Footplate Experiences

You can now learn to drive one of our beautiful steam locomotives right here at Exbury Gardens! Ideal for the first-time driver whether it’s to mark a special occasion, provide the perfect gift, or fulfil that lifelong dream, we can’t wait to welcome you aboard for your fun-filled footplate adventure.

About

Opened in 2001, Exbury Gardens’ 12 ¼” gauge railway offers you the opportunity to drive a coal-fired steam locomotive on our picturesque Rhododendron Line, which has recently been extended from approximately 1 ¼ miles to 1 ½ miles in length for 2017. At this scale all of our locomotives are of a practical size, with comfortable, seated cabs and ergonomically designed control layouts.

The track offers plenty of opportunities to take in the surrounding scenery, running alongside our Rock Garden (the largest of its kind in Europe) and across a viaduct to Exbury North station in the American Garden. You will also be able to drive your engine through our Summer Lane Garden, which is an area of the gardens only accessible by train.

What to expect

Experience the thrill of operating from the driver’s seat, using the regulator and firing and controlling the locomotive yourself around our challenging track profile. This includes several steep gradients, driving the engine through a tunnel and over a bridge, navigating tight curvatures and experiencing our brand new track extension with views across the newly added Dragonfly Halt. As part of your experience you will be actively involved in the entire locomotive preparation, from firing the steam up in the morning to disposal procedures at the end of the day, which can bring the time physically spent with your locomotive up to approximately 8 hours!

One-to-one

We know you want a top quality day with us, so Exbury’s Footplate Experience is first and foremost a one-to-one day between you and your instructor, making sure you spend the maximum amount of time in the hot-seat (you will understand the meaning of this by the end of the day!) This gives a driving distance of 12 miles, and up to 10 circuits of the railway track.

Guests

You can invite up to two guest to receive free entry into the gardens on the day, who may also travel as passengers on your train for free whilst you receive instruction. There will be ample opportunities for your guests to take photographs and videos of you on the footplate, as well as time for them to enjoy exploring the gardens whilst you drive your locomotive.

Your experience

Before arriving at Exbury for your Footplate Experience you will have been sent an Exbury Railway rulebook to help you become acquainted with the engines, rolling stock and general “rules of the line”. Your footplate experience will consist of:

To make a booking or to find out further information please contact our team on 02380 891203.

‘A truly fantastic day out. My wife and I were bowled over by the amazing spring colours of rhododendrons and azaleas and there was literally colour everywhere. There are beautiful areas to walk through as well as places to sit. We took a picnic in the hope of being able to sit by one of the ponds and were not disappointed – the reflections were as spectacular as the real thing! The next thing we want to do is return in the autumn to see the colours change as it must be beautiful’

David Parker, Christchurch

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