There’s something magical about riding a vintage steam train and even more so about doing it at Christmas time. The great news for seasonal loco fans is there’s lots of options. In this post I’m sharing where to find sparkling Christmas and Santa trains in Devon as well as the super popular Polar Express and Train of Lights.
And if you’re looking for a Devon gift here’s something to add to the kids’ stockings:
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Polar Express in Devon
The Christmas train experience many children will know from the movies the Polar Express. And Devon has two!
All aboard for an unforgettable festive adventure in these locations in the South West:
The Polar Express™ at South Devon Railway – South Devon
Arrive kitted out in your best pyjamas for this magical train ride to the North Pole via the scenic Dart Valley.
The Conductor and his crew will recreate scenes from The Polar Express film as you journey between the Buckfastleigh and Totnes stations on this former Great Western Railway branch line.
Along the way you’ll have your ticket stamped just like in the film and visit Santa’s workshop to complete your Christmas adventure.
What’s included: pre-train ride show and onboard entertainment | a cookie and hot chocolate | a chance to meet Santa | a sleigh bell for each child (just like in the film).
Book a premium ticket and you also receive a Polar Express souvenir mug.
Ticket prices: from £33.95 to £46.95 per person.
Tip: book a weekend earlier in the season for lower priced tickets.
Where: South Devon Railway, Dart Bridge Road, Buckfastleigh, TQ11 0DZ
When: selected dates from 24 November to 23 December 2023.
Find out more and book tickets for The Polar Express at South Devon Railway.
The Polar Express™ at Seaton Tramway – East Devon
Seaton Tramway is also hosting The Polar Express this Christmas!
Board a specially decorated sign deck tram for a unique ride to the North Pole. Each tram seats just 24 people, so it’s more intimate than other Polar Express steam trains with lots of carriages.
Having said that you can still expect Polar Express style entertainment along with carols and plenty of festive cheer while you enjoy the lights of the North Pole.
What’s included: onboard entertainment | hot chocolate and cookie | meet Santa | a sleigh bell for every passenger.
Ticket prices: from £24.95 to £39.95 per person | children under 2 free.
Where: Seaton Tramway, Harbour Road, Seaton, Devon, EX12 2WD.
When: selected dates from 24 November to 24 December 2023.
Find out more and book tickets for The Polar Express at Seaton Tramway.
More Santa trains in Devon
For a traditional steam train ride with Father Christmas, check out these events:
Santa Specials on the Trago Mills Steam Railway – South Devon
Board the Trago Mills Steam Railway for a ride to Santa’s grotto. The service runs from Riverside Station to the grotto and then on to Trago Central Station for the model railway.
Tickets can only be bought on the day with the first train leaving at 10am and the queue closing at 4pm.
What’s included: meeting Santa and his elves, a gift for every good child and a hot drink for every adult from the Staplehill Servery.
Ticket prices: Adults £3, children £4 – tickets can only be bought on the day.
Where: Trago Mills, Stover, Newton Abbot, TQ12 6JD.
When: 18 to 19 November and 25 November to 23 December 2023
Find out more about the Santa Specials at Trago Mills.
Christmas Express at Plym Valley Railway – South Devon
Board a special service at Marsh Mills Station to meet Santa. There will be a snow machine at the station to add to the festive mood.
There are gold, silver and bronze experience packages to fit all budgets.
What’s included: a gift from Santa | activity bag
Ticket prices: Gold package for up to six people £95 | Silver package for up to four people £65 | Bronze package for up to four people £45
Where: Marsh Mills Station, Coypool Road, Plympton, Plymouth, PL74NW.
When: weekends from 2 to 17 December and then 20 to 21 December 2023.
Find out more and book tickets for the Christmas Express.
Santa services on the Train of Lights – South Devon
Santa will be onboard special services of Dartmouth Steam Railway’s Train of Lights this year.
What’s included: as well as the complete Train of Lights experience, Santa and a helper is onboard to give a gift to every passenger – kids and adults.
Ticket prices: £32 for adults (15+) | £22 for children (19 months to 14-years-old) | 0 to 18-month-olds free but must sit on a lap
Where: Dartmouth Steam Railway, Paignton Station, Queen’s Park Station, Paignton, TQ4 6AF
When: 2 to 23 December 2023.
Santa Special at Lynton and Barnstaple Railway – North Devon
The volunteers at Lynton and Barnstaple Railway will be dressing the carriages for the season and running their popular Christmas train service with a special guest onboard.
Children will receive a small gift of a Lynton & Barnstaple Railway colouring book with crayons, presented by Santa.
What’s included: there is mulled wine and mince pies for passengers during selected dates in December.
Ticket prices: adults £10 | students/young adult (aged 14 to 18-years-old) £6.50 | children FREE with a paying adult (under 14-years-old) | family ticket £30 (two adults and up to three children)
Where: Woody Bay Station, Martinhoe Cross, Parracombe, Barnstaple, EX31 4RA.
When: 16 to 24 December 2023
Check the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway website for more details.
Christmas trains in Devon
For a thoroughly festive ride, here’s where to find Christmas trains in Devon:
Train of Lights at Dartmouth Steam Railway – South Devon
This magical illuminated journey through the South Devon countryside is a special Christmas treat that the whole family will enjoy.
Board the vintage train carriages decked with thousands of fairy lights at Paignton and take a round trip to Kingswear via an enchanted forest.
What’s included: you’ll be entertained along the way with a festive story and trackside displays.
Ticket prices: adults £29 (16+) | children £20 (3 to 15-years-old) | 0 to 2-years-old free | family ticket £95 (two adults and up to three children)
Where: Dartmouth Steam Railway, Paignton Station, Queen’s Park Station, Paignton, TQ4 6AF.
When: selected dates from 24 November to 30 December 2023.
Read about our Train of Lights experience.
Find out more and book tickets for the Train of Lights.
More Christmas events in Devon
I also have some tips on how to entertain the kids during that most awkward time of year, Twixmas!
Download the 101 Days out in Devon with kids ebook
Grab your copy of this guide to family-friendly things to do across the county, from coast to coast, in the cities, on the moors and whatever the weather.