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Guide to Railway Photography at Heritage Railways

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Guide to Railway Photography at Heritage Railways

Railway photography is a popular hobby for many photography enthusiasts, and there’s no shortage of opportunities to capture stunning shots on the mainline. However, for those looking for a more intimate and authentic train photography experience, heritage railways can offer a unique and exciting alternative. In this article, we’ll explore the world of railway photography at heritage railways, discussing what they are, why you should visit them, and how to make the most of your photography experience.

What are Heritage Railways?

Heritage railways are old railway lines that have been preserved and restored to their former glory. These railways are typically operated by volunteers and enthusiasts, and they often use vintage steam or diesel locomotives and carriages to provide visitors with a unique train travel experience.  

Many heritage railways were once part of the mainline railway network, but they were closed down or abandoned due to various reasons such as changes in transport trends or financial difficulties. However, instead of letting these historic railway lines disappear completely, groups of passionate enthusiasts stepped in to save them from complete decay and destruction.

These can be found all over the world, and they often operate in scenic locations such as rural countryside or along picturesque coastlines. Some even offer visitors a range of experiences beyond train travel, such as museums, shops, and dining facilities.

I took these two photographers from my local Heritage Railways, Dartmouth Steam Railway and South Devon Railway.

Why Visit a Heritage Railway for Railway Photography?

Heritage railways provide visitors with a unique opportunity to experience train travel as it was in days gone by. Visitors can enjoy the charm and nostalgia of travelling in vintage locomotives and carriages, complete with traditional furnishings and fittings. This can be a wonderful experience for train enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

These offer a more intimate and authentic railway photography experience than the mainline. Visitors can get up close to the locomotives and carriages, capturing stunning detail shots that simply aren’t possible on a busy mainline. Additionally, the picturesque locations and vintage trains make for great railway photography subjects.

These often offer unique train travel experiences that can’t be found elsewhere. For example, some offer dining experiences on board the train, where visitors can enjoy a meal while taking in the stunning scenery. Others offer themed events or re-enactments, providing visitors with a taste of train travel in a specific time period.

Many heritage railways operate as non-profit organizations and rely on the support of volunteers, donors, and visitors to stay operational. By visiting a heritage railway, visitors can support a good cause and help to preserve our railway heritage for future generations to enjoy.

Tips for Railway Photography at a Heritage Railway

If you’re planning a visit to a heritage railway for your railway photography, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that you get the most out of your photography experience.

Firstly, be respectful of the heritage railway’s rules and regulations. These railways often have specific photography policies in place to ensure the safety of visitors and staff, so make sure you familiarize yourself with these before you start shooting.

Secondly, take advantage of the railway’s special events and photo opportunities. Many of these offer special photography events, such as night shoots or staged photo opportunities, which can provide some truly unique shots.

Finally, be patient and take your time. Heritage railways offer a more relaxed pace of life than the mainline, so take the time to explore the railway, chat to the staff and other visitors, and really soak up the atmosphere.


Exploring railway photography at heritage railways can be an incredibly rewarding and enriching experience for photographers and train enthusiasts alike. These offer a unique opportunity to capture intimate and authentic shots of vintage locomotives and carriages, set against stunning and picturesque backdrops. Additionally, visiting a heritage railway can provide a wonderful opportunity to step back in time and experience the magic of train travel as it was in days gone by.

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