Do you have a Thomas the Tank Engine fan in the house? Have they been pestering you for a train ride? Here are some of the fun places you can go in Ireland to see Steam Trains and enjoy Fun Train Rides in Ireland:
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Did you know there are actually lots of places to take kids on railways and trains in Ireland? Of course you can hop on an Irish Rail train any time but these offer something a bit different, either steam or miniature trains or even road train tours that kids will love. And there’s even some special Santa trains!
Steam Trains and Railways in Ireland
Waterford and Suir Valley Railway
This family-friendly railway runs mostly along the picturesque banks of the River Suir offering views of the world famous Mount Congreve Gardens. At their train station, located just outside the village of Kilmeaden, a restored Mark2 railway carriage serves as the ticket office and shop. Light refreshments can be purchased, with indoor and outdoor seating available at the station. All facilities are wheelchair accessible.
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Cavan and Leitrim Railway
Open during summer months and run by volunteers, the Cavan and Leitrim Railway museum is located beside the Irish Rail station in Dromod on the grounds of the old Cavan and Leitrim Railway yard.
Today 0.4 kilometers has been restored and remains preserved after its original closure in 1959. They are currently fundraising for the restoration of returning Avonside-built 3ft gauge “Nancy” to Ireland and to steaming condition.
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Difflin Lake Railway, Co. Derry
The Difflin Lake Railway is located at Oakfield Park in County Derry. With over 4.5km of narrow gauge track, it weaves its way through the trees, revealing many pleasing vistas. The ‘Duchess of Difflin’ steam engine, with her carriages in the traditional red and cream livery of the ‘Wee Donegal’ and the ‘Earl of Oakfield’ blue diesel engine give pleasure to children and enthusiast alike. Trains run at regular intervals each day and the steam train runs on the last Sunday of the month ‘Steam Sunday’.
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Lartigue Monorail and Museum
Located in Listowel, County Kerry, the Lartigue Monorail offers visitors of all ages the opportunity to experience a unique form of rail travel. The original steam-powered monorail (designed by Frenchman Charles Lartigue) ran for nine miles between Listowel and the seaside resort of Ballybunion.
Nowadays, your visit includes a short demonstration journey on a full-scale diesel-powered replica of the original monorail. Before or after your journey, you can visit the Lartigue Museum to watch film of the original Lartigue and see models, displays and memorabilia of the Lartigue and main-line railways. The friendly staff, consisting mainly of volunteers, will be on hand to provide information and answer your questions.
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Fintown Railway or An Mhuc Dhubh
The Fintown Railway is the only operational railway in Co. Donegal. Set amidst spectacular highland scenery overlooking Lough Finn, the railway (3 miles / 5 km) is a restored section of the former County Donegal Railway. The railway is nestled deep in the heart of spectacular mountainous scenery steeped in tradition, myth and folklore.
An Mhuc Dhubh translates as “The Black Pig”. This was how locals christened the arrival of the first steam engine 100 years ago. Puffing, “snorting”, and billowing plumes of black smoke, this monstrous creature evoked memories of St. Colmcille’s prophecy centuries earlier: that there would never be peace in Ireland until the return of the wild pig to the shores of Loch Finn!
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West Clare Railway
At West Clare Railway the highlight is one of the original West Clare Railway steam engines “The Sliabh Callan” brought back to its former glory. There’s also
- An old dining carriage renovated for tea/coffee area and souvenir shop
- The original station house with living quarters, kitchen, bedrooms, toilets
- Ticket office & waiting room
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Stradbally Woodlands Railway
Stradbally Railway is the oldest established Heritage Railway in Ireland with Steam Trains operating since 1969. Located within the grounds of Stradbally Hall in Co. Laois (home of the Electric Picnic Annual Music Festival) they run special season Stradbally Railway Running Days, e.g. Spooktacular Steam Trains for Halloween, so keep an eye out on their website.
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Peatlands Park Railway
The Peatlands Park in Dungannon has a railway which travels through tree-lined corridors and across the peat bog.
The train is a relic of the previous commercial peat-harvesting operation that took place on the site, and today it runs on weekends and public holidays during July and August between 1pm and 4pm.
