Steam railway enters into the Christmas spirit
By David Wood
Where: Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway
When: Saturday, November 30, to Tuesday, December 24 (selected dates)
The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway starts its bumper Santa Special season on Saturday (November 30).
The festive service provides entertainment for youngsters and adults on Santa Steam Specials from Cheltenham Racecourse or Railcar Specials from Toddington station.
The steam trains from Cheltenham Racecourse to the North Pole (at Winchcombe) began yesterday (Sunday) with a very special service for children supported by charities Acorns Children's Hospice, Riding for the Disabled and Maggies, the cancer care charity.
The Santa Special trains for everyone run every weekend up to Christmas from November 30 as well as Friday, December 20, and Monday and Tuesday, December 23 and 24.
December tickets are selling fast, but there are still tickets available on trains over the weekend of November 30 and December 1.
Steam services start at Cheltenham Racecourse station while the Diesel Railcar service, which begins on December 7, operates at weekends from Toddington station on a ten-mile round trip.
Over 40 steam trains are running from Cheltenham Racecourse to the 'North Pole' where everyone gets an opportunity to meet Santa in his specially converted railway carriage while youngsters each receive a quality gift.
Complimentary hot mince pies, hot and soft drinks and fruit are on offer in the Coffee Pot Café on Winchcombe station.
Santa travels with families on the diesel railcar and again, mince pies and hot and soft drinks are offered to everyone.
Many trains are already fully sold out while some others have only a few tickets remaining.
Chief Elf organiser Colin Fewell points out that these special trains are all run by volunteers and he thinks that's what makes the trip such a wonderful experience for families.
"Many families come year after year to enjoy the steam train journey from Cheltenham Racecourse station to the railway's Christmas wonderland at the North Pole with a chance for a chat with Santa Claus himself.
"This is a volunteer-run railway and I believe it's because of that families feel so welcome when they visit us.
"Our staff give up their time because they want to. We all enjoy the delight and wonder on youngsters' (and grown-ups) faces - not only when they see the steam engine pulling their train but also visiting Santa in his specially converted railway coach at Winchcombe!
"The diesel railcar offers a quite different but equally enjoyable experience and is limited to just 25 children per train so there's plenty of opportunity to chat with Santa during the journey.
"We expect to get through around 10,000 mince pies," Colin added. "To say nothing of gallons of tea and coffee - and sackfuls of carrots for Santa's reindeer."
Tickets for the diesel railcar service are £16 (adults and children) and £17 for the steam train. Full details of the services, ticket availability and how to book are on the GWSR website.
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