We are train obsessed in this household and all three of us share a great love of steam trains. Have you noticed? We are working our way round the steam heritage lines of England and we always tie in Monkey’s birthday treat with a steam train ride. As his birthday is on 10th December, this normally coincides with a visit with Father Christmas too. For the last few years we’ve celebrated at Didcot Railway Centre and Days Out with Thomas. Whilst I knew this would still be a huge hit with a 6 year old Monkey, I thought it was time to branch out and widen our horizons. So after a bit of investigation we decided to head in a different direction and I booked tickets for the Santa Express at Nene Valley Railway.
The Nene Valley Railway is set right next to the River Nene, we parked up at Wansford Station to begin our experience. Monkey had no idea where we heading, but as soon as he saw steam rising in the sky he was thrilled. We’d been advised to arrive 40 minutes before our allotted train journey so we had plenty of time to meet Father Christmas. I’m glad we did, as it was very busy, the car park was full and we were all parked up along the grass verges. Lovely to see that so many others love trains too.
Daddy P and I were both impressed by the organisation behind the Santa Express at Nene Valley Railway, and the staff were so friendly and helpful. We joined the Santa queue and each child was given a badge, with their age, I’m guessing this was to make life easy for Santa to give each child an appropriate present quickly. Monkey loved it though, even if he temporarily forget that he was no longer 5!
There was a little model railway to keep the children amused as they waited, but considering how popular the event, we waited no more than a few minutes.
It was time to meet the big man himself, and Monkey wanted a bit of support from Daddy P. He loved the moment, but for me I felt this meeting was a little rushed. It really was a quick photo, present and Happy Christmas. It didn’t bother Monkey, but it would have been nice if Father Christmas had a little time to talk to each child, but that’s just an adult’s opinion.
But for Monkey, the biggest treat was to see the steam trains. Mummy are we going on one? Yes, Monkey we are.
Whilst we waited for our train to arrive at the station we got to see another loco in steam, which kept Monkey amused. But it wasn’t long before our train arrived.
The NVR team got to work cleaning the carriages and restocking the refreshments before we could embark, we’d already been assigned a carriage so there was no need for a little boy to panic about where we’d be sitting.
Of course as soon as we were sitting on the train Monkey made short work of opening his present – a great Hot Wheels set. He was a happy boy.
It wasn’t long before we were underway, and although the weather wasn’t the best we could still enjoy the views on the 50 minute round trip to Peterborough and back.
We were well looked after on our journey, Monkey received a Christmas Cracker, two choices of chocolates!, he went for Freddos and Chocolate buttons (he even shared them!!), a choice of Apple or Orange juice. Daddy P and I were treated to a hot drink and a mince-pie each. All very welcome.
We even got a visit from Father Christmas!
We all really enjoyed the journey and have vowed to return for a normal steam day to explore the railway again.
After our trip we headed over the footbridge to check out the model railway. Since Monkey’s Santa Express set arrived at home, he’s happy to stand and watch the trains, rather than keep running along side them.
We managed to persuade Monkey it was lunchtime, headed back over the bridge to have sandwiches and soup in the cafe, before returning to see the model railway again.
Whilst chatting to the guy running it, we discovered that there was a Hornby stockist in Peterborough, so we said goodbye to the Nene Valley Railway, set the sat nav and headed over to Trains4U. Monkey had some birthday money, we added in his pocket money and with an IOU to Daddy P, he bought his beloved Mallard, in blue, just like we saw in York Mummy. We were given lots of useful advice about looking after the loco and our Hornby set in general, which was much appreciated.
We’d had a full day out and Monkey loved every minute of his birthday surprise.