STEAM TRAIN DRIVING LEICESTERSHIRE
Drive a steam locomotive on the only mainline heritage railway in the country. As the real world passes by, relax into a gentler era of travel with you at the controls..!
Where better to make a train driving dream come true than on the UK’s only double track mainline? Your day with us at the Great Central Railway will commence with a cup of tea and an introduction to ourselves. Following that the safety briefing will get you ready for the day ahead.
Following a visit to the beautifully restored station, you’ll head up for a tour of the signal box before making your way to the loco workshops to meet the dedicated crew working tirelessly to restore a number of engines and carriages back to their former glory.
All this is of course is leading you up to the moment – the one where you ascend up onto the footplate of a gorgeous steam locomotive! There you’ll be shown the controls and get familiarised with your new friend. However, before you head out driving we’ll take you on an observation run of the track in a diesel loco – that way you’ll get acquainted with the signals, conditions and general approach of the track.
Depending on which driving experience you choose, you’ll either get to enjoy the nostalgia of your authentic steam locomotive for 16 or 30 miles with an enthusiastic footplate support team there to offer advice and assistance as required.
Once back at the station, you will receive your personalised certificate and information pack with our compliments and gratitude. During the course of the day you’ll work up a hunger, so both experience days provides lunch as well.
This unforgettable experience lunch and refreshments.
The hands on sessions includes:
- Safety briefing
- Observation ride in a diesel loco
- Getting the engine moving
- Bringing the loco to a controlled stop
- General track driving
- Tour of the signal box
- Visit to the loco yard
- Tour of the repair shed
- Certificate of Achievement
- Personalised information pack
The Bronze Driving Experience includes 16 miles of locomotive driving glory along with a train ticket for a guest to visit with you.
If you select to try the Silver Driving Experience then you’ll be on the steam engine for 30 miles and your train will have a full rake of carriages in attendance too. With this day you will also receive two tickets for guests to accompany you and they will get to ride in the carriages with you as their driver!
You are able to drive a steam locomotive on the Great Central Railway between January and November. Our Bronze Experiences run most weekends, whereas our Silver Experiences are held on selected Mondays and Fridays. Due to the immense popularity of these days, we strongly advise booking around six months in advance.
To find us and your railway experience day, you’ll need to make your way to Loughborough Station, which is located just outside the city centre on the A60 towards Nottingham (see map lower on the page).
Once you’ve decided that our Loughborough location is the perfect choice for your steam train adventure, simply hit the ‘Make A Booking’ button which will take you to our booking partner.
When you make a booking you will receive a voucher for your train driving day, which you will have a full 12 months to use – particularly handy if you’re buying this as a gift for someone else.
You can choose to either have the voucher delivered online as an eVoucher, or if you prefer a free luxury gift box can be sent under plain packaging (you can personalise both). Whichever method you prefer, you’ll find booking your train driving day with us is fast, easy and painless.
Our steam engine driving days are suitable for anyone over the age of 21. The only physical requirement is the agility to be able to climb up into the cab via the ladder.
With regards to clothing, we strongly recommend some sturdy footwear, long sleeves and trousers and preferably something you don’t mind getting a little dirty as this very much a hands on experience!
Our train driving experiences include platform access for your guests. If you undertake a Bronze Experience you will receive one ticket, whereas Silver participants get two. On our Silver Experiences your guests are able to ride as passengers in the carriages with you as their driver.
Other guests may join you at a cost of £12 per adult and £8 per child. As part of their railway day they will be able to explore the station, visit the musuem, watch the locomotive action and enjoy some lovely meals or refreshments in our restaurant. We like to think it’s a wonderful day out for yound and old with lots to discover, learn and enjoy!
Steam Along a Mainline to Yesteryear!
