1. Severn Valley Steam Railway
Santa Specials take over the Severn Valley Steam Railway in Shropshire for most of the holiday season. Children can travel through beautiful Shropshire countryside from Kidderminster and Santa's Grotto in Arley, or the family can ride along with Santa on his special "Santa Heralds" trains. On the Santa Heralds Trains and Christmas Cracker Express, Santa visits with every child during the journey. And on all of these trips, every fare paying child receives a special gift. Bring a camera to save the fun.
Once Severn Valley get into the holiday spirit, they don't stop. During December there are also Christmas Carol trips to Arley to hear a choir sing holiday favorites.
The full Christmas schedule of events is available in a downloadable brochure or from the Severn Valley Railway website.
Find out more about the Severn Valley Steam Railway and other steam railways in the West Midlands
2. Dartmouth Steam Railway
The Dartmouth Steam Railway travels a particularly lovely route along the Devon coast from Paignton and up the Dart Estuary to Kingswear. Winter trains only run during the holiday season and they are very popular so booking is essential.
The company runs three Santa Steam Trains each way every Saturday and Sunday in December before Christmas. During the journey, adults enjoy mince pies and mulled wine, while children can munch on homemade biscuits (or cookies if you're visiting from the States). Santa visits every child to deliver a present, have a chat about who's been naughty and who's been nice and pose for family snaps.
Sadly, in 2012, the company has dispensed with its traditional pre-journey panto, but there are children's rides at the new Paignton station and the company's Head of Steam cafe will be serving hot food.
And, for the first time ever due, they say, to popular demand, the Dartmouth Steam Railway will be running a special winter schedule between Christmas and New Year's.
Visit their website for the full Santa and holiday trains schedule.
And find out more about the Dartmouth Steam Railway and other steam trains in the Southwest
3. Swanage Railway
The Swanage Railway is a volunteer project running restored steam and diesel trains between Norden, in the Isle of Purbeck and stations at Corfe Castle, Harman's Cross and Herston in Dorset.
During the holiday season the company runs Santa Specials services every weekend from the beginning of December to Christmas Eve. The journeys take an hour, passing Corfe Castle and the Jurassic Coast, and Santa rides along, doling out presents to the children, while parents indulge in mince pies and festive drinks. Santa and all his helpers are volunteers, giving these trips an especially warm and friendly feeling.
As an extra holiday season treat, the Swanage Railway serves Christmas Lunch - a traditional 3-course meal with all the trimmings - during several journeys of its classic steam train, the Wessex Belle.
Visit their website for full information about the Santa Specials as well as Christmas lunch menus and booking information.
And find out more about the Swanage Railway and other steam and heritage railroads in the Southwest