Are we nearly there? Steam-driven days out for children

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The Independent Travel
Bala Lake Railway, The Station, Llanuwchllyn, Gwynedd (01678 540 666). Chuff your way through mid Wales, taking in some stunning lakeside views as you go. The round trip from Llanuwchllyn to Bala and back takes one-and-a-half hours with three stops (and much whistle-blowing) on the way. Tickets and fares vary; for example round-trip return tickets cost: adults pounds 6, OAPs pounds 5, one adult and one child pounds 7, each additional child pounds 1 (under-fives free). Trains run from March to the end of September, between 9.30am and 3.45pm.

Severn Valley Railway, The Railway Station, Bewdley, Worcestershire (01299 403816). You can steam gently along the banks of the river Severn from Kidderminster all the way to Bridgnorth (or vice versa), or simply take a short hop between any two stations on the way - including Bewdley, with its model railway, and the pretty riverside village of Hampton Loade. Sample fares: full adult return tickets cost pounds 9, return family tickets (two adults, two children) pounds 20. There are special cheap fares of pounds 2 for children (under-fives free) during 1997. The railway is in operation from March to the end of December (call the above number for more details).

Isle of Wight Steam Railway, The Railway Station, Havenstreet (01982 882204). You can choose between first- and third-class travel on a little train that huffs and puffs its way around the eastern end of the island between Smallbrock Junction and Wootton. Return fares: adults pounds 5.50 third class (pounds 7.50 first class), children pounds 3.50 third class (pounds 5.50 first class), family (two adults and up to four children) pounds 17 third class (pounds 25 first class). Trains run between March and November (for further details call the telephone number given).

East Somerset Railway, Cranmore Station, Shepton Mallet (01749 880417). The route meanders through the rolling scenery of the Mendips between Cranmore and Mendip Vale (a round trip takes about 35 minutes). At Cranmore there's a signal box museum, art gallery and more - you can also get lunches and cream teas here. Admission and train tickets: adults pounds 5.50; children (3-16) pounds 3.50; family ticket (two adults, two children) pounds 15. Cranmore station and museums are open all year; steam days are, variously, between March and December (call the above number for details).

West Highland Line, Fort William Station, Fort William Inverness-shire (01397 703791). You can't beat this route, from Fort William to Mallaig, for rugged beauty and misty nostalgia. The Jacobite hoots and toots its way through glens, past lochs and around mountains on a two-hour trip to Britain's most westerly railway outpost. Adult returns cost pounds 19.25, children pounds 10. The Jacobite runs every day except Saturday, between June and September.