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We all love a steam train, and while the big beasts make occasional weekend trips though the city, there are a surprisingly large number of miniature steam trains chugging along little railways around parts of London as well.
Operated by local model railway enthusiasts, these miniature railways offer trips for the public for a nominal fee most weekends throughout the summer.
While almost certainly aimed at children, we big people get as much delight from them as the kids, and many parents seem to take their kids along simply as an excuse so they have have a ride themselves.
A lot of them are opening up now for their summer season.
Most are cash only venues, including those that offer a local tea house.
In alphabetical order
Barking Park Light Railway
A 7.25 inch gauge railway that takes you on a journey, just under 1/4 mile from Park Gates Station to Lakeside Halt.
Open daily during summer months, but check their Facebook page for last minute changes.
Fare unknown – used to be 70p per ride, so probably a bit more now.
Brockwell Park Miniature Railway
A decent sized 7¼ inch gauge miniature railway offering round trips from Herne Hill Gates to the Brockwell Lido and return.
Opened in 2003 and runs for 240 yards along a single track with loops at either end. The railway has been relaid close to the formation of the original railway which ran between 1951-1961.
A range of diesel effect battery and steam locomotives.
Runs every Sunday from March to October with trips from 11am-4pm and cost £1 return.
Chingford and District Model Engineering Club
One of the best kept secrets in Chingford is the 2 model train tracks at the back of Ridgeway Park. There is a 1000 foot long raised level track and a 3000 foot long 7¼” ground level track.
Rides are £1 or £1.50 depending on the trip taken.
Open every Sunday and Bank Holiday April to October in the afternoons.
Colney Heath Railway
Two newish railway tracks at this mainly model railway group.
Open on the first and third Sunday afternoons each month from May to October.
Great Cockcrow Railway
Only just on the outside of the M25, so included anyway. Two tracks offering trips of 15-20 minutes each on a huge selection of locomotives – they have 25 steam engines plus others.
Open every Sunday from May to November in the afternoons only. Fares are £5 per adult and £4 per child.
Harlington Locomotive Society (review)
Built in what was once a back garden, this decent sized loop railway has several steam and battery locomotives, a single station, and one tunnel to travel through. The tea room also contains a small railway history museum.
Fares are 80p per trip
Open April to October on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month.
Harrow and Wembley Society of Model Engineers
80 year old model railway society, offers a range of medium sized locomotives with sit-on carriages and a number of tracks looping around the site. Sometimes known as the Roxbourne Park Miniature Railway.
Fares are £1 per trip.
Open Sunday afternoons from April to late October.
Havering Miniature Railway Club
A new 7¼” gauge miniature railway with a range of locomotives, including a miniature Metropolitan electric locomotive. The track is quite long as well, being 772 metres with a couple of loops.
Open on the 1st or 2nd Sunday of each month (check website) from 11am to 4pm.
Fares are £2 per trip.
Ickenham Miniature Railway
The small railway is located in the centre of Ickenham and has been giving rides to the public since 1970.
Open on the first Saturday of the month from April to December in the afternoons.
Fares are 80p per ride.
Ilford & West Essex Model Rail Club
A 7¼” gauge miniature railway in an irregular loop and featuring a 30 feet long timber viaduct across a lake. The club house is also open with model railway layouts to watch.
Fares are 70p per ride or £4 for an all day pass.
Open on the first Sunday of the month from April to September.
London Transport Miniature Railway
Only open when the London Transport Museum depot has its open weekends.
Trips usually £1 — although you have to have a ticket to the museum depot as well, which if you haven’t been is a very worthwhile place in itself.
Offers a mix of steam and diesel engines – and a miniature tube train.
Northolt Model Railway Club
Running since 1950, the live steam section has a continuous raised track suitable for 3½” and 5″ gauge locomotives. It is about 660 feet long and runs around the perimeter of the Community Centre site.
Open on the third Sunday of every month from April to September.
Ruislip Lido Railway
A big railway for a miniature service – offering sit in carriages rather than the sit-on variety used by smaller model services. The two and a half mile round trip on the 12-inch gauge service takes about 35 minutes.
Runs every weekend from April-November and during the week during holidays.
Fares are £3.30 return for adults and £2.80 for children.
Swanley New Barn Railway
Sizeable railway that is also used as a cargo service for park visitors in addition to being a pleasure service.
The fleet includes a large range of battery electric locomotives and steam engines, and a couple of substantial stations.
Open most weekends from April to October, and every day in August.
Fares £1 per adult and 70p per child.
Thames Ditton Miniature Railway
A venerable organisation that has been around for nearly 80 years, they operate two independent railways. The ground level railway is for the larger trains the other is an elevated railway for the smaller scale trains, both are used for passenger hauling.
Open in the afternoons on the first Sunday of every month April to October and also Bank Holidays.
Fares are £2.50 per trip, or £7.50 for unlimited trips.
Watford Miniature Railway
Roughly 600 yards long, and apparently operational all year round. Has quite large locomotives with sit-in open air carriages.
Fares £2 per return trip.
Open weekends throughout the year in the afternoons only.
Welling and District Model Engineering Society
Founded in 1945, the society has a 1,268 long minature railway track with 3.5″ and 5″ gauge raised steel track. The track is electronically signalled, and features a full anti-tip rail, level crossing, footbridges, mini-viaduct, signal box and tunnel.
Open one Sunday per month April to October in the afternoons.
Epping Ongar Railway (review)
Not a miniature, but London’s closest full size heritage steam service. Open most weekends with trips between Chipping Ongar and North Weald (bus link from Epping tube station).
Trips are £14 for the bus shuttle, and unlimited trips along the train line. Add in the heritage in Chipping Ongar and the ancient churches, and it is pretty much a whole day out.
Kew Waterworks Railway
This is a small light railway that runs along tracks laid for the original coal carrying railway that serviced the steam engines in the water pumping station.
The Hampton & Kempton Railway
This is a newly restored light railway associated with the steam pumping station. Currently a small loop, but they’ve just secured permission for a major expansion.
If I’ve missed any off, let me know in the comments below.
This article first appeared on www.ianvisits.co.uk
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