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Review: Santa and Steam – Churnet Valley Railway!

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As Christmas is fast approaching we are getting in the festive spirit. December is always jam-packed but this year is our first taking Annabelle into consideration and making sure that some of the activities are ones she will enjoy.

So when we received an invite to Santa and Steam at Churnet Valley Railway we were SO EXCITED. It was a last minute invite but we agreed to switch around previously arranged plans so we could make it. The invite explained that we would meet the Santa Express at Kingsley & Froghall station in Staffordshire. What the invite didn’t mention was that the experience would be a wonderful, Hogwarts style journey jam-packed with memorable moments.

If you are looking for a festive, family experience that will start the Christmas period of in the perfect way check out the details for Santa and Steam here.

Our train left Kingsley & Froghall station at 3.15pm but it was suggested we arrived at least 30 minutes beforehand. We were glad we did as it gave us a chance to check out the adorable station and cafe. Decked out with traditional decorations, including a massive Christmas tree and a roaring fire beautifully dressed.

After a late lunch of sausage baps we were ready to board the steam train that was pulling into the station. The whole set up made it feel like we had stepped back in time.

Walking towards our carriage we were greeted by the conductor who offered to upgrade us to First Class. We jumped at the offer and were swiftly shown to a private cabin. It was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Having our own cabin meant we could relax in a space that allowed us to contain Annabelle but give her freedom to explore.


As the train pulled out of the station the cabin was filled with the sounds of Christmas songs that continued to play for the whole journey. My Christmas loving wife was over the moon. We then had a wonderful moment seeing Annabelle’s face as we passed by the decorated station and set off on the journey. She was so confused and excited. It’s amazing how you really learn to appreciate the little things seeing them through your child’s eyes.

Before long our cabin door opened and a well dressed elf appeared, he was jolly, friendly and made a real effort to make Annabelle smile. At first she was hesitant – I guess it’s not everyday you meet an elf – but she warmed up and was soon smiling at his silly faces. We were sad to see him go but little did we know he would be the first on many guests.

The next knock at the cabin door was a lady dressed in traditional Victorian clothes delivering a Lindt reindeer for Annabelle. Then came a gentleman in traditional dress with a juice for Annabelle, next Laura and I were served sherry and mince pies. It was unexpected and a lovely surprise.


As we sat back to enjoy our festive treats we had another knock and another elf appeared. With bells in her hair and a beaming smile Annabelle was instantly engaged. In fact Annabelle insisted on sitting with the elf and touching the bells and beautiful dress she was wearing. It did mean that when Santa arrived Annabelle was not at all ready.

A new friend

Santa’s arrival was a highlight – more for us than Annabelle. Laura’s face lit up and as Santa filled the cabin – complete with a gift for Annabelle. The magic of Christmas was well and truly alive in our cabin. I can’t believe we hadn’t booked on one of these train rides – we will definitely be booking for next year!

The journey itself was 1 hour 20. With so much action on the way out we were glad to have a chance to relax and enjoy the moment on the way back. Annabelle loved her gift of blocks and happily played with them as we sat and watched the view. There were moments when children were in the corridor outside running up and down wishing everyone Merry Christmas. We let Annabelle join them a couple of times and she loved it. It felt like good, old fashioned fun.


With happy hearts, the biggest grins and amazing memories made we arrived back at the station and packed up our things. The hour and twenty minutes had flown by and we would definitely recommend the trip. Initially we thought Annabelle would be a bit young to fully enjoy it but we wrong – she loved it!

The final part of our trip was to sign the nice list on Annabelle’s behalf. Set up next to the stunning Christmas tree was a book and a pen and with a little help Annabelle left her mark.

For full booking details check out the Churnet Valley Railway Santa and Steam website:

If you are interested in what other events the railway hosts check out their event page here.

Disclaimer: We were invited to review Brewers Social by, all opinions are ours. We were not paid to provide a review.

Sarah is from Reading, in England, her loves (as well as Laura) include potatoes -a meal simply isn’t a meal without them- cheesy music, musicals, relaxing baths and long country dog walks. Sarah is our main blogger, does most of our Instagram Stories and Twitter, and tends to write any articles we are asked to put together for other sites. Sarah works full time as the head of a team of relationship managers at a company based in London, and she loves playing netball weekly with her team, the Netchix.

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