Motherhood has really changed me. Whereas once my idea of a great Sunday afternoon involved Formula 1 and tapas, now it could probably be described as, “anything Luke enjoys.” That would be probably be linked to trains or some other form of transport. That’s why every year, we make a trip to the Leadhills to Wanlockhead Railway.
So, you may ask what’s so special about this railway. Well, it’s not any ordinary train. For starters it’s 1,498 feet above sea level making it Britain’s highest narrow gauge adhesion railway. It’s only open on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer months and runs the short distance from the Leadhills to the terminus at Glengonnar, and back to Leadhills which takes 25 minutes, 8 times a day.
It also has additional services at Easter, Halloween and during December when there’s a special Santa themed weekend. It’s run by a group of hard-working volunteers and train enthusiasts. The train we took was called Luce and the carriages were small and had wooden seating. The carriages really take you back to another era when rail travel was very different!
The mine at Glengonnar was first used for excavation of minerals in the 1450’s, although at the moment there’s really not much to see at the terminus. The scenery on the journey is typically Scottish – wild and breathtaking and worth the visit.
The narrow gauge track runs historical diesel locomotives on the original track bed of the old Caledonian Railway. The volunteers who run the service are super-friendly and will even let your child sit in the driver’s seat and honk the horn, although my son declined to do so since it was extremely loud. They’re not just personable but also very knowledgeable about the railway and its history. We were advised on our trip this year that a lease has been granted and in the next couple of years the railway will be extended, which is a great reason to go back.
There’s a small shop, surprisingly clean and well-maintained toilet at the station, although no hot food or cafe facilities. You can explore the signal box and railway shed and the shop doubles up as a museum with plenty of information about the area to view.
This railway is a really fun day out for families. The kids will enjoy seeing a completely different kind of train and anyone in the group who doesn’t appreciate trains will still love the trip for the scenery. My advice though? Take a jacket. A big, thick, padded one. And a hat, and gloves. It’s cold up there and the carriages aren’t all enclosed. Ours didn’t have any glass in the window panes.
The tickets for this train service cost £5 for adults and £2.50 for children, although family tickets are available at a price of £12 for 2 adults and up to 2 children. You can read more about the Leadhills to Wanlockhead Railway on their website.