We enjoyed riding on an accessible steam train with South Devon Railway. Who doesn’t love a ride on a steam train!
The South Devon Railway is a popular tourist attraction based in Buckfastleigh, Devon. Crewed mainly by volunteers, the olde worlde station, authentic uniforms, picnic gardens, model railway displays, and a 90-minute ride on a steam train make it a great day out for the whole family.
There are limited accessible parking spaces next to Buckfastleigh station, but more spaces in the main car park are down a slight incline.
We could access the station, ticket office and train using a standard self-propelling wheelchair.
There are limitations for larger scooters, check the Disabled Visitors Page on the South Devon Railway website. Also, registered disabled people and their carers receive a concessionary price – details on the website.
The cafe and gardens at Buckfastleigh station are accessible in a wheelchair. There’s a gravel path in the gardens, which for most wouldn’t be a problem, but Bridget was feeling a bit delicate and didn’t fancy being shuddered, so I parked her up and bimbled by myself.
If you want to get on and off the train, Totnes is home to the award-winning Rare Breeds Farm and was voted one of the best family venues in the UK for people with disabilities.
A Trip on an Accessible Steam Train with South Devon Railway
We started off with a bit of breakfast in the cafe, it was busy but we had no problem finding a table. There’s a flat entrance with a slight lip in the doorway, and we had no problem with the chair.
Suitably stuffed, we bimbled over to the station where we met by Alistair. I think Alistair is the station master. He certainly looked important and knew his stuff!
Alistair told us that South Devon Railway has nearly 200 volunteers and eight steam engines, although they hire some of them out to other railways. The South Devon Railway Trust also has a fully functional workshop where they fix and maintain steam engines.
Alistair organised our tickets, and we set off to meet some of the volunteers. Although they’re all enthusiastic and clearly love what they’re doing, the show’s star was “Ollie the Dog”. Ollie visits every week and is always in character (don’t you just love him).
Bimbling around the UK, I’ve learned to appreciate the importance of preserving old buildings. They give us a window into the past, and Buckfastleigh train station is exactly that.
Even down to the adverts on the walls and suitcases on the trolleys, you get transported back in time, when the steam engine toots its whistle and puffs its smoke – it’s pretty special.
We boarded our train at Buckfastleigh and made the round trip. In all the excitement I forgot to jot down the name of the engine, although it did get the number 6412 if that means anything?
I’m clearly a pretty rubbish train spotter…
One of the volunteers put down the access ramp, I smiled when the crowds all dived on it, he soon got control and let us on.
Although we stayed on the train for the duration, I could see a portable access ramp at each station.
Once onboard, we settled down into the spacious buffet car and soaked up the sights, smells, and sounds of yesteryear.
The 7-mile route takes you alongside the River Dart, we’d been tipped off that sitting on the right-hand side of the train offers the best views.
When the train is in motion, it’s very tempting to stick your head out of the window, especially if you want to take photos of the engine. If you do, you’ll get a face full of black soot from the engine, be warned!
The 90 minutes flew by, and our trip on a steam train was over…
Once I’d removed the soot from my glasses and camera lens, we made our way to the gardens. If you can climb stairs, you can access the gardens over the bridge. We can’t so we set off down the road and under the bridge – watch out for cars coming under the bridge!
We’d covered a lot of ground in Dartmoor, and Bridget was fragile. The prospect of shuddering on the gravel path in the gardens didn’t appeal, so I parked her up and bimbled on my own.
Hey, I didn’t abandon her. A bimblers gotta do what a bimblers gotta do.
Anyway, take a look around the gardens…
Although we didn’t explore the full Dartmoor Otter and Buckfast Butterfly exhibition, we did have a look at the ants in reception.
All in all, a trip to the South Devon Railway is recommended. The train ride is enjoyable, but for me it’s more than a ride on a steam train, It’s a great day out for the whole family.
The trust host theme days such as “Thomas the Tank Engine” and “Food and Drink” rides. The stations and grounds are used to hold special events, vintage car rallies and teddy bears picnic to name but a few.
Apart from having a wonderful time yourself, your visit supports the important work the staff and volunteers of South Devon Railway Trust do.
Resources: South Devon Railway
Take a look at what else we got up to in Dartmoor with Dartmoor Accommodation