The Heritage Railway Association represents the majority of heritage and tourist railways, tramways and railway preservation groups within both the U.K and Ireland.

About the Heritage Railway Movement

Railway preservation is no longer a movement of dedicated railway enthusiasts; it is a big and growing industry and a key factor in tourism programmes in many areas. From the Great Little Trains of Wales which feed hundreds of thousands of visitors into the remoter and lovelier parts of the Principality to busy commuter lines such as the Paignton & Dartmouth Railway, Heritage Railways are thriving and thrusting in all directions.

This page sets out little known facts on the strength of the industry which is keen to co-operate with other organisations for filming and PR work, movement of freight and special traffic, hospitality and simple days out. Special catering arrangements, from banquets to cream teas, are available on the trains of many railways. Heavy engineering workshops are available for outside work and the railways themselves are often able to provide facilities for main line manufacturers and operators for tasks and tests which would be impossible or at least inconvenient on the main system.

There are 108 Operating Railways, Tramways, Rail Cableways and 60 Steam Centres
operating throughout the UK and Ireland who are HRA members

Their total route mileage is 536 miles with 411 stations.
(This is greater than the London Underground system
and exceeds the distance between London and Glasgow.)

New railways & planned extensions to existing
railways could increase this total to 560 miles.

During 2013, heritage railways, tramways and museums carried 7.7 million passengers.

Heritage railways earned around £106 million, 51% of this being from trains journeys, 13% from catering,
12% from shops and the remaining 24% mainly from workshops and charter trains.

Heritage railways directly employ 2,246 people and also benefit from the work of 19,512 volunteers.

Heritage railways rolling stock includes:


Steam Locomotives *
Broad gauge (includes Irish 5ft 3in)
Standard gauge (4ft 8½in)
Narrow gauge.


Diesel & Electric Locomotives *
Broad gauge (includes Irish 5ft 3in)
Standard gauge (4ft 8½in)
Narrow gauge.

* Figures based on data from the Preserved UK Railway Locomotives Database.


Diesel Multiple Units
Passenger Coaches 
Standard gauge
Narrow gauge


Standard gauge
Narrow gauge

Maintenance, repairs and new builds of locomotives and other rolling stock is carried out in 180 workshops.

Around 810 locomotives are in operational condition at any one time, and many of those not currently operational are undergoing routine overhauls or being restored from scrap yard condition.

The National Railway Museum is one of England's top tourist attractions
and received nearly 750,000 visitors at York, and 120,000 at Locomotion during 2006.