Find the best activities for railway enthusiasts with SWR

Top things to do for railway enthusiasts

30 March 2022

There’s no denying it – trains are a mode of transport worth getting excited about. Every day, take to the rails to get from A to B, but too few of us stop to think about these elaborate networks of machinery, and how they came to be.

If you fancy learning more, why not take a trip to a railway museum, visit a heritage railway or take part in a bit of train-spotting? Whether you’re a train enthusiast yourself or are looking for a fun day out with the kids, there are plenty of railway and transport attractions within London and the south west of England just waiting to be explored – all of which can be accessed by train, of course.

Top things to do for train lovers in London

As the UK’s capital, London is packed full of train-related activities perfect for visitors young and old. From museums to miniature railways, you won’t be short of things to do!

London Transport Museum

Begin your railway journey with a trip to London Transport Museum. If you’re interested in how the railway service first began in the UK’s bustling capital, then you should certainly pay a visit. With a huge collection of historical pieces as well as plenty of interactive exhibits, you’re guaranteed to have the perfect day out, no matter who you’re visiting with.

A view from a balcony of the London Transport Museum showing buses and a tube train

The nearest station to London Transport Museum is London Waterloo. Afterwards, hop on the number 26 bus towards Hackney Wick and ride for eight minutes.  

Brockwell Park Miniature Railway

If you’re looking for something different to do in London with younger kids, then take a trip to Brockwell Park Miniature Railway. On weekends, you can hop on board the miniature trains for yourself and take a ride through the scenic grounds, spanning between the Herne Hill Gates and the Brockwell Lido. Under twos go free, so it’s great for if you’re on a tighter budget.

A miniature train at Brockwell Park miniature railway

To get here, catch the train to Clapham Junction, then ride for half an hour on the number 37 bus.

London Museum of Water & Steam

With it’s fascinating pumping engines and exciting interactive exhibitions, London Museum of Water & Steam is the perfect balance between fun and educational. While the museum doesn’t have a specific focus on railways, the replica underground railway display with two working locomotives is worth visiting in itself!  

A steam train previously operated by the Metropolitan Water Board at London Museum of Water and Steam

London Museum of Water & Steam is just a seven-minute walk from Kew Bridge.

Top things to do for train lovers in the south west

From steam trains to miniature railways, there are lots of fun activities for train enthusiasts in the south west – no matter if you’re visiting alone, with friends or as a family.

Thames Ditton Miniature Steam Railway

Lovingly founded by people passionate about trains, you can expect lots of knowledge and insight from the Thames Ditton Miniature Steam Railway’s volunteers. Hop on board either the ground or elevated railway, select your locomotive of choice and enjoy your journey through some of Surrey’s vast green spaces.

Thames Ditton Miniature Steam Railway is just a 16-minute walk from Hinchley Wood.

Swanage Railway, Dorset

Take a trip to the beautiful Dorset coast and check out the incredible steam trains at the Swanage Railway. Your train journey will take you along the picturesque coastline at Swanage as well as passing under the shadow of the spectacular Corfe Castle – so be sure to bring along your camera to create some memorable snapshots!

A steam train arriving at Corfe Castle station

The nearest station to Swanage Railway is Wareham. From there, hop on  the route 40 Breezer bus to Norden, taking less than 20 minutes.

Fancy mixing it up? Leave the train at Poole, and take the ferry to Swanage Pier with City Cruises. The journey takes you through the busy Poole Harbour and Swanage, giving you an hour on the open water with commentary about what you’ll see on the way.

Isle of Wight Steam Railway

Step back in time and enjoy the golden age of travel with a trip on Isle of Wight Steam Railway. Complete with beautifully restored Victorian carriages and traditionally uniformed staff, the stunning vintage steam train isn’t short of charm or character. Settle down in one of the cosy period carriages and take in the spectacular views of the Isle of Wight as you zoom through quiet rural areas, before finishing your day at the railway’s fascinating museum.

A train steaming through the countryside at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway

Portsmouth & Southsea station will get you close to the coast - next, hop on a Hovertravel service to take you to Isle of Wight. Once you’ve reached the island, it’s a 40-minute bus ride on the number 37 bus.

Top Places for Trainspotting in the south west

From heavy-loaded freight trains to sleek and speedy passenger trains, there are so many different classes of train that journey through the south west each day. Here are some of the best spots to look out for them:

Waterloo Station

As one of the main stations in London, London Waterloo seems like the obvious place to go for some trainspotting. With a whopping 24 platforms, this busy station sees hundreds of trains come and go every day, which makes for some pretty fascinating viewing. Why not take a notebook and jot down each different type of train you can spot?

Willesden Junction

Want to see something a little different to passenger trains? Head to Willesden Junction for an up-close-and-personal view of freight trains travelling from all around London. Used to transport goods from one location to another, freight trains can be over 775 metres long and contain over 30 wagons—so they’re definitely worth looking out for!

To get here, catch the train to Clapham Junction before hopping on a 24-minute tube on the Bakerloo Line to Willesden Junction.

Eastleigh

A hub of activity, Eastleigh is host to not only regular passenger trains but a large Network Rail depot where you’ll be able to see trains being loaded with ballast and heading out across the south west. Regular container and car-carrying freight trains also head to and from Southampton’s busy docks, and you’ll frequently see rare visitors to the nearby Arlington depot just to the south of the station, arriving and departing for refurbishment. You’ll even be able to spot our new Arterio trains here on their test runs!

Kensington Olympia

If you want to watch the freight trains at a location that’s a little closer to Clapham Junction, head to Kensington Olympia. Known as of the best stations to watch freight trains in London, this viewing spot is a must-visit for all train-lovers.

Kensington Olympia is just a 10-minute train journey from Clapham Junction. Simply hop on the overground towards Stratford and get off at Kensington.

With so many railway transport attractions just waiting to be explored in London and the south west, why not start planning your trip today? Explore our flexible range of ticket types to find the right one for your journey. Make the most of cheap train tickets to your chosen attraction by going off-peak, and those with a Railcard could save even more.