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Downpatrick and County Down Railway
Ireland’s only mainline heritage railway, the Downpatrick and County Down Railway is the only 5’3″ mainline-gauge railway in the country. Climb aboard the vintage train, hauled by a steam locomotive or a heritage diesel, for the trip to Inch Abbey and back. There’s plenty to see and do before, during and after your journey:
- Visit the museum
- Explore the carriage gallery collection
- Enjoy a footplate ride with the driver
- Drive a train on the model railway
Giant’s Causeway & Bushmills Railway
Providing a passenger link between the historic town of Bushmills and the famous stone columns of the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills Railway has been built to the Irish narrow gauge of three feet (0.915m) and runs for two miles along the track bed of the former Giant’s Causeway Tram.
Miniature Railways in Ireland
Marlay Park Miniature Railway
At Marlay Park in Rathfarnham, you’ll find a model railway operating on Saturdays in summer time. It operates on Saturday afternoons, weather permitting, from 2.30pm to 5.00pm from May to September and is operated by The Dublin Society of Model & Experimental Engineers Ltd (DSMEE). The Miniature Railway carries passengers around a track in the centre of the park (behind the bell tower).
Tramore Miniature Railway
Tramore Miniature Railway operates at Tramore Leisure and Amusement Park on the seafront of Tramore, Co. Waterford. It runs round the amusement park on a 400 yard circuit around a boating lake and through two tunnels/sheds en route.
Miniature Railway at JFK Arboretum
The mini railway at JFK Arboretum in County Wexford runs on afternoons in summer from the station which is situated 1000m from the car park of these gardens. An American style engine pulls five coaches round the track.
Damhead Miniature Railway
The Damhead Miniature Railway at Coleraine has steam and diesel train rides, covering 1/3 of a mile of track. With indoor & outdoor picnic facilities available.
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Road Train Tours
Westport Train Tour
Hop on board the Westport Train Tour which is a fully-enclosed, guided train tour. In just under 50 minutes explore the grounds of Westport House Estate, Westport Quay and the historic town of Westport and enjoy magical views, quirky facts and fascinating stories about the people who once lived here.
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Kilkenny Road Train Tours
Starting from Kilkenny Castle, take a 30 minute tour through the streets of Kilkenny with Kilkenny Road Train Tours to see historical sights including St. Canice’s Cathedral, St. Francis Abbey Brewery and The Old Court House.
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Lullymore Heritage Park Road Train
The train trip at Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park is great fun for all the family and takes you on a ten minute journey through a variety of landscapes – through the park ancient woodlands before entering the stunning peatland and lake areas.
The train starts from 12pm most days and runs every half hour up until 4.20pm weekdays and 4.40pm at weekends. The train is wheelchair friendly and suitable for all ages. Kids can meet the train driver and get their pictures taken next to the locomotive.
Toots The Malahide Road Train
Toots is a road train in Malahide, North County Dublin that operates every 40 minutes, starting out from the DART Station in Malahide, running to the Village Shops and Restaurants, to the Blue Flag Beach and onto the highly acclaimed Malahide Castle & Gardens. You can choose to stay on for the 40 minute loop of this award winning little village, or you can hop on hop off throughout the day and enjoy all that Malahide has to offer.
Galway Tourist Train
Galway Tourist Train is a sightseeing road train tour that takes you through the heart of Galway’s beautiful medieval city, then through the picturesque villages of Salthill and Claddagh, and in among the winding medieval streets where you will see such landmarks as the Spanish Arch, Blakes Castle, Lynch’s Castle, St Nicholas Church and more.
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Steam Train and Railway Museums
Straffan Steam Museum
At Straffan Steam Museum, which is open from April to September, you can see six huge nineteenth century Stationary Engines running in steam on occasions.
They have a collection of prototype model locomotives as well as the live steam engines.
There’s also a Walled Garden and cafe to enjoy while you visit.
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Rail Gallery at The Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
The Irish Railway Collection in the railway gallery at Cultra houses 40 full-size railway vehicles and buildings covering Ireland’s rich railway history.
