range in central Germany. Damaged as a result of bombing and mortar fire in the Second World War, the Brocken Railway was reopened following repair in 1949.  After the historic reunification of Germany in 1990, the train was returned to public use, after years as military transport  and since 1992 passengers have once again able to make the spectacular rail journey, hauled by steam locomotive, to the summit of Brocken to see the breath-taking panoramic views of the Harz Mountains National Park.

Great Rail Journey Tours including this journey:

•  Harz Mountains & Rhine Gorge
•  Harz Mountains Christmas Markets
•  Harz Mountains in the Winter

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