Your day stepping back in time to an era of elegance and timelessness begins with the obligatory nice cup of tea! We’ll take this moment to introduce ourselves, let you know what we’ll be doing and what you can expect from your train driving experience with us. We’ll also slip a nice pair of overalls onto you – after all, you have to look the part when you meet your locomotive – she’ll certainly be looking hers…
Working steam engines are impressive old things, heavy too… As such an informative safety briefing will keep you safe and sound – we want this to be a day to remember for all the right reasons! With that complete you can expect a personalised tour of our gorgeous station, which will include a trip up into the signal box and a visit to meet our amazing staff busy in the workshops, recreating the glory of yesteryear on numerous locomotive projects. Ask questions, take photos and soak up the atmosphere in anticipation of your big moment.
With a combination of excitement, nerves and utter smugness, you’ll then be taken to meet your loco, who will be waiting alongside our lovingly restored platform. This is it – up onto the footplate of a stunning mainline locomotive sitting astride the country’s only double track heritage railway.
We have two driving experiences to choose from. Both will have you pulling out of Loughborough Station and heading through some truly glorious East Midlands countryside including pulling into two stations en-route to the terminus at Leicester.
Bronze Steam Train Driving Experience
You’ll start with an observation journey along the track on a diesel train so that you can familiarise yourself with the track and signals that you’ll be encountering in a short while. Back at Loughborough it’s time for the real deal – as you and one other guest driver assume responsibility for your steam locomotive for a full 16 mile round trip. You’ll have the benefit of one of our support footplate crews, who will be there to assist and advise of course, so relax into the experience of a lifetime and full steam ahead!
Silver Steam Train Driving Experience
If you’re after an even more immersive experience, then step up the footplate on our Silver experience where your distance travelled at the controls increases right up to an unforgettable 30 miles. You’ll also have a full rake of carriages in tow – a full train experience! And you’ll also have two passenger tickets included – so you can some family or friends riding in the carriages with you as their driver!
Back at the station, your experience will culminate with the presentation of your personalised certificate and information pack. Both experiences will have you working up an appetite, so lunch is included too!
Meet Our Locos!
Allow us to introduce No. 78019, a handsome British Railways Class 2 2-6-0 locomotive whose design caused quite a stir during the day.
His story, or rather the reason behind his story, can be traced back to the post war years of 1948 to 1950. The toll of the conflict had left a need to replenish the rolling stock of the British Railways with something more contemporary and mechanically advanced than what had gone before.
One of the ‘Big Four’ designs to emerge had been the Ivatt 2MT (see tab (left/right), a compact, modern locomotive developed with the design techniques of the day firmly at its core. These Ivatts had started rolling off the production lines in 1946 and would continue on until 1953.
When the class of No. 78019 emerged there was significant controversy around his design – with many arguing that their class was unnecessary as it was almost identical to the Ivatt design. This was true as save for a few changes in the cab, to the controls and the addition of BR standard injectors and clacks along with grease lubrication points, there was little if anything to differentiate them from their predecessor.
Our very own locomotive rolled out of the Darlington Works in March 1954 at which point he was put into service in the north east. A few years later he moved onto the north west lines before making his way south to London to work empty stock trains out of Euston before being retired in 1966.
The debate over the validity of his class of locomotive’s introduction may have weight when you consider that they were all withdrawn from service a mere 16 years later with the end of the steam era, with all 78XXXs being taken out of service in May 1967.
But for No. 78019 his story didn’t end there. Upon being relieved of his duties he made his way to Woodham’s Yard in Barry, South Wales, where he anxiously awaited his fate. For No. 78019 good fortune favoured him and he was purchased for preservation – heading first to a private location, before progressing on to the Severn Valley Railway.
Some 20 years later in 1998 a deal was brokered between his current owner, Charles Newton, and the Loughborough Standard Locomotive Group Ltd that agreed to joint and equal ownership of No. 78019. At which point he made his move to Leicestershire so that comprehensive restoration could commence. Some six years later he emerged back fit for duty in time for the Great Central Railway Summer Gala of 2004.
Since then her has seen active duty, interspersed only with time away for routine maintenance. If he is the locomotive you get to drive on your experience, we’re confident he will delight and captivate you with his performance and capabilities.
