Christmas light trail meets festive steam train adventure!  Discover the Christmas lights train rides brightening the December night sky near you.

Steam Illuminations - distant lights by Steve Morley

If you love a Christmas light trail and are partial to a classic steam train ride, then put your hands together for the latest trend in festive light displays! 

These train of light experiences have been added to heritage train timetables across the country so there’s sure to be a Christmas lights train pulling into a station near you this December!

We’ve scoured the country to find out all the details.  And created another Jolly Festive interactive map so you can find the Christmas Lights Train Ride nearest you!

Tip: These Christmas Lights Train Rides are hugely popular.  Do not delay booking once ticket sales open – they will sell out fast!

If you’re looking for one of the 100+ classic Santa Steam Train Rides around the country or an official UK Polar Express Train Ride, click through to our dedicated comprehensive guides to these experiences.

Note:  Please check organiser’s websites for latest details.  Contact details below. We are not affiliated with the railway lines in any way. 

Merging the classic Christmas steam train ride with a visit to a Christmas lights trail, this is a new kind of winter’s night adventure.

Whilst each of the Christmas lights train rides listed below is operated independently, most use a similar format.  A 60-90 minute return journey aboard a heritage train with synchronised music, story-telling, lights and lineside displays.  (Experiences on the smaller private circular train lines are more variable in offering.)

Most of the trains are pulled in at least one direction by a classic steam engine, with the huge plumes providing the canvas on which the train’s lights dance.

Some of the trains have a diesel locomotive for the return leg.  Others include a pitstop at the halfway point to uncouple the steam engine and transfer it to the other end of the train (with bonus outside viewing and photo time for the passengers).

So there’s plenty for the railway enthusiast, young and young-at-heart, to enjoy.  And more than a hint of Dickensian Christmastime for all!

These are not Santa train rides as standard (although some do have a visit from the man in red – details included below).  However there are plenty of festive elements, from the music to the narration and food provisions.  Not to mention the chilly night time light displays themselves which we all associate with the Christmas season.

Watercress Line Christmas Lights Train

Steam Illuminations Christmas Lights Train. Image Credit: Jolly Festive

Are They Worth It?

If the lights are on the outside of the train, surely it’s better to watch it go past for free rather than pay to be on board? 

If you’re thinking this, you are in good company – it was our first thought too.

There’s no doubt these trains create quite the display as they travel across the countryside and it would definitely be worth enjoying a separate trip out to watch them streak past.  We’ve included some suggested viewing locations (with What 3 Words reference) for each Christmas lights train ride below if you’d like to do exactly that.  Scroll down to the individual train ride details to find out more.

Onboard, the experience is much more of an immersive Christmas lights trail style event.  It’s like starring in your very own Coca-Cola advert!  Yes the holidays are coming … but this time, they’re arriving by train!

What Lights Can I See From Onboard?

You should be able to enjoy the train lights from a number of different perspectives.  Many of the train rides start with a town centre Christmas lights-style countdown.  And routes often include curved areas of track or pass close by a reservoir or river so that you can watch the train’s reflection in the dark waters.

As well as glimpses of the chains of fairy lights around and across the windows, the interiors of most of the trains are decorated with hundreds more fairy lights.

You’ll also have the opportunity to see the train up close and personal on the platform before, after and sometimes during your ride too.  If there’s a bridge at the station, be sure to go up for an overhead perspective. The perfect opportunity to snag that family Christmas photo or IG shot! 

What Is There To See Outside?

Obviously this will differ depending on the train ride taken.  Routes pass through areas of decorated lineside and/or stations and some include “snowy” sections as you travel.  Lights are purposely dimmed inside to ensure that passengers can see.  And the steam from the engine adds an aire of mystery to the scene.    

Some of the displays are lit directly.  Others by floodlights on the exterior of the train (often below the carriages) which illuminate the woodland and trackside as you pass through.  These displays are often linked to narrated stories on board or dance in time with the music.

Steam Illuminations Christmas Lights Train At Decorated Station

Christmas Lights Train at the Station. Image Credit: Jolly Festive

Where are the Christmas Lights Train Ride UK Locations For 2024?

There are currently 10 Christmas lights train rides options spread across the UK. (8 full size options with two miniature railways offering Christmas lights train rides too.)

Use our interactive map below to find your nearest venue and scroll down for more details.

Dartmouth Steam Railway Christmas Train of Lights

The award-winning original Christmas Lights Train Ride has been brightening the Devon night skies since 2018!  This 90-minute return trip from Paignton to Kingswear takes passengers through the South Devon countryside, along the English Riveria seafront and right by the edge of the River Dart, where you’ll be treated to the breath-taking reflection of the illuminated heritage train in the waters below.

