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“Birthday trip on the Santa Special”
Review of Spa Valley Railway

Spa Valley Railway
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Royal Tunbridge Wells, United Kingdom
Level 3 Contributor
20 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Birthday trip on the Santa Special”
Reviewed 18 January 2014

My youngest daughter bought surprise tickets for the Santa Special for my birthday at the end of November. We have been many times on the steam train to Groombridge but this was extra special. Lovely people pushed a trolley along the train corridor to our reserved carriage - like an Agatha Christie novel. We enjoyed very small cups of mulled wine and mince pies and biscuits made in the shape of a train. There was mist rising in the meadows on our return journey, mixed with the steam hanging in the cold air. Gorgeous.
We could have done with a bit more info before we went - but it was a lovely, quirky treat.

Visited November 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank Talkfly
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Date | Rating
  • English first
  • German first
  • Any
English first
Bexhill-on-Sea, United Kingdom
Level 5 Contributor
56 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“A very enjoyable ride :)”
Reviewed 5 January 2014

As a railway enthusiast I visit many heritage railways and the Spa Valley is one of my favourites. Its really easy to get to at either end; by mainline train into Eridge, or a short walk from mainline station Tunbridge Wells (or you can catch the 281 bus for £1).

The ride along the line is very enjoyable and the scenery is pretty. The volunteers clearly work very hard on the lines upkeep. The trains are mostly in good condition and look excellent.

Tip: If you're not a railway enthusiast and are looking for a day out on a steam train, check their website's event page first. On diesel gala days, no steam trains operate.

Visited August 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank Chris J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Uckfield, United Kingdom
Level 6 Contributor
147 reviews
12 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 111 helpful votes
“Very good fun for adults and children alike.”
Reviewed 4 January 2014

Whether it's steam or diesel electric, nothing comes close to going on an older train. This line has been painstakingy restored to single track and is great fun. Authentic stations, and nice museum. Did the Santa run in 2011 and was underwhelemd though, although my children loved in the summer. This is a volunteer run line so drivers can not turn up at a moments notice which is annoying. But overall a good day out and well done for continuing the line soon to the main line.

Visited June 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank Edward P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Paul M, Website manager at Spa Valley Railway, responded to this review, 6 January 2014
Dear Edward,

Thank you for your kind comments. It is quite clear from feedback elsewhere that the Santa event needs a rethink if we are to continue to compete in an increasingly slick market, although we have to take this in the context of the many happy visitors who still consider it good value and personal in a season of ever-increasing commercialism. I would say that we ran almost to capacity throughout the Santa Special timetable, and received no negative feedback at all from our visitors on the day of their visit.

You mention drivers not turning up to operate the trains - this is a very rare occurrence, and you were certainly unfortunate to experience this. Running full size steam trains is a serious business, and we have a very rigorous training schedule (lasting years) for aspiring train drivers and firemen, and also have a procedure for handling no-shows, which if repeated lead to permanent removal from the role. As you might imagine, if you spend ten years of Sundays learning how to do it, you aren't that flippant about not appearing for your duty!

You're right with what you say about the summer (and by association, supposedly better weather) - we struggle with an open platform at Tunbridge Wells, and although we have built a new canopy over the concourse, rain still has a detrimental effect on a day out, and of course the countryside looks much nicer on a sunny day when you can actually see it!

Thanks again for your feedback - see you again soon, I hope.

Best wishes, Paul
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Battle, United Kingdom
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Not Worth The Time Or Money”
Reviewed 4 January 2014

After reading all the information on the Santa Trip we booked up and looked forward to it. We were very disappointed indeed with our experience. We took my little grand daughter and my father with us. We were ushered into seats that were wet from the steam coming out of vents for the heating. The free mince pie was ok and then we had a finger full of some horrible liquid being passed off as a hot toddy Santa's grotto was grotty. Not at all magical. Empty boxes all over the place. Santa was ok he did his ho ho ho stuff. My daughter filled in a form stating my grand daughters age. this was so she would get an age appropriate toy. She is three and the toy she got was for a 18month old baby. We had paid full price for her. No concessions for a 3 year old so we did at least expect a nice toy. all in all a complete rip off, sorry!

Visited December 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank Sue F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Paul M, at Spa Valley Railway, responded to this review, 6 January 2014
Dear Sue,

Thank you for your review. Obviously, we're saddened that you felt the day didn't meet your expectations, and for that we apologies wholeheartedly. In the light of this and Jay's review, we are looking at the whole event for next year, and recognise the need for the format to be refreshed. I totally accept your impressions, and although I hope these aren't universally reflected across our customer base, they present a pretty poor advert for us.

I am surprised that you say the seats were wet from the heating - this is not something we have encountered before and it is very unlikely to have come from the steam heating. If this leaked inside the carriage, it would transform the compartment into a mobile Turkish bath. It is more likely that the damp came from some unfortunate previous occupants who had been caught in the extensive rain we experienced this December. Despite recent improvements to station facilities, we are still under-resourced to offer a totally undercover visit when busy. Nonetheless, a wet seat is a still a wet seat, and had we been aware, we would have been pleased to move you to another part of the train.

Additionally, we take great care to provide age-appropriate and good quality presents for our younger visitors, so please accept my apologies for one of the elves (kindly provided by a local church group) inadvertently taking from the wrong sack. It goes without saying that if we had been made aware of this at the time, we would have rectified it immediately.

Personally I'm no fan of the mulled cider either, but it seemed to be pretty popular, and there's no accounting for taste...

There's no excuse for having empty boxes lying around (even if wrapped up in shiny paper and masquerading as presents), and I'll look into how they came to be there in the first place. It's just thoughtless from our point of view and we should have noticed it ourselves and done something about it.

Please drop me an email (paul at (@) alpinehideout.co.uk) and I'll see if there's something we can do to qualify our disappointment at your experience.

As I've mentioned in response to other feedback, we do this for the love of it, and to share our enthusiasm with the public, and as such it really saddens us when we fail to meet expectations.

Kind regards, Paul
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London
Level 4 Contributor
39 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 27 helpful votes
“Not worth it!”
Reviewed 30 December 2013

We went on the Santa trip and I must say it was completely underwhelming. We were disappointed with everything from seeing Santa in his grubby outfit, the disgusting mulled cider and lack of Christmas Decorations on the train (well apart from one piece of tinsel) I wouldn't recommend it and I think its vastly overpriced. I have given it two "stars" as opposed to one because the staff all did seem to enjoy their jobs.

Visited December 2013
Helpful?
Thank jayduvet
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Paul M, Website manager at Spa Valley Railway, responded to this review, 6 January 2014
Dear Jay,

Thank you for your honest feedback. We are very sorry you had an underwhelming experience. Would you please be good enough to drop an email to "paul at (@) alpinehideout.co.uk" advising when you visited, I can make some further enquiries.

Thanks, Paul
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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