Climb aboard the Lapland Express steam train for a fun Christmas experience with Santa, Mrs Claus and their elves.


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This event is running on Saturdays and Sundays before Christmas

There is an absolute maximum of six passengers per booking to reduce crowding.

On the day

  • On arrival you will be welcomed by one of our volunteers at our Downpatrick station
  • Santa and Mrs Claus will then help to get you all on board the train
  • The event will last approximately 45 minutes, including steam train ride to Inch Abbey and back, with entertainment from Santa, Mrs Claus and the Elves
  • Entertainment will include an interactive magic display and fun and games
  • Santa will visit you in your seat
  • Children will receive a age appropriate present – providing they’ve managed to keep themselves off Santa’s naughty list!
  • You will receive a Christmas cookie and a drink to enjoy on the journey (adults and children)

Please note: in the unlikely event of steam engines not being available, a vintage diesel locomotive may substitute.

Covid Safety

To stop the virus spreading when travelling or using transport, it’s important that we all play our part and work together. In relation to travel and transport, including heritage operators, this means:

  • Keep at least one metre social distance where possible. Please respect social distancing
  • Adults must, by law, wear a face covering on the train and in stations, unless you are exempt or have a reasonable excuse
  • You should not attend the event under any circumstances if you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms, self-isolating, or have been advised to shield
  • Wash or sanitise your hands regularly and do not touch your face
  • Be considerate of the needs of older people, people with a disability and others who may be particularly affected by restrictions
  • Treat our staff with respect and follow their advice.
  • Trains will be treated with an antiviral shield, with further cleaning between each session.
  • We will be limiting passenger numbers to be much lower than normal.
  • There will be plenty of space in each carriage, please space out well. Seats will be marked out of use to ensure social distancing. Please make your way to your seat and remain in it for the duration of the trip.
  • There will be no direct contact with Santa (sitting on knees, etc).
  • Hand sanitisers are provided.
  • All our volunteers will be wearing face masks.

In line with government guidance, we recommend that adults who are not fully vaccinated and have not had a positive PCR test result between 30 and 180 days ago must have a negative PCR or Lateral Flow Test result within 48 hours prior to the event.

On arrival

Please arrive 20-30 minutes before your train. We will always do our best to accommodate you if there are any changes in your travel plans or you experience travel issues on the day, but due to limited numbers on our trains this may not be possible. We would of course provide full no-quibble refunds to any passenger unable to travel.

Make sure you have your eTicket or reference number with you, either on paper or on your mobile phone.


Lapland Express – your questions answered

We’ve listed the common questions about our Lapland Express steam trains below. Just tap or click a heading to read the answer. Use our Contact Us page if your question isn’t covered here.

Is the experience the same as previous years?

No. As you’ll appreciate, like everyone else we have had to change the way we do our Lapland Express event. This is due to the ongoing and also uncertain situation regarding the pandemic which is still part of our lives.  The experience now involves a train ride with entertainment from actors. Santa will visit children at their seat. Children will receive a present and all passengers will receive a cookie and drink.

Where does the train go?

The train runs to the platform at Inch Abbey and will return back to Downpatrick station.  Passengers will remain on board for the entire journey. Actors will entertain passengers throughout the journey. Journey will take approx. 45 minutes.

My child or someone else in my group has a food allergy. What do we do about the snack?

Please contact us after you book to tell us of any special dietary requirements and we will do our best to accommodate them. The snack will be provided by a local artisan bakery and we cannot guarantee that there would be no cross contamination from peanuts.

If your child has a severe allergy to nuts that other people would be eating, we would advise against attending the event, as we cannot guarantee that this can be avoided.

I have a teenage son/daughter who doesn’t want a gift from Santa, do they have to pay the child’s fare?

No, if they’re too old for a gift from Santa they can book an adult ticket. There are no concessionary tickets for this event. All passengers will enjoy the same experience, and all passengers will receive a drink and snack.

Can I bring a toddler who doesn’t need a present from Santa?

Yes, you are most welcome to bring a toddler with you to the event, if they don’t require a present or food and drink. We don’t charge for such young children, though do require the 50p booking fee to be paid, as the ticketing company still charges that. Please note that you must have at least one other child who is actually receiving a present.

A toddler will then take up one of the maximum of six seats available to your booking, as we need to limit numbers for Covid safety.

Is the station and train wheelchair accessible?

Yes! There is level access from the car park to the platform, and a ramp can be deployed to assist wheelchairs onto the train. There is a dedicated area for wheelchair passengers where they can sit with their family.

As spaces on this train are very limited this year, we would recommend contacting us in advance so we can reserve this space for you and your family in advance, to save any delay on the platform or train.

Can I bring a pram or buggy?

Space is limited on our trains, and it is not possible to wheel a pram down the carriages of the train you travel on. There is an area for prams and wheelchairs on one of our carriages, but we can only carry a few prams at a time. If possible, we would prefer you leave the pram in the station or in your car.

I am a carer – do I have to pay?

Carers can travel free of charge if they meet the criteria in our Carers Policy. You can’t book this online, so please contact us after you book for the rest of your group to arrange this, explaining your requirements.

How long does the visit last?

Your visit will last approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Dress up warm, Downpatrick is a cold place in winter!

Will the queues for Santa be long?

The Lapland Express is a very popular event, but with pre-booking and online ticketing, queues should be a thing of the past. Just don’t arrive too early for your train as you will only be allowed into station 30 minutes before your train. With limited numbers this year, we do not expect significant queues or crowding.

Do I have to pre-book?

Yes! Advanced booking is essential. We will not have any ticket selling facilities on the day.

I don’t have a printer, what do I do with my tickets?

Don’t worry. You don’t need to print your ticket out, though some people do find it handy.
You can just show us your ticket on your phone, or you can even write down the booking reference and bring it with you.

What if I miss my train?

If you miss your booked time, don’t worry. We will try our best to accommodate you on the next train. If you manage to miss the last train of the night, then we will either re-book you onto another date or refund your ticket in full.

Do you have wheelchair access?

We have wheelchair access into the main station building, as well as wheelchair friendly carriages with double-doors, and accessible toilets at Downpatrick Station building. Please ask a member of staff for help into the carriages, as a ramp will need to be used. If you let us know your requirements in advance, we can try to arrange the best possible seats on the train for you.

Are the Santa trains running during the week?

No, we only run trains on the weekend dates listed on this page.

Where is the railway station?

Downpatrick Station is on the main Downpatrick-Newcastle road (the Ballydugan Road). The entrance for the station is between Rathkeltair House (the tax office) and the Translink bus station. Look out for the brown road signs that say “Railway Museum” and follow those.

For more details, please see our How to Find Us page for maps and directions.

Where can I board the train?

For the Lapland Express you can only board at Downpatrick Station. Inch Abbey Station will not be open.

Are dogs allowed?

Due to the nature of the event we can only welcome Assistance Dogs onto the train.

Can you take Visa/Mastercard/etc.?

Yes, we can take credit cards and debit cards via our online booking system, or if you phone us to do a telephone booking. We cannot take any payments on the day.

You can also use your NI £100 Spend Local card to buy your tickets but you will have to book by phone and will need to verify the card before use.

Will the shop and museum be open?

Our shop will be open but due to the current public health situation the station museum will remain closed.

Will there be toilets on the train?

There are no toilet facilities on the train but we have toilets on our main platform at Downpatrick station

Is your Santa the real thing?

Of course he is! The real Santa comes to see us and only us!