The train passes through the 450m Greenway tunnel before arriving in the enchanted forest, transformed with magical light displays whilst narration bring the scenes outside to life.   At Kingswear, you’ll have the opportunity to get off the train and catch some more photos of the exterior of the train.  The return journey offers a different perspective on the displays and the opportunity for some festive tunes too!

Where: Queen’s Park Station, Torbay Road, Paignton TQ4 6AF

When: Friday 29 November – Monday 30 December 2024

Is Santa On Board?  No, this is not a Santa train ride – you will not meet the man in red during the standard Train of Lights.  However there are Train of Lights + Santa options available.

Where to view the Train of Lights: Want to see the train go past?  Most people head to Goodrington Beach (South Sands end) (///sheets.slim.lied) or Broadsands Beach (///twee.offshore.blinking) in Paignton for the view.  Or try the Dartmouth Road bridge by Churston Station for an overhead perspective (///distracts.transmitted.skinning).

More Information: Further information and to book this Devon Christmas lights train ride at Dartmouth Steam Railway.

Twilight Trains at Perrygrove Railway

Take a magical narrow gauge train ride through illuminated woodlands and by a frozen lake in search of Father Christmas himself! 

The decorated fairy-lit Twilight Train pulls into the station with a musical fanfare ready to collect its passengers for the journey.  Upon arrival at the end station, you’ll be treated to a hot chocolate before your return trip … complete with a pause at a special stop!  The total experience lasts just over an hour and there’s plenty to see along the way.

Where: Perrygrove Railway, Perrygrove Farm, Perrygrove Road Coleford, Gloucestershire GL16 8QB

When: 2024 Dates TBC

Is Santa On Board?  Taking the magic up a notch further for the little ones, this is indeed a Santa train ride.  Whilst Father Christmas isn’t actually onboard the train, he will be waiting at his snowy station to say hello, share hot chocolate and deliver small wooden decoration gifts to the children.

Where to view the Twilight Trains: As this train ride is within the private grounds of Perrygrove Farm there are fewer opportunities to view the Twilight Trains as they pass.  However you may be able to catch a glimpse from the B4428 Perrygrove Road (///turntable.vines.structure).

More Information: Further information and to book this Gloucestershire Christmas lights train ride at Perrygrove Railway.

West Somerset Railway Winterlights

West Somerset Railway Winterlights are back with their Somerset Christmas lights train ride experience!

The steam locomotive makes a return trip from Bishop’s Lydeard to Crowcombe and back.  There’s trackside displays to enjoy en route with a narrated story onboard to add to the festive spirit.

Where: Bishop’s Lydeard Railway Station, Bishop’s Lydeard, Taunton, TA4 3RU

When: 2024 Dates TBC

Is Santa On Board?  No. If you’re looking for a Somerset Santa Train Ride, then West Somerset Railway offer Santa Express experiences as well but these are separate daytime train journeys.  Find out more about these and other Santa Specials in our Complete Guide here.

Where to view the Winterlights trains: Want to see the train go past?  There are bridges over the railway line, perfect for getting a head-on view. Try the bridge on Station Road in Bishop’s Lydeard (///nourished.willing.outbid) or this bridge partway along the route (///think.searcher.siblings).  For a side perspective, try heading to /// on the A358.

More Information: Further information and to book this Somerset Christmas lights train ride at Winterlights West Somerset Railway.

Bluebell Railway SteamLights

Enjoy a 90-minute illuminated adventure in the Sussex countryside.  Following the big switch on of the lights at Sheffield Park Railway Station, hop aboard this heritage train for a magical adventure.  With a light show co-ordinated to narration and music, you’ll certainly be kept in the Christmas spirit as you sit back, relax and watch the winter wonderland scenes unfold around you as you travel.

A half-hour stop at Horsted Keynes station allows plenty of time for photos, fresh air and festive refreshments before you start your return journey back, filled with happy memories.

Where: Sheffield Park Station, East Sussex, TN22 3QL

When: 2024 Dates TBC

Is Santa On Board?  No. If you’re looking for a Sussex Santa Train Ride, then Bluebell Railway offer Santa Specials as well but these are separate daytime train journeys. Find out more about these and other Santa Specials in our Complete Guide here.

Where to view the SteamLights train: Want to see the train go past?  You are best to head to Sheffield Park or Horsted Keynes stations at either end of the journey as there are not many places on the route with an easy clear view of the train.

More Information: For further information and to book this Sussex Christmas lights train ride at SteamLights Bluebell Railway.

Epping Ongar Railway Light Express

Take a colourful night-time festive adventure aboard the Lights Express – the closest Christmas lights train ride to London!

The hour-long return journey starts this year at Ongar Station.  Aboard vintage carriages, you’ll enjoy synchronised music and light displays as you travel through the Essex countryside.  Dance along with your interactive LED wristbands as you listen to entertainment and commentary from ‘The Voiceover Man’. 

