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Train of Lights in Paignton – what to expect in 2023

Train of Lights in Paignton – what to expect in 2023

A Devon Christmas attraction that has been drawing crowds both onboard and trackside since 2018 is Dartmouth Steam Railway’s Train of Lights – the first festive locomotive experience of its kind in the world.

If you’re thinking of booking the Train of Lights in 2023 then this guide is for you!

In it I’m sharing our experience from a couple of years ago, handy tips for riding this illuminated locomotive and vantage points where you can see the Train of Lights along its route.

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Paignton to Dartmouth Christmas train

We’ve ridden the line between Paignton and Kingswear several times over the years.

We always enjoy this scenic steam train ride with stunning views of the River Dart, South Devon countryside and English Riviera sea front. It has to be one of the most picturesque vintage train rides in the UK.

An added bonus for pet families like us is that it’s also a dog-friendly Devon attraction.

But if you’ve seen this former GWR branch line by day, is it worth hopping on board at night?

Illuminated train carriage

Is it worth booking?

Without wanting to give away too many spoilers, yes!

Before our ride I was a bit dubious about whether the Train of Lights could be as good on the train as watching it steam past for free.

After all…what a sceptical!

But after experiencing it myself, I wouldn’t hesitate to say ‘book, book, book for this year’.

What happens during the Train of Lights experience?

The Train of Lights is a totally unique and uplifting event for families who want a magical Christmas experience.

Our journey did not include Santa but there are special services that do. Make sure you book the right trip if you want to see Father Christmas onboard.

Girl in front of Train of Lights

The 1.5 hour return journey from Paignton to Kingswear is full of magic, light and winter wonderland scenes.

What you see from the various vantage points along the track is very different to what you see from inside the vintage carriages. 

The additions to the track are very impressive. Each time you approach a different highlight the train slows so all 10 carriages can get a good look.

Our experience

We rode the Train of Lights in 2021. Here’s our experience from that year. It changes each year so you can expect a slightly different experience.

Glenda the Dragon at Churston Station

We saw mystical animals, fairy tale characters and the odd baddy along the way. The narrator during the journey prompted us to shout out the fun things we saw.

When we reached Kingswear we stepped onto the platform to appreciate the view of Dartmouth across the river and get another look at the illuminated train and carriages.

Children looking out of Train. of Lights carriage window at a view of Dartmouth

Then it was time to get back on board for the return trip to a sound track of festive tunes that had everyone singing along.

Read about more things to do in Paignton with kids.

Handy things to know

Here’s some extra information that’s useful to know before your illuminated journey through South Devon:

Boarding the Train of Lights in Paignton

All Train of Lights experiences depart from Paignton station. You book online and collect your tickets here.

Once you have your tickets you can make your way onto the station and train.

Don’t miss the animated displays in the station building.

Girl in front of reindeer models

Can you take pushchairs?

The train carriages are vintage so it’s difficult to get pushchairs on and keep them with you.

A pushchair park is available indoors at the station in Paignton.

Toilets

There’s toilets at Paignton Station, two on the train and at Kingswear Station.

When we stopped at Kingswear we had time to get off and walk the length of the platform, queue for the ladies and get back to our seats well in time.

Refreshments

The station cafe at Paignton is open for hot drinks and treats. The shop and cafe at Kingswear are not open.

You can however bring your own drinks and snacks.

Are dogs allowed?

Dogs are allowed to join you but must be booked in advance.

Are there any scary parts?

Something that isn’t well publicised and might upset younger children is that the main lights in the train go out a few times during the journey. This is to help you appreciate the displays outside.

You are never totally in the dark because there are fairy lights strung through the overhead luggage racks. But it’s worth warning children who might find this scary.

How much are tickets in 2023?

There are different prices for the two services with and without Santa.

Tickets for the Train of Lights cost £29 for adults and £20 for children. You can buy a family ticket for two adults and up to three children for £95. These are no concession tickets.

Tickets for the Train of Lights with Santa cost £32 for adults (over 15-years-old) and £22 for children aged 19 months to 14-years-old. There’s no concessions or family ticket for this service.

Book tickets on the Dartmouth Steam Railway website.

Where to see the Train of Lights

If you’d just like to find a good vantage point to view the Train of Lights, here’s some of the best places and where you can find them using What Three Words to pin point the location:

The train sets off from Paignton at 4.45pm 6.45pm and 8.45pm and returns 1.5 hours later. We were on the 4.45pm train and arrived back at Paignton by 6.15pm.

The train runs on selected dates from 24 November to 30 December 2023 excluding 4 to 6 December, 11 December and 24 to 16 December 2023.

It does not run at 8.45pm on 24, 25, 26 and 30 November or 1, 3, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, and 29 December 2023.

Final thoughts on the Train of Lights

Family hugging in train carriage

What makes this night time Christmas experience so special is the story-telling, incredible staging and vintage setting. 

If you have travelled the line before you need not think you have seen it all.

We have been on Dartmouth Steam Railway many times before and found the Train of Lights experience to be totally different. 

You literally see the views in a different light. 

And for anyone who has only experienced the Train of Lights, you must go back and see the views in daylight. They are just as impressive.

Check ticket availability for the Train of Lights on the Dartmouth Steam Railway website.

More things to do in Devon this Christmas

Christmas is a magical time to explore Devon, especially by train. Here’s my full guide to Christmas trains in Devon this year.

You might like to read more posts about things to do in Devon at Christmas, Christmas markets and what’s on here between Christmas and New Year including the Train of Lights which runs until 30 December 2023.

If you’re a fan of Dartmouth Steam Railway you’ll find it in my Dartmouth and Devon Colouring Books for Kids – a lovely Christmas gift for Devon enthusiasts!

Devon Colouring Book for Kids cover with pencils fanned out below
£5.95 +P&P *Supporting Devon Air Ambulance Trust*

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