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Welcome to Railtrail Tours

A family firm with an ethos of honesty and integrity. Our passion for delivering quality escorted holidays by rail at great value fares along with consistently excellent customer service has stood us in good stead for over 40 years.

Big on Quality, Small Enough to Care

01538 382323
Monday - Friday, 9am to 5pm

The History of Railtrail


Railtrail Tours was founded in 1980 by our Owner & Managing Director, Dave Felstead, but this journey began many years earlier when Dave, as a shy young lad, started his first job at Stoke Railway Station in the 1960’s. Those were the final days of steam travel, an outmoded fashion that was never supposed to return with package tours flying to exotic destinations appearing to be so much more attractive than the nationalised British Railways, the butt of comedians’ jokes. Working for British Railways, Dave was entitled to complimentary rail travel in both Britain and Europe and, as far back as 1966, Dave travelled with a few friends across Europe to Austria over the Brenner Pass and into Northern Italy enabling him to discover a love of train travel which has subsequently lasted a lifetime.


Steam never did die out and, in the age of railway preservation, Dave volunteered for the cause of successfully bringing back steam to his beloved Staffordshire Moorlands. Then, in 1980, the BBC transmitted THAT programme! You know the one? "Confessions of a Trainspotter" was Michael Palin’s first ever travelogue as part of the "Great Railway Journeys of the World" and Dave was transfixed by Palin’s journey from London to Inverness, then coast to coast across the majestic Highlands to the Kyle of Lochalsh, facing out towards the Isle of Skye. That same year Dave was inspired to ride the line himself before advertising his first tour for Railtrail in the local press. Before long he was escorting a group through Scotland to the Palace Hotel in Inverness and, incredibly, all these years later, this very same tour to the very same hotel remains one of Railtrail’s most popular holidays.


For years Dave juggled a day job in the computer labs of Manchester University with his passion for organising holidays by rail meaning that, for many years, Railtrail was Dave and his sidekick, Barbara, operating out of a static caravan in Cheddleton in the Moorlands. From here Railtrail grew into a small team, moving to an office in the centre of Leek where, in the 80’s and 90’s, Railtrail successfully operated a small number of escorted group holidays to popular UK destinations. Brochures were hand-made by Dave, promoting the nostalgia of a golden age travelling by train and, even in those days, offering the possibility of joining at your local station which, to this day, remains one of Railtrail’s unique selling points. The holidays were escorted by a small band of expert Tour Managers and, occasionally, Dave himself would pop in, as illustrated in the image below taken outside the Palace Hotel in Inverness (Dave is second from the left).


<img src="oneofthefirstrailtrailbrochures350x249.jpeg" alt="Railtrail Tour Brochure 1997">    <img src="daveatthepalacehotel350x528.jpeg" alt="Dave at the Palace">


The new Millenium brought with it a change of style and the new strapline – "Relax a while…". Dave’s welcome message harked back to the halcyon days of travelling by train and the updated brochures were like a little work of art, using train and destination paintings from a local watercolour artist. It was around this time that Dave travelled to Germany’s Harz Mountains with a friend to experience the region’s timeless narrow-gauge steam railways. Safe to say that Dave was smitten, not only with the steam nostalgia, but by the thick forests punctuated with beautiful half-timbered towns and, not surprisingly, the first Harz Mountains Tour featured in the Railtrail brochure shortly afterwards. As with all our European Tours, the journey began at the London Eurostar Terminal (then Waterloo, now St Pancras) and, thanks to the Channel Tunnel, the continent of Europe was now reachable by train in a few hours and was a wonderful alternative to the stresses and strains of air or road travel. Journeys aboard European trains travelling at speeds up to 320kph saw road traffic left far, far, behind!


<img src="intercitypaintedposterrailtrail-reduced.jpeg"Railtrail leaflet 1">  <img src="rhine&moselleandheartstohartzposter-reduced.jpeg" alt="Railtrail Leaflet 2"> <img src="railtrailtours2002brochure-reduced.jpeg" alt="Railtrail leaflet 3">


In 2006, our new brochure brought with it a new logo, a new office in Leek at St Edward Street, and an increasing number of European rail holidays. Over the next ten years Railtrail’s product range continued to grow with new tours being added to our extensive programme regularly, including a strong programme of specialist steam enthusiast tours and, in 2016, Railtrail introduced its first Grand Tour by Rail travelling from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Railtrail’s "Grand Tours" have grown into a successful programme of longer duration, limited edition, group adventures from following Michael Palin’s second "Great Railway Journey" (broadcast in 1994) from Derry to Kerry, to an expansive tour of The Transpyrenean plus many exciting journeys in between.



The latest stepping stone in Railtrail’s ongoing journey is the move to a new, open plan office in May 2019 from St Edward Street to The Smithfield Centre above the bus station, previously used as the old Leek Post & Times Offices, where we have settled in nicely and look forward to continuing to provide varied and vibrant escorted rail holidays.



Here at Railtrail, we know that the comfort of train travel is a great advantage, but so too is the speed. The Scottish Highlands are two days by coach from some parts of the UK but are easily reachable by train – it’s breakfast at home in Penzance, a light lunch on the train, and dinner with Railtrail in Inverness! Plus, these superb new high speed train services are bringing countries and famous cities ever closer together. For instance, our numerous tours to Switzerland see us leaving the UK in the morning and enjoying an evening meal in beautiful Basel, or on the shores of Lake Lucerne.


All of this has been made possible through Dave’s hobby, starting in the 1960’s, resulting in the creation of a truly independent rail holiday company with Dave still at the helm and, as a firm believer in customer satisfaction and experience, we would love to organise your next holiday and look forward to the pleasure of your company soon!

Contact Us
Railtrail Tours Limited
21 The Smithfield Centre, Leek
Staffordshire Moorlands, ST13 5JW
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