Ever wondered what it would look like if Blackpool illuminations and the Flying Scotsman had a lovechild? If not then that’s an illicit store cupboard liaison you’ll be pondering for the rest of the day, but it’s also quite possible that the 9-months-later result would be the Bluebell Railway or the Epping to Ongar railway this winter. Because the steam railways are getting their own light shows. And it’s chuffing amazing.
Light shows are two-a-penny right now, with London announcing a new one almost daily. But add in steam trains and a light bulb comes on. Literally.
The magical experiences suit Londoners north or south, so whether you’re steaming north to Ongar or south to the East Sussex heritage railway both railways are working with SteamLights to decorate their vintage trains in the most magical way possible. Step aside Hogwarts Express, there’s an even magical-er steam train in town (and this one has lights)
Step aside Hogwarts Express, there's an even magical-er steam train in town (and this one has lights)...
Both railways have taken leaves out of the books of the likes of Syon Park, Kew Gardens or Crystal Palace, and have just added wheels. The train itself is festooned in multi-coloured led bulbs, but the routes also include lights and installations to make the journey as magical from inside as it is from without.
We got very excited when this was announced last year, only to see the country descend into a tiers and any hope of travel to Sussex or Essex completely written off and the steam powered show presumably mothballed for another year. But with the covid situation *hurriedly searches for wood* under control it’s hoped that this year’s shows will be back in all their glory.
With the covid situation *hurriedly searches for wood* under control it's hoped that this year's shows will be back in all their glory...
Both railways are offering passengers their own compartments, tables or (on the Epping Ongar Railway) open carriage seating, depending on your budget and they are both also offering packed food to enjoy on the trips.
The Bluebell Railway comes in a little more expensive (by £10 for a compartment) but the experience time is 50% longer, at one hour and thirty minutes compared to one hour.
The experiences don’t kick off until November, and in both cases run through to January. Amid all the magic of the Christmas run-up what could be more special than a light covered steam train (or, less glamorously, diesel on some services) ride through a forest?