Ho Ho Ho on Great Central Railway’s Santa Express

Yo Ho Ho on the Santa Express

Entertaining the kids – be they yours or borrowed – in the run-up to Christmas can be a harrowing affair. There’s something in the air as the advent approaches that turns them, let’s face it, a bit feral. But we have a solution that will not only enthral your offspring, but earn you a well-deserved treat, too. Sound too good to be true? Read on and reap the rewards.

Great Central Railway is a historic railway line in Leicestershire, operating from its main station in Loughborough. It’s a recommissioned railway line that transports you back to a bygone era; an age of the steam train. The line takes on Loughborough, Quorn, Rothley and Leicester North.

Having lived in Charnwood for the best part of 20 years, I had visited the quaint village station in Quorn many times before – it’s always been a firm favourite of my parents. There’s something romantic about Quorn station in particular, as it’s dressed as if wartime Britain. 

But, I digress

Departing from the ridiculously cute, Victorian Loughborough train station, we are welcomed at the wooden panelled and festively festooned ticket office before descending onto the platform. 

Everything runs like clockwork, so we don’t wait long before we are welcomed onto the vintage steam train and its assortment of carriages by the army of Elves. Excitement levels build as the kids are offered their own refreshments, along with a complimentary activity pad and colouring pencils. Chaperones get the harder stuff – a tot of sherry or cream liqueur and a warm mince pie. The carriages are snug and full of chatter and laughter.

And then we hear his bell

And through the billowing steam, there he is: Father Christmas, looking resplendent in his scarlet red robes and, of course, his enormous sack stuffed full of toys. He waves and rings his bell as he walks the length of the platform, waving at the grinning children inside the carriages, before embarking. And with a chuff, chuff, chuff, we pull out of the station and into the beautiful Charnwood countryside.

Santa and his merry Elf helpers take the time to stop at the table of every child, before handing a very special present to each one. I loved the inclusivity of the present giving – every child could choose whether they wanted a boy or girl present. Some traditions are right to be reinvented for a modern age. And the kids love it. They’re enraptured and giddy, which is contagious.

45 minutes later, we stop at Leicester North where we embark for a few moments – long enough to get a selfie with Santa, with the giant steam train behind us, billowing smoke from its funnels, raring to get moving again. 

Selfies done, we’re back in our seats – with Santa safely on board, too – for the return journey back to Loughborough. It’s turned dark now and the landscape changes yet again, as we whizz through open fields, woodlands and what looks like to be a giant star curtain, but is a lake with hundreds of swans. Stunning. Should it snow in the build-up to the 25th, this can only be even more magical.

As we arrive back in Loughborough, our adventure is not quite over. There are more opportunities to see Santa, explore the gift shops and, as you leave, take your own goodie bag home with you. What an adventure. As the grinning faces suggest, you’re sure to be taking home plenty of happy memories, too.

More information

The Santa Express runs until Christmas Eve, as the Big Man is busy from then.

For more information on the Great Central Railway and to book, visit: https://www.gcrailway.co.uk/santa-steam-trains/

Many thanks to Great Central Railway for the opportunity to travel with you on the Santa Express.  Although the ticket was gifted, the words, pictures and views are our own.

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