Full Steam Ahead for A Weekend of Family Fun at Great Central Railway’s 125th Anniversary Weekend (16-17 March

Leicestershire’s heritage railway, Great Central Railway, will be ‘reunified’ with Great Central Railway Nottingham for the first time in over 50 years as part of a major weekend of events in March to celebrate the 125th Anniversary of this award-winning, heritage railway line.

Originally opened to passenger traffic in 1899, the Great Central Railway later became part of the London and North Eastern Railway in 1923, then part of British Rail in 1948. Closed in stages, the last trains ran in 1969. Volunteers began to preserve the line and infrastructure immediately.  

Today, the Great Central Railway is one of Leicestershire’s most important visitor attractions and boasts the longest piece of preserved double track – in essence, two train tracks where two steam trains can pass one another – in the World at over eight miles in length and running between Loughborough and Leicester North.

History will be made:

Exclusively, over this 125th Anniversary weekend, history will be made as the Leicestershire track is ‘reunified’ once again with the Great Central Railway Nottingham track in Ruddington (Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre), offering visitors a glimpse into the future when reunification will be permanent, an ongoing project and part of GCR’s active fundraising campaign. For now, the two halves will be joined by a specially commissioned 125th-anniversary rail replacement bus service using vintage Routemaster buses.

Highlights of the 125th-Anniversary Celebrations

This 125th-anniversary open weekend is one of the jewels in GCR’s 2024 Calendar of activities.  All stations along the tracks will be open throughout the weekend, offering an exciting opportunity to get up close and personal with many of the GCR fleet of heritage steam and diesel engines.  There will also be opportunities to visit the footplate of some of these engines – a must for kids (and BIG kids) alike. 

Great Central Railway Visitors will also be invited to explore history with our family-friendly, guided tour where you can discover the railway’s past and delve into the story of Loughborough Central station.  

What’s more, There will be expert-led, behind-the-scenes tours of the Loughborough loco sheds where you can see some of these majestic trains being lovingly stripped down, restored and repaired; and even get exclusive access to some of the buildings that are usually restricted access and out of the public eye, making it an ideal experience for families, the local community and enthusiasts alike.    

Both Loughborough and Ruddington stations will be running their popular miniature ride on trains; great fun for all the family, and visitors to Ruddington will also have the chance to take control and drive a train on the model railway or visit the collection of heritage buses from the Nottingham Area Bus Society.

Steam trains will be making regular journeys along the heritage line between Loughborough and Leicester North, allowing you to take a seat and experience the magic of this heritage railway as you travel through the beautiful, Leicestershire countryside.  

If you need to wet your whistle, a delicious selection of food and drinks will be available at any of the many cafes along the line, there’s somewhere to get a drink at every station at GCR and GCRN! You can even onboard the train from the railway’s Griddle Car whilst those looking for a souvenir from their day at the station can enjoy a peruse in the shops at both Loughborough and Ruddington Stations.

Simon Bracewell, Head of Marketing & Communications of the Great Central Railway said; “We’re extremely excited to invite train enthusiasts and families alike to our celebratory 125th Anniversary open weekend in March.  Whether you’ve been to Great Central Railway or the Great Central Railway Nottingham before or visiting us for the first time, this is the perfect opportunity to experience our historic railways in a way that has never been seen before!”

Your Ticket to ride:

Your day ticket allows you full access to all attractions across both the Leicestershire and Nottingham sites and includes both the train travel and ‘reunification’ bus service, too.

And what’s even better news is that kids go for a quid.  That’s right, if you’re aged 3-15, your ticket costs just £1 (under 13s must be accompanied by an adult)

For more information, view the full list of exciting attractions available and book your 125th Anniversary tickets, visit https://www.gcrailway.co.uk/whatson2024/

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