There’s only one Santa Steam Express and Jo White and her family caught it in London this December, stepped back in time and met the old man in red in himself, of course.
New First Class carriages on the Santa Steam Express
The Steam Dreams Rail Co. welcomed us onboard the Santa Steam Express, the now legendary Christmas steam train that departs from London Victoria Station.
Back for its third year of merriment, new for 2023 is the addition of stunning First Class carriages with beautifully restored wood panelling. The new compartments seat up to six passengers in comfortable armchair style seating, arranged around a smartly dressed festive table.
All our kids love both The Railway Children and The Polar Express movies, so my sister and I thought this would be the perfect way to bring the cousins together for a memorable pre-Christmas outing.
It was fitting that “Santa Claus is coming to town” was playing as we made our way through the vintage passageway to our compartment. The kids were practically running to find their seats following the excitement of witnessing the historic 34046 Braunton locomotive chug into London Victoria.
Prepare yourself for a truly festive feast on board
The kids hadn’t even sat down before they began rummaging their way through the gift boxes that were waiting for them.
Each child had a festive placemat laid out featuring old-school activities to keep them entertained while they waited for Santa, without a phone or tablet in sight. There was also a Gingerbread Man ready for them to decorate and devour, the first of many treats.
There was a Christmas treat for the adults too, who were given a branded Steam Dreams Rail Co. coffee mug, which was promptly filled with some delicious mulled wine. The divine smell of the hot wine wafted through the compartment only added to the festive ambiance.
The journey is an hour and half around London, so there was a lot to fit in in a relatively short amount of time. The service was impeccable from the outset, and so was the food: salmon and cream cheese rolls, plates of mince pies, and even traditional stollen fruit cake.
The Santa Steam Express gives kids quality time with Father Christmas
The kids had a blast playing games and singing carols, meanwhile keeping a watchful eye on the passageway waiting to catch a glimpse of Santa.
Mrs Claus arrived first, dressed in a beautiful Victorian style dress. She was friendly and fun with the children, giving them stickers and telling stories.
Next came the Santa’s Elves who told jokes and got us all excited in a merry singalong to one of our favourite Christmas tunes playing through the speakers. Whilst singing joyously, we all wished it could be Christmas everyday!
“He’s here, I see his red coat!” said my six year old niece who was on lookout from my sister’s lap. After patiently waiting, the time came for the big man to come into our carriage. Despite Santa being so busy this time of year, it wasn’t a passing visit; he sat down with us in our carriage for over five minutes, asking each of the kids their names and if they had been good this year.
My niece was so in awe of him she actually gave him one of our mince pies, a sweet gesture from a kind youngster full of the joys of Christmas. He really engaged with the kids asking them lots of questions and even shared a tale from a Christmas Eve years ago when my sister was naughty and attempted to stay awake all night. The children thought this was hilarious.
Santa then handed out each of the kids a present, a set of juggling balls for the boys and a wooden crafted game for the girls, before heading on his way to take his charm to further eagerly awaiting kids.
Following the route to North Pole Junction
It’s impossible not to be in full Christmas spirit onboard the Santa Steam Express, which instantly transports you back in time. It embodies everything we all love about Christmas: the smells, the tastes and the excitement of children.
There was so much going on we barely paid much attention to the actual route, but I do know we passed Battersea Power Station and North Pole Junction – obviously! We traversed back along the tracks over the Thames to Putney, Wandsworth and Clapham, and then retraced our steps back past Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and over Grosvenor Bridge.
It was a really special journey for us all and one we’ll all remember forever. The experience is worth every penny for the magical smiles that it brought and I think it should definitely be on your Christmas List next year.
Santa Steam Express
The Santa Steam Express operated four-times daily from the 15 to 21 December 2023
First Class compartments, seating up to six, £550 each
Premium Standard tickets, £75 per person
Standard tickets £65 per person