Although we do love a steam train, this wasn’t actually our choice of trip, but a family birthday celebration. It was also exceptionally cold, so I wasn’t sure what to expect on a freezing and grey Sunday morning! However, the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre turned out to be a great place to visit, for all ages – and conveniently close to London too.
There is so much to see, but if you like a map with suggested routes, a list of attractions or a guided tour, you won’t get it here. There are trains [and more] everywhere, at varying stages of repair and restoration, some open to visitors, some in use and some looking like they’ve been forgotten about. There is obviously a large team of committed volunteers working to bring these huge machines back to their former glory, which is great to see.
There were some truly sumptuous carriages, showing just how possible it was to truly travel in style [a far cry from a modern commute…]. Also on display was the specially-designed carriage used by Winston Churchill as he travelled across the country during the War; the intricacies of D-Day might well have been planned in that train.
There was even a working steam train, though its route was limited to a few hundred yards and back [they go back and forth twice to make you feel like you’ve had more of a trip]. The interior of the train was fascinating though, making you feel like the heroine of a WWI film, featuring compartment carriages with blinds to pull down and seating facing each other; perfect for a romantic rendezvous, if super awkward in the wrong situation. [You can also treat yourself to the added comfort of First Class!]
There were also Tube carriages to wander into, with wonderfully dated maps which even preceded Harry Beck, who designed the iconic, easy to read tube map we use today.
This crest was on one of just two surviving Metropolitan line steam-powered tube trains; it’s amazing to think that steam trains were our first Underground system in London.
Also met with a good deal of enthusiasm was the miniature railway, which was big enough for adults and at times quite terrifying [the driver didn’t seem to slow much for the corners!]. It’s hard to tell the scale of this little signal box but it was less than knee high!
You can walk for miles across the site, and see over 170 trains and carriages from history, which is pretty impressive. They’ve also furnished some of their exhibits with suitcases, trunks, retro advertising and household objects, which definitely gets me every time, along with the brilliant and iconic British Rail and London Underground typography and branding. For me, it appeals to anyone interested in a part of our country’s illustrious history, not just those into a boiler or pressure gauge.
As a day out, we’d recommend going in the sunshine (but we’ve just about regained the feeling in our feet now, and in fairness there’s a cosy fire in the cafe) and make sure the steam train is running, as it doesn’t every day. We’d suggest making a whole day of it, as tickets aren’t cheap (£11 for an adult on a steaming day). However, we used Tesco Clubcard vouchers, making our ticket about £3.50. Our final tip if you’re a fan of healthy eating would be to take a picnic; food is old fashioned (jacket potato with beans, toasties and crisps) rather than trendy, as you’d expect – though cups of tea were inexpensive and very welcome!
Have you ever been to the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre? What did you think? Leave us a comment below!