5 Must See Heritage Railways in The Lake District

For our hotel guests and day visitors who enjoy the delights of a leisurely day out in the Lake District, have you considered taking a trip down memory lane on one of Cumbria’s many heritage railways? They are a great way to see the Lake District whilst learning about the area’s culture and history.

Below we’ve put together a list of five railways not to be missed during your time in the Lake District.

1. Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway   

08 NR in Woods
Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway winding though woodland

Known locally as La’al Ratty, this 15” minimum heritage grade, well-loved little railway was opened in 1875 to ship iron ore from Eskdale. Its 3’ guage predecessor was Owd Ratty. The oldest locomotive is River Irt, parts of which date from 1894, while the newest is the diesel-hydraulic Douglas Ferreira, built in 2005. There’s a selection of carriages to suit all weather conditions from open coaches with no roof or windows, semi-open, to the heated closed saloons.

03 RE at Irton Road
Train pulling in to Irton Road Statiom

Enjoy the railway museum at the Ravenglass end of the line with interesting photos, artefacts and an audio visual presentation. To add to your day out, Muncaster Castle is just one mile from Ravenglass Station.

Opening times vary, so check out the seasonal timetable.

2. Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway

Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway image 1-X2
The Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway train

Originally a branch line of the Furness Railway carrying passengers and freight to Barrow, the remaining 3.5 mile steam railway journey from Haverthwaite to Newby Bridge gives a glimpse of life from a bygone age.

The journey might not be as long as other preserved lines but the scenery makes up for it. The engine sheds at the end are great to look around and the cream teas in the station buffet were very nice.

Trip Advisor review April 2016

People waiting for Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway train.
People waiting for Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway train.

A great way to experience the railway is as part of the Sail and Rail package, taking a cruise from Bowness to Lakeside followed by the twenty minute train ride.

Trains run from April through to the end of October.

3. Threlkeld Quarry & Mining Museum Railway

Threlkeld Quarry & Mining Museum - 2015 steam gala / CC 2.0 TheTurfBurner
Threlkeld Quarry & Mining Museum – 2015 steam gala / CC 2.0 TheTurfBurner

Definitely one for the railway enthusiast and not pretty Lakeland view seekers, The railway has three lovingly restored locomotives. SIR TOM is a completely restored 0-4-0 saddle tank narrow guage locomotive; Hunslet 50hp, 0-4-0, is a 1945 an ex-National Coal Board locomotive from the South Yorkshire area which was retrieved from the underground prior to two colliery closings.The current passenger diesel in use is Ruston 48 DL, 1947, an ex-Royal Navy Armaments Depot Loco currently used to transports passenger trains from the middle quarry to the inner quarry.

Threkeld Quarry was opened in the 1870s to supply railway ballast to the Penrith – Keswick line. Rock was blasted from the quarry face with gunpowder and the broken rock loaded into wagons on the narrow gauge railway. The wagons then pulled the empty wagons via a cable back to the rock face for refilling. After WWII the railway was dismantled, excavators then taking over the task previously undertaken by the railway.

Threlkeld Quarry & Mining Museum - 2015 steam gala / CC 2.0 TheTurfBurner
Threlkeld Quarry & Mining Museum – 2015 steam gala / CC 2.0 TheTurfBurner

Visitors can also enjoy the quarry and mining museum, complete with a lighting, drilling and explosives room.

The museum is open daily 10 am to 5 pm, with diesel trains at 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm. There are also special Steam events throughout the year.

4. Cumbrian Coast Line

West Cumbria and Coast. View south across Parton to St. Bees Head on the Cumbrian Coast. / CC 2.0 Richard Szwejkowski
West Cumbria and Coast. View south across Parton to St. Bees Head on the Cumbrian Coast. / CC 2.0 Richard Szwejkowski

A Railway line with beautiful coastal views as well as a legitimate historical interest. Running close to ancient British stone circles, Hadrian’s Wall and historic ports along the way, there is much of intrigue for both railway enthusiasts and travellers interested in Cumbria’s past.

Commencing your journey in Carlisle, the western gateway to Hadrian’s Wall country, it is worth stopping off at Whitehaven, one of Britain’s 40 ‘Gem’ towns and learning about its history as one of the most important trading harbours in the past.  The Beacon explains the history of Whitehaven and its harbour and The Rum Story shares fascinating tales of the UK rum industry centred in Whitehaven.

Also worthy of note is St Bees with its long sandy beach, the red sandstone cliffs being the summer home to northwest England’s largest colony of nesting seabirds. On a clear day you can also see the Isle of Man. You will be treated to spectacular Lakeland scenes through the Lake District National Park before reaching Barrow-in-Furness, still famous for ship building and specialising in submarines.

Check the timetable here.

5. Millerbeck Light Railway

Millerbeck Light Railway / CC 2.0 Arnie Furniss
Millerbeck Light Railway / CC 2.0 Arnie Furniss

They call themselves ‘Lakeland’s best kept secret’, Millerbeck Light Railway is a private railway run by the Gorse family in the grounds of Millerbeck House in the village of Staveley-in-Cartmel. Perhaps its secretive nature is due to the fact that it is only open for occasional family days throughout the year, so more a labour of love than a commercial venture. A beautiful Lakeland setting, visitors are treated to a ride of about a mile through the meadow, woods and over the stream. There’s a selection of steam, diesel and electric locomotives running on this narrow gauge railway.

Look out for the occasional Driver Training Days for the icing on the cake of these delicious miniature railway days out in the Lake District.

Stay in the Heart of the Lake District

These railway days out are easily accessible from each of our three Lake District hotelsLow Wood Bay, Waterhead and The Wild Boar. Set in some of the best Lakeland scenery, come home to a warm welcome, a hearty meal and a good night’s sleep.

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