Let this be a reminder that wishes do come true. Years ago, when I was a wee baby intern for Secret London, and not the jaded, grizzled veteran executive editor I am now, I wrote about all the wonderful things other cities had, and posited the idea of nicking some of them to *improve* London.
Well, fate shone upon us some years ago, as 2020 saw the arrival of our own version of Chicago’s Holiday Train (which I had earmarked to jazz up Christmas transport), in the form of the Epping Ongar Light Fantastic. And in 2023, they’re back again with a better-than-ever experience to spread festive cheer through the night.
The Epping Ongar railway is one of London’s true hidden gems. Tucked up beyond the end of the Central line, it’s London’s very own working steam railway and boasts one of the only abandoned Tube stations that still welcomes trains. So, it’s abandoned-ish.
Families and transport fans alike can hop aboard vintage trains for a joyous ride from Epping to Ongar, under the power of one of the line’s four steam engines or the multitude of diesel engines. It’s an excellent day out, and this winter, until January 7, 2024, things are going to be gleefully, luminously festive.
The Epping Ongar Light Fantastic
The Epping Ongar Light Fantastic see the line’s heritage trains bedecked in a plentiful array of Christmas lights. The classic engines are transformed into brightly-coloured blurs speeding through the night.
Seriously, if the North Pole had a steam line, I reckon it would look a lot like this. (Well, either that or the Santa Steam Express, itself!) Throughout the special, festive journey, travellers are treated to a show that highlights the stations, rural settings, and woodlands that the journey goes through. You can expect music and plenty of cute illuminated displays to take in. On-board narration heightens the experience as you’re guided along a story-driven adventure. Last year, they also updated the show for a new-and-improved experience, so the festive feeling starts as soon as you step foot on the station platform.
Trips depart two or three times a day, with dates running through to January 7. Steam locomotives will be the standard for the experience, however, Epping Ongar Railways does warn that circumstances may find the occasional diesel substitution. Once you’re aboard, you’ll be taken on your journey to the sounds of “voiceover man” heard on Britain’s Got Talent and X-Factor. You’ll also get a sweet LED wristband to wear as you bop along to the festive DJ mix – how very Coldplay-esque!
Just like last year, tickets will set you back £20, but you’ll want to act fast and grab your seats if you’d like to climb aboard this magical express. You can even grab a whole compartment just for you and your family and friends!
Find the Epping Ongar Railway at Station Approach, Chipping Ongar, Ongar, CM5 9BN. More info here.
Also published on Medium.