8 railway trips for families from Suffolk to try
- Credit: Paul Geater
Most children love trains - whether it's visiting a heritage railway or museum, or going for a ride along one of our many rail lines in Suffolk and Essex.
The counties are not home to the longest heritage lines in the country - but they do have sites of interest for dedicated enthusiasts as well as families looking for a steamy day out.
The Mid Suffolk Light Railway
Suffolk's only standard-gauge heritage rail line, the Middy is now really going places as it is in the process of doubling its track to nearly 1km and restoring its own steam locomotive.
Based at Brockford and Wetheringsett station, just off the A140, this is a recreation of a line that closed in 1952 and served farms and villages in Mid Suffolk - and also World War II USAAF bases at Horham and Mendlesham.
Only a short section of the line has been restored, and even with the extension it will only be a fraction of the original line - but it does give a real flavour of what a light-railway was like in the first half of the 20th century.
There is also a fascinating museum and a nature trail that will keep the family occupied on steam days.
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The East Anglian Railway Museum.
This can be found at the Chappel and Wakes Colne station on the Marks Tey to Sudbury branch line in north Essex.
Although it has a short operating line, it is essentially what it says - a museum dedicated to the history of railways in the region.
It is also a restoration centre - it has brought steam locomotives back to life and maintained them. Its volunteers are currently overhauling its "star" loco - the only surviving LNER N7 commuter train locomotive that operated in the region from the 1920s.
If you want to combine your visit to the museum with a real rail journey, you can catch a Greater Anglia train from the station to Sudbury or Marks Tey (or a round trip to both) - a journey that takes you over the spectacular Chappel viaduct that is only just outside the station itself.
Colne Valley Railway
A mile-long journey that starts and finishes at Castle Hedingham Station.
There is a museum, signal box and other facilities including a woodland walk and station souvenir shop.
Epping Ongar Railway
South of Chelmsford, until 1994 this was the north-eastern terminus of the London Underground Central line - although it had originally been built as a Great Eastern Railway branch line.
Now it is a heritage line just over six miles long running from Ongar to Epping Forest through North Weald.
Most people start their journey from Ongar, but North Weald station is the main centre of activity with a museum and restoration shed. Despite its name, the railway has no access to Epping station - but there is a vintage bus that links North Weald with Epping during most steam days.
The railway has both steam and vintage diesel locomotives - its flagship engine is GWR locomotive Pitchford Hall which has recently returned to action after a major overhaul.
As well as heritage railways and museums, there are also very attractive Greater Anglia routes to explore.
The East Suffolk Line
The journey from Ipswich to Lowestoft takes about 90 minutes, but it is a very attractive journey through typical East Suffolk countryside.
From the River Deben between Woodbridge and Melton to attractive fields between Wickham Market and Halesworth and the gateway to The Broads as you travel through Oulton Broad to Britain's most easterly station.
The Wherry Line
Only part of the Lowestoft to Norwich line is in Suffolk - but the journey is the most attractive rail trip you will find in East Anglia.
The track passes beside the southern end of the broads. through reedbeds and across two swing bridges. The journey takes only about 45 minutes - but it's a real delight the whole way.
The Mayflower line
The journey from Manningtree to Harwich hugs the lower part of the River Stour - and is a real contrast. It passes through the old towns of Manningtree and Mistley before going into some glorious riverside countryside at Wrabness with a woodland on one side and tidal marshes on the other.
It then swings through the industrial port at Parkeston Quay before stopping at Dovercourt and finishing in the heart of historic Harwich - a great short journey.
To make an interesting round trip take the foot ferry from Harwich to Felixstowe's Landguard Point.
The Felixstowe branch
It is a bit of a walk from Landguard to Felixstowe railway station - but if you're able to make it and you've got the time it certainly is a very attractive way to stretch your legs.
The Felixstowe branch is, in many ways. the mirror image of the Mayflower line - hugging the northern bank of the Orwell for much of its way.
The 25-minute journey is half in attractive countryside, half taking passengers on a loop around Ipswich from the south east of the town to approaching the station from the north west - it might not be the most traditionally attractive ride, but it certainly provides variety for the passengers!