5 railway-related school trips

Date Posted: 26/08/2015

Whatever your loco-motive for a school trip, make one of these train-inspired outings a priority.

With tie-ins to World War One and Two, the Victorians, and the rise of industrialisation, there are plenty of railways that will tailor to your classroom topics while providing a fun day out for all Key Stages.

1. East Lancashire Railway

Children at East Lancashire Railway

Pictured: Students on an evacuation-themed school trip.

Located in Bury, Greater Manchester, the East Lancashire Railway is a 12 mile heritage line that provides steam and diesel journeys through the beautiful Irwell Valley.

The attraction boasts a number of facilities including café, shop and transport museum. Together the railway and museum provide a wide range of school programmes combining a steam train ride and exciting hands-on activities suitable for all abilities in Key Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Pupils completing the programmes are expected to gain a first-hand outlook on the region’s history, plus learn a bit about the geography of the area.

2. Darlington Railway Museum

Darlington activities

Pictured: A workshop activity, one of many available at Head of Steam.

Darlington Railway Centre and Museum - also known as Head of Steam - is on the 1825 route of the original Stockton & Darlington Railway, and offers workshops for schools, as well as other educational sessions relating to Darlington’s collection of artefacts.

A basic session consists of handling objects, talking about the early Stockton and Darlington Railway, and jobs on the line.

Schools can then explore the museum without a guide - trail sheets are available (suitable for Key Stages 1 and 2). 

There are also sessions for Creative Writing, Design Technology and Art. School visits are free and the centre can accommodate groups of up to 70 students.

3. Didcot Railway Centre

Didcot Railway

Pictured: a school trip will involve students learning how a steam engine is driven.

This Oxfordshire-based centre has several programmes for teachers to choose from, most of which last around four hours (split into 30 minute segments).

Didcot’s flagship trip is World War Two evacuation themed. Children can dress up in period costume, and will spend the duration of the visit learning about air raids, rationing, and what happened when bombs were dropped.

The Coming of the Railways is another programme which looks at people adapting from farm life to industrialisation (this is adaptable for teacher’s requiring a more Victorian influence).

Every programme has a slot that teaches children how to drive a steam engine, and there are also seaside visits for pre-school children and engineering days for senior students.

4. South Devon Railway

South Devon

Pictured: a steam train on the tracks of the South Devon Railway. Photo credit: Anne Harvey.

The South Devon Railway Museum is on the platform at Buckfastleigh station. The whole railway is a living museum, with displays including Tiny, the only original locomotive built to Brunel’s broad gauge, and Ashley, the former Exeter gas works shunting engine.

Students will learn about how the railway works, from preparing the steam engines to signalling and working on the track.

They can also travel on the train, dig the station master's garden, see inside a wartime ambulance, and get on the footplate of a steam locomotive.

South Devon welcomes pupils of all ages, from years 1 to 13, and can accommodate up to 100 people in a school party when given sufficient notice.

5. The Bluebell Railway

Bluebell Railway

Pictured: the Bluebell Railway, where pupils can learn about history from the 1870s to the 1950s.

Based at Sheffield Park Station in East Sussex, the Bluebell Railway's four stations and locomotives cover a period of train history from the 1870s to the 1950s.

Visits can be tailored to meet specific teaching needs relating to the National Curriculum, or to provide experience of specific events, such as World War One exercises, or enrichment days.

Downloadable documents are available for teachers, including a leaflet providing an outline of the format of the day, a detailed teacher’s information pack, and a guide to risk assessment on the railway.

A series of background information leaflets describing both aspects of the Bluebell's operations and railway history in general can be e-mailed on request.

School Travel Organiser's Guide