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“Children loved it but could have been improved”
Review of Weardale Railway

Weardale Railway
Ranked #1 of 5 things to do in Stanhope
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Reviewed 23 January 2014

I have mixed feelings about our recent trip on the Polar Express (Dec 2013). To say we were disappointed with the car parking was an understatement. The car park is essentially a big field which in the middle of December was an enormous muddy mess; not nice to try and squelch through with three children under 5 and everyone wearing their PJ's!
You are advised to get there an hour early to ensure you get tickets etc but to be honest this seemed a ploy to get you to spend time in the cafe (which was essentially an overpriced burger stall) and the gift shop. As the Polar Express is my little boys favourite film I fully intended to treat him with some nice souvenirs but there was little choice of gifts and they all seemed a bit naff and overpriced.
My husband and I also found the train itself to be very disappointing, bearing no resemblance to the Polar Express at all and in standard class it seemed as though we were sat in a regular arriva train carriage rather than on the 'magical Polar Express'.
When on the train the 'waiters' bring round hot chocolate and cookies for everyone but we thought it lost it's 'sparkle' somewhat by the fact that it was served in white polystyrene cups (like you would get from a burger van) and we felt for the money paid it could have been served in something nicer, such as a branded cardboard cup at the very least.
Finally when the train arrives at the North Pole it's actually only on one side of the train which is very disappointing especially if your sat on the other side like we were. We had to lift the children up to see and we thought the set was a bit poor.
Despite the negatives mentioned there were some very good bits to the Polar Express. The station looked very pretty all lit up and the gold tickets that the children get are nice keepsakes. The staff were exceptional and really made the journey very special and had everyone joining in singing along with songs. Santa boards the train and spent time chatting with all the children and gives them a rather nice bell and the inspector comes and stamps all the children's tickets (which was my little boys favourite bit). The hobo also wanders throughout the train looking for spare tickets which the children find amusing. All the staff were happy to take photos and made it a very personable experience.
I would have rated the Polar Express as 1 star but the staff were so amazing it made up for a lot of the bad points and the children really enjoyed it and to be honest, that was after-all the most important thing.
Despite the negatives I would go on the Polar Express again, however, I would upgrade to first class. The carriages looked much nicer, less crowded and the souvenir mugs looked worth the extra money by themselves.

14  Thank cmcmullen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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"north pole"
in 123 reviews
"the polar express"
in 144 reviews
"car park"
in 93 reviews
"train ride"
in 24 reviews
"singing and dancing"
in 24 reviews
"magical experience"
in 18 reviews
"hot choc"
in 16 reviews
"gift shop"
in 38 reviews
"return journey"
in 12 reviews
"golden ticket"
in 14 reviews
"merry christmas"
in 8 reviews
"real santa"
in 5 reviews
"father christmas"
in 12 reviews
"premium seats"
in 11 reviews
"christmas experience"
in 6 reviews
"children's faces"
in 6 reviews
"children and adults"
in 12 reviews
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260 - 264 of 445 reviews

Reviewed 15 January 2014 via mobile

We booked this with our 2 year old , it us all organised very well with parking on site . The polar express train ride was better than last year in my opinion it was more fun singing Xmas songs .. Great for a Xmas family outing would defiantly recommend

3  Thank Luciloveshols
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 15 January 2014

I wanted to book this experience on a weekend as close to Christmas as I could get - and thankfully there must be an awful lot of supersticious people out there, as I managed to book a table of 4 VIP on the 5.30pm train on Friday 13th December.

As my daughter who is 3 loves the film, I planned the entire event, buying the three of us new pyjamas and slippers for the ride....we excitedly got on our new pyjamas and set off for the approximately 1 hour journey to get there from Sunderland. Knowing someone personally who lives near the Railway Station I was advised to cut through Chester le Street and avoid Durham rush hour traffic. We'd allowed plenty of time for our journey - and there was no mention of roadworks or anything on the website. But bou oh boy, we got caught in huge tailbacks due to a broken down car, then hit more major tailbacks due to roadworks.... there was no way we were going to make it in time for the 5.30 departure.