With a steam engine at one end and diesel locomotive at the other, train enthusiasts will get to experience the best of both worlds!

Where: Ongar Railway Station, Station Approach, Chipping Ongar, Ongar CM5 9AB

When: 2024 Dates TBC

Is Santa On Board?  No. If you’re looking for an Essex Santa Train Ride, then Epping Ongar Railway offer Santa Specials as well but these are separate daytime train journeys. Find out more about these and other Santa Specials in our Complete Guide here.

Where to view the train: Want to see the train go past?  Try the Blake Hall Road bridge just outside Grensted Green: ///light.bless.label

More Information: Further information and to book this Essex Christmas lights train ride at Epping Ongar Railway.

The Norfolk Lights Express

As your train steams from Sheringham to Holt and back, you’ll pass a series of colourful illuminated displays and experience the North Norfolk countryside like you’ve never seen it before as the onboard lights shine on to the scenery in a series of changing colours.

Upon arrival at Holt, the locomotive will switch ends and take you back to Sheringham as you can enjoy a different perspective on the displays along the line.  The whole experience lasts around 80mins.

Where: Sheringham Station, Station Approach, Sheringham NR26 8RA

When: 2024 Dates TBC

Is Santa On Board?  No. If you’re looking for a Norfolk Santa Train Ride, then North Norfolk Railway offer Santa Specials as well but these are separate daytime train journeys. Find out more about these and other Santa Specials in our Complete Guide here.

Where to view the train: Want to see the train go past?  There should be spectacular views alongside the train as it travels adjacent to Weybourne Road on departure from or arrival into Sheringham: ///

For an overhead perspective, try the bridge on Sandy Hill Lane by Weybourne Station (///aura.diver.smug) or Bridge Road near Holt Station at the other end of the journey (///harmonica.plausible.inch).

More Information: For further information and to book this Norfolk Christmas lights train ride at North Norfolk Railway Lights Express.

Watercress Line Steam Illuminations

Watercress Line’s Steam Illuminations stands slightly apart from its peers as it provides a fully choreographed LED sound and light show both outside and onboard the heritage steam train.

LED wristbands (which are yours to keep) dance along with the train lights and create an immersive experience.  Enjoy trackside light installations as you travel the 10-mile return trip on the Watercress Line between Alresford and Alton – you might even find it ‘snows’ on part of the route!

Christmas music and commentary from “The Voiceover Guy” will keep you entertained as you sit back and enjoy the 1hr 45min adventure.  Bring your own snacks, buy at the station or pre-order a festive Treat or Drink box to enjoy in your carriage.

At the half-way point, you and fellow passengers will get off the train and enjoy the view from outside as you watch the engine transfer to the other end of the train.  Be sure to stand on the station bridge for a bird’s eye view of the action.

For more about this magical Christmas Lights train adventure, click here for our firsthand review.

Where: Departures from both Alresford Railway Station, Station Road, Hampshire, SO24 9JG and Alton Railway Station, Station Road, Hampshire, GU34 2PZ.

When: Friday 29 November 2024 – Saturday 4 January 2025

Is Santa On Board?  No, Father Christmas will not be on board the Steam Illuminations trips. For Hampshire Santa Train Rides, check out our Complete Guide here.

Where to view the train: Want to see the train go past?  There are several bridges which criss-cross the track and would offer a great view of the train passing below.  Try any of these:

More Information: Further information and to book this Hampshire Christmas lights train ride at Watercress Line Steam Illuminations.

And click here for our Jolly Festive review of the experience and top tips for visiting.

Gwili Steam Railway Santa Special

Gwili Steam Railway have been running their hugely popular Santa’s Magical Steaming train rides for years.  But now the magic has been taken up a notch as the train is covered from end to end in beautiful Christmas lights too.  So you can enjoy the best of both worlds … a Christmas lights train ride adventure complete with Father Christmas and Mrs Claus onboard too!

There’s festive refreshments for the adults and treats, and a gift for the children as the Santa Special steam train makes its 90min return trip along the heritage train line.

Note: All the Santa Special train rides are illuminated but of course, if you’re wanting to make the most of the lights, be sure to book a ticket later in the day.

Gwili Steam Railway Lights of the Valley

Train In The Station. Image Credit: Gwili Steam Railway

Where: Bronwydd Arms Railway Station, Carmarthen SA33 6HT

When: 2024 Dates TBC

Is Santa On Board?  Yes!  This is a Santa special with a twist!  Christmas Lights Train meets Santa Train Ride!  Does it get any more exciting?!  (Note: There’s also New Year Lights of the Valley train rides available during Twixmas but by then Santa had headed back to the North Pole.)

