Santa Specials

You better not pout and you better not cry, Santa Claus is coming to town!

Steam into Christmas on the East Lancashire Railway’s famously festive Santa Specials. Your family will make enchanted memories to share as they take a trip through the magical Irwell Valley alongside colourful characters and surprises.

And what Christmas treat would be complete without a visit from a host of happy elves and Santa Claus himself.

Begin the adventure at Bury Bolton Street Station where you will journey through a gorgeously decorated winter wonderland. Say hello to Mrs Claus and the talking Christmas Tree, and maybe even stop for a quick singalong with our carol singing choir of polar bears, before boarding your train.

Once you’re settled into your seat, a steam train will haul you to Rawtenstall and back on an approximately 80-minute round trip. Along the way the festive fun continues as you meet your favourite Christmas characters and get the chance to belt out a couple of festive classics with the brass band. Whilst travelling, Santa himself will visit your carriage with a gift for every little one, and there will be plenty of time to have a chat with him and take a Santa selfie or two.

Grown-ups can look forward to mince pies and a festive tipple or soft drink. For the children there will be a Fruit Shoot, chocolate and an activity pack.

What’s included:

  • Winter wonderland walkthrough at Bury Bolton Street Station featuring beautifully decorated festive scenes, a choir of carol singing polar bears and a magical talking Christmas Tree.
  • Interactions with special Christmas characters including old favourites like the elves, Mrs Claus and our very own Ice Princess.
  • An approximately 80-minute steam train ride from Bury to Rawtenstall and back.
  • A visit from Santa with extra time to talk and take photographs.
  • A Christmas gift for every child, selected by age brand.
  • High quality children’s activity books.
  • Traditional brass band on board.

Santa Special prices:

Sat / Sun 26 Nov £23.00 £22.50 £37.00
Sat / Sun 2 – 3 Dec £30.00 £29.50 £45.50
Sat / Sun 9 – 10 Dec £31.50 £31.00 £47.30
Sat, Sun, Wed, Thu, Fri 16 – 17, 20 – 22 Dec £35.00 £34.50 £49.50
Sat 23 Dec £35.50 £35.00 £50.60
Sun 24 Dec £39.00 £38.50 £54.50

Heywood Shuttle

Why not start your journey at Heywood and board the Santa Shuttle Diesel Railcar from Heywood (journey time approximately 15 minutes), to reach Bury Bolton Street Station, which is the starting point of the steam-hauled Santa Specials? Santa Shuttle tickets are sold on an open return basis meaning that you can return on any service from Bury to Heywood.

Heywood Shuttle / Santa Special departure times:

26 November, 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24 December:

Diesel Shuttle, Heywood dep. Santa Special, Bury dep.
08:55+ 09:30+
09:45+ 10:20+
10:35 11:10
11:25 12:00
12:15 12:50
13:05 13:40
13:55* 14:30*
14:45* 15:20*
15:35*# 16:10*#
16:25*# 17:00*#
17:15*# 17:50*#


  • # Does NOT run on 26 November
  • +Does NOT run on 22 December
  • *Does NOT run on Christmas Eve

20 December:

Diesel Shuttle, Heywood dep. Santa Special, Bury dep.
13:05 13:40
13:55 14:30
14:45 15:20

21 December:

Diesel Shuttle, Heywood dep. Santa Special, Bury dep.
13:05 13:40
14:45 15:20
15:35 and 16:25 17:00

Heywood Shuttle tickets are priced at £3.00 (Adult) and £2.00 (child 3 – 17 years) and are only available in advance.

Heywood Shuttle Tickets available to book now.

2023 Dates

26 November

2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 20-24 December

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FAQs Icon


Will our service be steam hauled?

Every effort will be made to ensure that steam locomotives haul our Santa Specials services. However, should a steam locomotive be unavailable, the East Lancashire Railway reserves the right to substitute a diesel locomotive without prior notice. We reserve the right to suspend, reschedule or cancel services if operational circumstances or safety make this necessary.

Where does the Santa Special start?

All Santa Special steam trains start and end at Bury Bolton Street Station. We recommend starting your experience at Heywood Station where there is plenty of parking. Simply book on the Santa diesel shuttle which operates from Heywood to Bury. Heywood Shuttle Tickets available soon.

How long is the Santa Special journey?

The round trip experience from Bury Bolton Street Station lasts approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Can I get off along the way?

Passengers must remain on board their Santa Special train at all times.

Do you have toilets on board the train?

Toilet facilities are available both on the train as well as on the platform at Bury Bolton Street Station.

What present can I expect to receive?

We are providing gender neutral gifts based on age range rather than gender. Under 3’s will receive a teddy; all other age brackets will receive age appropriate gifts.

Can I change my gift on the day?

Unfortunately gifts cannot be changed on the day.

My child is under 3 but we won't need a gift, which ticket do I book?

All “Adults with under 3” tickets will receive a gift, under 3 gifts are a lovely teddy and suitable from birth. If you choose an adult only ticket, your child will not be provided a gift.

Where is the best place to park my car?

Bolton Street Station and the surrounding area has very limited parking. You can find further information on parking here.

An alternative would be to book the Santa diesel shuttle service and start your experience from Heywood where there is a free car park. Santa diesel shuttles are scheduled to arrive to ensure you have plenty of time to board your Santa Special steam train. Heywood Shuttle tickets available to purchase soon.

What time should I arrive for my experience?

We recommend that you arrive at least 30 minutes before your Santa Special Steam Train departure.

I have a pram, is there any where I can leave it?

On each train we have a buggy carriage where you can leave your pram, you will be given a ticket to collect it on your return.

There is a pram route that will let you avoid the stairs to the platform.

Will there be any food or drink available?

Bury Bolton Street has a well stocked Buffet on Platform 3 that will be serving drinks, snacks and warm pies as well as lots of goodies for the little ones. We will have additional huts along the platform serving festive treats and tipples.

Refreshments are also available at the Whistlestop Café in Heywood (if you are travelling on the Santa Diesel Shuttle between Heywood and Bury) and the Trackside Bar in Bury (Platform 2).

Can I bring my own food?

You are more than welcome to bring your own food, otherwise there are plenty
of other options available, as listed above.

Is there an alternative to Irish Cream (Festive Tipple)?

You can exchange your Festive Tipple for an alternative soft drink on the day, just ask your train steward.

Are the free Mince Pies and Chocolates Gluten/Dairy free?

There is a gluten-free biscuit alternative to the mince pie upon request. The Mince Pie is suitable for vegans. Also, a dairy-free alternative to the chocolate is available on request.

Is the experience accessible for people with limited mobility?

Every Santa Special Steam Train has a specially adapted carriage for people who require wheelchair assistance. To make a booking, call 0333 320 2830 and we will do the rest for you.

I need the assistance of a carer, do they need to pay?

Carers only qualify for a free ticket whilst undertaking their caring duty. ELR offers one free carer ticket per party in these circumstances. Please contact our booking line on 0333 320 2830.

When purchasing an 'Adult and Under 3' ticket - how many seats are included?

One seat is included, with the child under 3 seated on the lap of the adult.

Ami I able to bring my dog on the train?

Unfortunately dogs are not permitted at the Santa Special event, with the exception of guide dogs.

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