Christmas is a time when we like to surround ourselves with nostalgia. Whether it’s watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the 794th time, listening to Bing Crosby crooning about a White Christmas (even though if you live anywhere near us you’re more likely to get a wet Christmas than a white one!) or digging out a treasured recipe handed down through the generations, it fills us with Christmas spirit and comfort.
I can only assume that that is why we love trains at Christmas. Let’s face it, there is nothing vaguely Christmassy about a train and yet we have made this lovely, nostalgic, Christmassy link to them. They’re such a tradition gift and I’m sure that many children will be waking up on Christmas Day to discover that they have been bought their first train set or additions to a set they already have.
I have been blessed with one child who likes trains and one who is obsessed with trains and so we have three different train sets. Even the Grandparent’s have got into the spirit with my Father in Law converting his attic into a train room for his grandchildren. (Rowan was very disappointed to climb the ladder into his other grandparents’ attic to discover that instead of steam trains they were just boxes of Christmas decorations!)
If you are looking for something a bit different to do this Christmas, why not look up whether you have a Steam Railway near you. Santa Specials are such a magical way to see Father Christmas and a wonderful way to make some gorgeous memories with your children.
We have the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway near us which is a miniature steam railway. (You know you’re a parent if you just read that in your head as mini-ah-ch-ure as said on Peppa Pig!)
Since my nephews and niece have been born, we have visited the Santa Special and now my boys are around they too are part of this family tradition.
So what is so special about a Santa Special?
We all board the elf driven train together and cram into the little carriages. I’m sure the other passengers keep their fingers crossed that they are not seated near the Collins-Brown Party as we spend the entire journey singing Christmas songs. (That said this year, we were taking requests from the little girl sitting behind us!) My nephews and niece teach us the songs they’ve been singing in their nativity and Rory does the same. We also sing Christmas carols and pop songs. I married into an extremely musical family and this really manifests itself at Christmas! I won’t lie to you, I absolutely LOVE it!
The journey is about 45 minutes and as you get close to the destination you hear the whoops and screams go up through the train as, out of the window, you see Father Christmas travelling on a train pulled sleigh waving to everyone.
The passengers are split into three groups as there are three activities to complete. This is already done on the tickets. One of these activities is a visit to the train museum. This is a room with an enormous train set in. They have built this up over many, many years. As well as enjoying the various landscapes and train scenarios set up, they also have a rat chasing a piece of cheese wrapped in a ribbon. This rat must be ancient as I can remember visiting and trying to spot the rat as a child myself and even then it seemed old! This part of the trip is absolutely perfect for little and big train enthusiasts alike. There are plenty buttons to press to make trains move and to make the scenery light up or move.
There is of course the visit to Santa after all it would be a terrible Santa Special if you didn’t see the big man himself. We’ve been going for many years and we have noticed that Santa is always well presented and authentic. He has a genuine affinity with the children and he spends time chatting to them. You don’t feel he is just going through the motions but he listens to what they have to say and he responds to them. We have always been very pleased with the quality of the gifts and found them to match the ages of the children visiting well.
The final activity is a trip to the café for some festive refreshment. The children get a carton of juice, a sausage roll and a satsuma. The adults get a glass of mulled wine (or a hot drink), a mince pie and a sausage roll. It’s really nice when you get to do the café at the end as it means you can sit together to open gifts and have time to reflect on the experience.
Although it doesn’t end there. Oddly, there always seems to be a freak snow shower in New Romney just before the children get back on the train! They have a snow machine on the roof and the children delight in leaping around in the snow. It’s a lovely way to round off the experience before getting on the train to go home!
I really couldn’t recommend the Santa Special more. It’s something we have been doing for many years and I’m sure we will continue to do it for many years to come!
If you have a festive train experience near you, I’d love to hear all about it in the comments.