Castlerea Railway Museum
The pride of this collection is an A55 Diesel Locomotive fully and lovingly restored.
Also on display are bells, lamps, shunting poles, signal equipment, staffs, station boards, etc.
Coming soon to the Museum is a recently discovered Train Bicycle which was used to inspect track.
Whitehead Railway Museum
At the Whitehead Railway Museum, near Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, you can get up close to some of the magnificent steam locomotives in the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland collection – a chance to step aboard the footplate of an 1879-built steam engine.
Don’t miss the dining car which houses an exhibition about “Meals on the Move”, and the signal box, where you can pull the levers. Fire up your children’s imagination by letting them dress up in Victorian-style costumes. The Museum is open every Thursday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm (last tour 2:30pm).
Other Train Related Places and Events
Model Village Clonakilty
The Model Village in picturesque Clonakilty is a fully scaled handmade model of the old West Cork Railway Line with fully working trains and the towns that the railway served.
Each model is a replica of the town as it was back in the 1940’s and it’s a great way to make local history real for all ages.
They also have a soft play room and outdoor playground, as well as charming tea rooms in an original train carriage. And Choo Choo, their road train tour of Clonakilty is a lovely way to round off a tour.
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Railway Preservation Society Ireland
The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland was formed in 1964 to preserve Irish steam locomotives, carriages and rolling stock and to operate them on the Irish railway network for everyone to see, appreciate, enjoy and travel on. Check out their Train Dates page for a complete list of planned train trips and to purchase tickets.
Santa Train Experiences
Santa Special from Dublin
The Santa Special is a return journey by vintage train, with an on-board visit from Santa and selection boxes for children. This is the apparently the “real Santa Train”, that operates on the Irish Rail network.
Departing from a very special platform in Dublin Connolly, you set off on a 40 minute journey out to Maynooth along the banks of the Royal Canal, and a very special man will be travelling through the train handing out selection boxes and sweets for all the boys and girls. Santa will pose for some photos and take any last special requests for the big day. After a chance to take some photos at Maynooth, you retrace steps back to Dublin Connolly.
Run by volunteers and all monies raised are put back into the running costs of the train.
Santa Train Experience at Palmerstown House Estate
Visit Santa at the luxurious 5 Star Palmerstown House Estate and enjoy the Santa Train Experience. Depart on Santa’s Polar Express Train through the beautiful grounds of Palmerstown House Estate before visiting the Big Man.
Santa Train Experience at The Amber Springs
“All aboard” the Santa Train at The Amber Springs Hotel in Wexford, which puffs its way down to Santa Village where it makes its stop at the live animal crib, the Santa post office to post their letters, passing the elves working away making all the good boys and girls toys in the workshop.
Rathwood in County Carlow invites you to share in the magic of Christmas and join them on a journey through the Enchanted Forest to visit Santa as he prepares for the most wonderful time of the year.
Take a magical journey on board the Rathwood Santa Train and watch out for Rudolph and the other Reindeer along the way.
Walk through the enchanted Forest that leads to Santa’s Woodland home, meet Santa and join in the Christmas story with Mrs. Claus and Trixie the Elf.
Santa Train Tipperary
Lisduff Farm’s Santa Train in Tipperary offers a truly magical experience – your journey will take one hour and you will meet Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and all his elves. The Santa Train will make its way through the Lisduff Adventure Farm to Santa’s extra special Woodland Home where each child will receive a special present from Santa Claus & can get their photograph taken.
Castlecomer Santa Train
Enjoy the magic of Christmas and take a journey through the Enchanted Forest to visit Santa as he prepares for the most wonderful time of the year at Castlecomer Discovery Park.
Meet at the train station, and get on board for the Santa Express! Santa, Mrs. Claus and the Elves are waiting in their woodland igloos for your visit. Arrive on time to collect your tickets and be waiting at the Santa Express Train Station. Hop on board The Santa Express and make your way to Santa’s magical Christmas Village in the heart of Castlecomer Discovery Park’s woodland. There is lots to see on the way!
Over to you now. Have we missed any steam trains or railway experiences that kids would love? Have you taken your train-mad child to any of these? Tell us in the comments below.