Where to view the train: Want to see the train go past?  Head here (///clicker.strength.rigid) on the A484 for a view of the Lights of the Valley steam train across the field.

More Information: Further information and to book this Welsh Christmas lights train ride at Gwili Steam Railway Santa Special.

Echills Wood Railway Bright Lights for Winter Nights

A 40 minute magical miniature railway experience!  Obviously on a smaller scale than the others activities on this page.  But we’ve included it in our round-up as it’s just as fun for the littlies as the bigger train adventures.

Travel through woods, tunnels, and over bridges on the Bright Lights Express!  The train itself is dressed with thousands of dazzling lights to brighten the woods of Kingsbury.  And be sure to look out for the displays at the trackside as you travel.

Festive treats included for passengers, ensuring plenty of Christmas spirit for all! But be sure to wrap up warm as you’ll be exposed to the elements on this Christmas lights train ride!

Echills Wood Railway Bright Lights for Winter Nights

Bright Lights For Winter Nights. Image Credit: Echills Wood Railway

Where: Kingsbury Water Park, Bodymoor Heath Rd, Bodymoor Heath, Sutton Coldfield B76 0DY

When: 2024 Dates TBC

Is Santa On Board?  No, these train rides are all about the lights!  There are separate Santa Train Rides on selected weekend dates in December 2024.

More Information: Further information and to book this West Midlands Christmas lights train ride at Echills Wood Railway.

Eastleigh Lakeside Christmas Lights Train

Another small but mighty Christmas Lights train experience can be found at Eastleigh Lakeside Steam Railway. 

Departing from a very festive Eastleigh Park station, take a magical ride around Lakeside Country Park after dark. 

In addition to the 15-20min journey aboard the illuminated miniature railway, there’s plenty of Christmas cheer to be had at the station itself, with jolly tunes and seasonal treats at the cafe. 

Eastleigh Lakeside Steam Railway Christmas Lights Train

Where: Lakeside Country Park, Wide Lane, Eastleigh, SO50 5PE

When: 2024 Dates TBC

Is Santa On Board?  No, these train rides are all about the lights!  There are separate Santa Train Rides on selected weekend dates in December 2024.

More Information: For further information and to book this Hampshire Christmas lights train ride at Eastleigh Lakeside Steam Railway.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is This A Santa Train Ride?

No, these Christmas Light Train Rides are quite a different experience.  Whilst a handful of them do include either a Santa experience or the option to add one on, they are not intended to focus on the man in red.  Instead, these are far more like a Christmas light walking trails – full of festive wonder but without the direct link to the North Pole!

We’ve gathered details and locations of Santa Train Rides and Polar Express Experiences across the UK as well though so head to those articles for details.

How Long Is The Train Ride?

Obviously this varies locally but most seem to last around 60-90mins.  They typically include a station stop along the route (often at the end of the route to enable the engine to switch ends).  This break allows passengers to get off the train, stretch legs, use the facilities and of course capture those all-important photos and videos of the illuminated train!

Do The Train Rides Include Food?

Again this will vary locally.  However food is not typically included in the ticket price.

Most of the trains either offer refreshments for sale at the stations and/or the opportunity to pre-order festive treats to enjoy on board the train.

What Age Is Best For A Christmas Lights Train Ride?

Christmas Lights Train Rides are designed for the whole family, from 0-100 and beyond!  You know your children and your family best and know when they will get the most from the experience.

It is worth bearing in mind that most of the trains keep the lighting on board limited in order to enable easier viewing of outside.  Fairy-lights are typically used for minimal safety lighting.

It may be worth having some light-up bracelets, fidget toys and snacks with you to distract restless children if their attention on the outside wanes.

That being said, with music, narration, disco lights, perhaps even some carriage-wide games, and the excitement of being out after dark, hopefully even the most restless of little ones should have plenty to occupy them.

Most of the trains are unable to take pushchairs due to the age and layout of the carriages.  There are also unlikely to be toilet facilities on board the trains.  However most offer a break in the journey where facilities are available.  Specific accessibility arrangements should be checked directly with the organiser.

How Much Do Christmas Lights Train Rides Cost?

From our research we would suggest you should expect to pay around £20-30 per person, with some discounts available for family tickets.  Babes-in-arms usually seem to be free.  However, this of course varies from railway to railway so check the organiser’s website for latest pricing information.

Magical Engine of a Christmas Lights Train

Illuminated Steam Train Engine. Image Credit: Jolly Festive

Have you been on a Christmas Lights Train Ride?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.  Any top tips for future adventurers?

Looking for a Polar Express Train Ride or a Classic Santa Steam Train.  Click through for all the details in our comprehensive guides.  Fancy a spin at a pop-up Christmas ice skating rink – find your nearest with our interactive map.

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