Listening to the radio reports, a lot of accidents happened and it seemed like the whole of the north east was gridlocked in traffic. We tried to phone Weardale Railway to explain we and maybe countless more passengers may miss the train...but we were connected to a call centre in America! Obviously she couldn't advise if we could be allocated room on the next train due to depart at 7.30pm.

We knew others were travelling the relatively short distance from Sunderland too for the later train and we telephoned to tell them to leave NOW due to the horrendous traffic...we thought passengers on the 7.30pm may have been caught up in traffic too and we;d be able to use their empty seats.

Flustered, tired and on the verge of tears at the amount of money spent and time planning this special treat - we were ushered to see the events manager Andrew - who offered us seats AFTER Christmas - I think he took great pity on me when I could feel myself getting tearful with an upset toddler to contend with after a nightmare 2 and a half hours stuck in traffic....if my daughter would be happy to sit on my lap, he could squeeze is into a 2 seated VIP table on the next train.

Immediately I felt relaxed, and we had plenty of time to look around the beautifully decorated station, making the most of a very hearty tea from very courteous and friendly staff....we took loads of photos and really got into the spirit of the whole experience. Obviously 7.30 was pretty late for our daughter but she soon perked up on the train and joined in with the singing and clapping - the Elves, Singing Waiters, Conductor and of course Santa himself an AMAZING experience....to see the utter joy in my daughters face as she met Santa on the magical Polar Express train meant soo much - I really couldn't fault any aspect of the experience.

Yes, it's not the easiest railway station in the world to find, especially in the dark, with very few signposts ...and yes the car park is a muddy mess, but hey it's winter, parents and grandparents really should use common sense....and not let prefabricated toilets or overspill car parks detract from your enjoyment of a beautiful Railway Station that has kept soo many wonderful original looking (possibly replicated) features... it's a beautiful station, and the whole event was managed magnificently.

I was in two minds whether to turn round and cut my lossess - but thanks to Andrew the Events Manager, as a Flustered Mother - he really was my own special Santas helper....can't wait to do it this year. ...but will try and book a Saturday - and will leave more than enough time to get there!

6  Thank Sunderlandcat
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 December 2013 via mobile

I decided to treat the family to experience the Polar Express as I had heard so many positive things.

Upon arrival, we were directed to the parking area, which was muddy and a bit of a free for all, but with a bit of patience we got parked up. (Take wellys)

With the experience taking place in December the weather was obviously bad, so I did expect there to be more sheltered areas, instead we joined the many other visitors queuing for the train.

The experience on the train was fantastic, all of the staff made such an effort with the kids. My only issue was when we arrived at the North Pole, it was situated on the opposite side of the train so we could not see Santa and the elves. I would have expected it to be set up on both sides so everyone can see.
My children had a truest magical
time and I would go back again for that reason, however I still think for the money paid a few improvements could be made.

5  Thank MelandDan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 30 December 2013

We went to this on the 23rd and I'm glad I didn't look at the reviews beforehand!

Myself and my son (aged 9) both loved it and felt it was a fantastic xmas experience.

The station with it's big golden ticket was nice. It was raining the day we went and unfortunately this meant that the marquees holding the cafe and gift shop were very crowded. I felt the gift shop could have been better but my son chose a conductor's hat like the one in the film and we go a souvenir decoration to put on our xmas tree each year.

On board the train our tables had xmas place mats and our hot chocolate mugs. Each carriage had waiters and the ones in our carriage really went the extra mile entertaining everyone and making us smile and laugh. The audio story with the boards of the book pages was a nice touch, and as we'd taken the book with us for the trip we sat with it on our table and could look at each page up close as it was read out.

Our hot chocolates and cookies were well received and my son enjoyed singing along to the hot choc song as the waiters danced and served.

The "North Pole" looked real enough in the dark all lit up, and the Christmas elf who came aboard was also fab with the children. Santa took his time talking with each child and the look on my son's face as he was given his bell made the long journey from our home to the station worthwhile. :-)

We heard several people complaining. I think some people just like to complain!
I had prepared my son that the train wouldn't be a steam one as I'd read it on the web site.It was December in the north of England - we put another layer under our PJs. We went prepared to enjoy it and we did.

4  Thank Katie S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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