Heritage railways are something of a new obsession for us. It first started when we saw steam trains go past our apartment in Slough when we moved here, and the magic of it all got my little family interested. When we looked into it, the trains that we had seen out of the window were very expensive all day trips, like £100 per person. Eek. But then we discovered heritage railways which were a more affordable way to go on a heritage train. We have visited a few on our holidays – The Kent & East Sussex Railway, the Swanage Railway, the Epping Ongar Railway and the Didcot Railway Centre. But we only just discovered another one that is near to us in Slough, and that is called the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway.
The only reason we found out about it is because GWR produced a leaflet in the summer about Heritage Railways that they have partnered up with. And with Cholsey being the stop before Didcot, I was surprised we hadn’t noticed it before. But lo and behold, if you have a look, there is a small ‘Cholsey and Wallingford Railway’ sign and there is a track veering off to the right.
Tyler has been wanting to go ever since he saw the leaflet, but because they are only open on certain weekends, the first weekend of October was the first date we were free to go. It was just really unfortunate that Tyler suddenly fell ill that morning and was being sick. He was so upset at the thought of not going, that we went anyway, he was desperate to be better and we thought the train journey would make him feel better as he loves them so much.
The leaflet said to ask for a ‘through ticket’ at the ticket office – ie a combined ticket for our travel from Slough to Cholsey and the heritage railway. It still didn’t work out cheap, almost £60 in fact! £23 per adult and £11 for a child, and Lily was free. We didn’t save any money at all getting this ‘through ticket’.
We went on a Sunday, which is not the best day to go as there is a lot of waiting around for trains – Sunday services towards Didcot are once every hour. When we finally got to Cholsey, we found a little office for the heritage railway on Platform 4, where the exit is. There we had to exchange our rail tickets for the heritage railway tickets.
The heritage train arrived a bit late, it was supposed to be at 14.35 but it was about 10 minutes late. This weekend it had diesel locomotives, but I believe they do have steam ones on other weekends. It had two carriages – one with private compartments and a buffet/storage section and the other carriage had tabled seating and had been recently been restored.
For the journey from Cholsey to Wallingford, we went in the private compartments. It was quite tired, with patched up upholstery, so I am guessing this may be the next in line to get a restoration. The views were stunning, beautiful fields, cows, a level crossing, a church (where Agatha Christie is buried apparently). It was the real countryside.
Upon reaching Wallingford – or Wally as it was referred to on our GWR ticket, we saw a corner set up in WW2 theme, as it was a 1940s themed weekend. There was a little garden to the right, with a museum in one carriage. Another carriage had a cafe, one had a shop, and then there was loos and baby change in a little shed type building.
We went in the cafe for coffee and cake. Tyler was not feeling good again, so he had a rest on the chairs. It was so sad. Lily, on the other hand, dived into the cakes and then went to play with the toys in the corner. The decor was very chintzy, it felt very 1970s but in a cute way, and there were train pictures all over the walls. I liked it though. There seemed to be a gathering of local older folk in there, talking about trees being cut down to make a bypass in Wallingford and how bad it was.
I took Lily out for a walk while Ganesh stayed with Tyler. We had a look in the museum, at the little model railway. The trains weren’t moving though, so it didn’t keep Lily’s attention for long. I did see lots of interesting vintage train things, but I didn’t know what exactly they all were.
She was intrigued by the toy telephone in the red telephone box. And she was mesmerised by the shop and went in quite a few times to look at the Peppa Pig toys. Tyler and Ganesh came in after a while, and to cheer Tyler up he let him choose a toy, and Lily too. Tyler chose a bullet train, Lily chose a Peppa bus and I chose a vintage vehicles umbrella for Tyler as it would come in useful for the school run.
The train back to Cholsey was at 16.05, and this was the last train.
We sat at the tabled seats this time. It was much nicer in this carriage and the upholstery was bright and new, yet still in the heritage style. It was cleaner too.
The journey itself is about 15 – 20 minutes, I can’t remember exactly. And back at Cholsey we made our way back home.
Despite Tyler being ill, he says he enjoyed it and is happy to tick the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway off his list as done. If he wasn’t ill, we would have made a whole day of it, getting the first train from Cholsey at 11.35 am, having a wander around Wallingford town as it is supposed to be pretty and it has a museum, castle ruins, shops and restaurants. But the short afternoon was fine too, not too tiring.
If you would like to visit the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway, they are running on the 27th/28th October, and then they are doing Santa special in December. Best bet is to check their calendar.
Cholsey & Wallingford Railway
5 Hithercroft Road
Cost: Adult Return £10, Child Return £7, Under 5s free
PLUS your train tickets from home to Cholsey (unless you are driving, then park at Wallingford).