Meet Sir Lamiel of Cardiff, also known by the less glamorous moniker of No. 30777, he is a ‘King Arthur’ class of Southern Railway express passengers that were brought into production back in 1918. With their impressive driving wheels they were capable of powering along the track at up to 90mph – not bad for the day!
Given their abilities to provide express services to the West Country they were afforded names associated with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Sir Lamiel was one of the broader knights mentioned in various folklore legends.
He was borne of the Northern British Locomotive Works in Glasgow as works number E777 in June of 1925. He and his fellow classmates that were manufactured there (30 in all), were often referred to as ‘Scotchmen’ or ‘Scotch Arthurs’ by the loco crews that worked them. These locomotives were designed with a narrower cab that better suited the eastern section of the Southern Railway.
As E777, Sir Lamiel started his working life at the Nine Elms Shed in London where he contributed to the express services from Waterloo across to Bournemouth and the West Country. Later he would see active service in Battersea and Feltham in the London region along with Basingstoke and further allocations along the south coast in Bournemouth and Dover.
In 1948 following the nationalisation of the railways, he was renumbered to 30777. Under this new identity he would continue in active duties until October 1961 when he was withdrawn from service after a somewhat truncated working life of just 36 years, brought on in no small way by the increasing use of diesel locomotives.
Upon retirement Sir Lamiel went into a succession of storages, firstly in Fratton and later Stratford and Ashford. It was some 17 years later in 1978 that he would find himself taken under the wing of the Humberside Locomotive Preservation Group and relocated to their Dairycoates Shed in Hull for the commencement of his restoration efforts. It was four year later on the 21st February 1982 that he would once again be steamed on an open track and a month later he took his inaugural trip as a preservation engine along the Settle and Carlisle Railway.
In October of 1995 he arrived at the Great Central Railway where after a short spell in service, he found himself once again out of action and undergoing restoration. This interlude was broken up by some celebrity appearances at the likes of the National Railway Museum’s Railfest.
In May 2006 Sir Lamiel returned to grace the rails and has been a regular performer along the GCR mainlines, and since the Autumn Steam Gala in October 2012 has been sporting her old No. 777 plate and Railway Malachite Green livery. Sir Lamiel is a gorgeous looking locomotive and we know that you’ll be thrilled if he is your engine on your driving day with us.
This striking locomotive rolled off the production line of the Great Northern Railway (GNR) as one of 60 such N2 produced. They were an evolution of the preceding N1 and were fitted with superheated boilers and piston valves; these internal alterations resulted in a change of appearance – notably a shorter chimney and dome.
When you look at No. 1744 you can certainly see the more purposeful stature and combined with the deeper growl in motion affords her a distinctive presence on the tracks.
Upon commencing her working life, No 1744 headed south to London and the Kings Cross shed in 1921. She would remain there until May 1962 at which point she moved to Peterborough to see out her final working days in September of that year. Having suffered the indignity of being superseded by diesel power, she was at least spared the humiliation of being scrapped as the Gresley Society purchased her in October of the following year.
However during her time in Doncaster she only carried out intermittent work, which would result in boiler tube failure, which in turn would require considerable work. In 1975 the Main Line Steam Trust volunteered to take ownership of No 1744 and undertake the required refurbishment as she was considered an ideal fit for the railway. Thus on the 21st November 1975 she changed family and was withdrawn from all service so that her repairs could be carried out. Two and a half years later in April 1978 she once again was back charming the railways.
Over the course of the following three decades she would see number changes, active service, social visits to other railways and periods of rest and recuperation – mainly due to ongoing boiler issues. These mechanical problems were finally solved in February of 2008 with an all new inner firebox and a fresh throat plate being fitted.
With the new lease of life came a new GNR livery and a return to her original No. 1744 designation. She was reunited with the working railway on the 20th June 2009 and has been captivating visitors since with her impressive frame, distinctive tones and undeniable character.