With a strapline of ‘Twixt sea and pine’, you know already your journey on the North Norfolk Railway is going to be an adventure back in time. The beautifully named ‘Poppy Line’ runs between the towns of Sheringham and Holt along the North Norfolk coast and transports you back in clouds of steam and whistle blows.
The first time I traveled the Poppy Line was on a hot day last summer and I absolutely loved it. You are encouraged to book tickets before you travel, but luckily we were able to book tickets on the day (although it was a weekday). If you book online you have more choice over which train you go on too as both steam and diesel cars run.
We arrived at Holt station in time to catch the next steam train, a glorious emerald green cab pulling several wonderful wooden coaches – complete with vintage hat racks of course!
The station is strewn with decorative bits and bobs from a bygone era which is a really lovely touch, it really immerses you into the narrative of the whole experience.
Guards in vintage uniforms check you on to the trains and punch your bright yellow ticket stubs. Our guard had an apple-shaped stamp which I loved!
Inside the carriages was all very Agatha Christie – I imagine this is just how Poirot would have traveled! Each carriage seats six people comfortably, and the whole line is also dog friendly for well-behaved canine companions.
As it was a warm day we had the windows (which are secured by leather buckles) down which made the chug of the engine and clatter of the tracks all the more enjoyable. You travel across five miles of beautifully scenic countryside with views of the sea and undulating fields.
When you arrive at Sherringham you can take in the delightful platform adornments while chatting to the volunteers who run the railway. They even invite people up to the engine cab and teach them about the train getting them to shovel the coal and sound the horn. You can take a wander into the seaside town while you wait for for your train back. Here, there are plenty of pubs or coffee shops to have a bite to eat or a drink in, and lots welcome dogs.
On our return journey we caught the diesel train – a slightly later model, but still a vintage locomotive. Our train had long corridors along the length of the cars which gave way into sliding doors to separate booths, like the train that goes to Hogwarts!
Young or old and train fan or not, the North Norfolk Railway is a brilliant day out and it’s so much more than just a train ride. The historic stations include a museum of the railway’s history, a model railway and not forgetting the cafe and souvenir shops. They also host a whole range of themed nights and special events including cream tea, gin, pudding and prosecco and fish and chip trains! Not to mention railway experiences which teach you how to drive trains, work signals and go behind the scenes of the railway.
At the end of last year the railway started the North Norfolk Lights Express, where a steam train decked out in neon lights drives through the Norfolk countryside after dark. They created illuminated festive scenes at various points on the journey nestled within the woodland that lines the track. The tickets had sold out before Christmas, but we managed to get some for January and it was still so magical!
Have you ever traveled the Poppy Line? Let us know how you found it!