National Trust’s Wallington Hall asked for an authentic themed outdoor play area to be built in the heart of the great forest garden surrounded by open countryside. The play area in question? A 40 foot long GWR steam train. Just up our street! And not only did we build the majestic green thunderhorse to the best standard imaginable, but shortly after completion, our client was so impressed that they decided that what the play area needed was an equally authentic train station to go next to it.
The following year, we also installed a beautiful oak fort, just up the path in the forest – if you ever get a chance to stroll through the grounds of Wallington Hall, it really is quite a sight to stumble upon a fort followed by a steam train (complete with a station) in the middle of the forest.
Since installing this play area, it has been under near constant use and has become a great asset to the grounds of Wallington Hall.
The aim of the project was to harmonise the train with its surroundings. Visitors would be wandering through the forest on a sunny afternoon when the shine of a bright red boiler would come into view. It needed to be as robust as possible, given that muddy boots would be playing on it throughout each and every day.
The station needed to look like a real station whilst also incorporating as much play potential as possible. We were able to achieve this by including play apparatus on both sides of the structure – some of it was traditional play apparatus such as a climb wall and ladder, whilst other parts were more creative, such as the ticket booth and news stand.
The Real GWR Steam Train
Despite the vast array of play apparatus that we managed to fit onto the structure of the train, we still managed to remain true to original GWR steam train as you can see below. This is not our only replica play train as we have also made other replica trains of different models – some of which have been shipped to Sweden.
Overcoming Barriers: Intensive Use and Weather Proofing
The train and station are used in a rural forest area, explored by lots of children for up to 10 hours a day. Not to mention that it is exposed to the elements 24/7. The use of metal components (such as handrails) and a very well-designed roof for the station means that it has astounding resistance to wear and tear.
Materials and Imagination: Durability Combined With Harmony and Nature
The station building is a design sensation – It looks like a real station and will stand up to the elements for decades. Steel, timber beams, hardwood decking and polycarbonate sheets were used to make the supports, platform, and windows respectively – all of which are tough and dependable materials.
Accessories and Apparatus: Role-Playing Sensation
The finished apparatus was equipped with a speaker tube from the train to the station, an authentic ticket office, a newsstand, a whistle (that made a realistic train noise), AND a real station clock! Every aspect of the play area sets the scene for a memorable adventure game.
The full list of play apparatus and features is as follows:
- Slide pole
- Climb ladder
- Climb over and under boiler
- Climb wall on both sides of the train
- Speaker tube
- News stand
- Changing room
- Ticket office
- Platform with benches
- Whistle with train noise
- Accessible cab and interior
- Cab roof access with slide and ladder
- Usable door and windows on platform
This was the first station that we had ever built to accompany one of our play trains and it allowed us to go wild with our creativity. Not only does it incorporate the news stand, ticket booth, changing room, and benches, but it also includes multiple pieces of climb apparatus on the back, allowing for a huge variety of play. We were even able to add in subtle features such as a notice board (which has a humorous timetable on it) and a station clock.
Project Summary: An-Awe Inspiring Spectacle
The train and the station go together perfectly – they make for an iconic sight in the grounds of Wallington Hall, and the perfect setting for any child’s fantasy adventure, echoing the history of The Great Wallington Railway.
Trains, Train, Trains
The GWR steam train at Wallington Hall is just one design from our ever growing fleet of trains and, as with all our products, is fully customisable. Changing the colour, varying the play features, or developing the station further are all possibilities. We could even add some carriages!
We really enjoyed the challenge of replicating such an iconic train and would love the opportunity to make replicas of other famous trains, so if you have an idea for a play train (or some other play idea), please get in contact with us to discuss a potential project.
Wallington Hall’s Oak Fort
After completing the Wallington Hall train station and locomotive, we were invited back to build an oak fort. It sits subtly in the forest offering another exciting surprise for unsuspecting visitors. You can read more about it and see this pictures by clicking here.
Wallington Hall Food Hut
As part of the family friendly site, we built a food hut at Wallington Hall, offering food, snacks, and drinks in the forest grounds.
The following are public reviews posted on TripAdvisor
- ‘Children’s play with a fort railway station and yurt keeps them busy for hours!’ paulw1001
- ‘And as soon as we entered the estate they charged off in search of adventure – the seven and four-year-old headed straight for the play area, closely followed by the almost-two-year-old. Swings, climbing frames, trim trails and lots of sticks to play with and inspire their imagination. But their favourite play area was the wooden castle climbing frame complete with rope bridges, climbing wall and lots of ladders and windows to peep in and out of.
A big hit – even with the eldest child (18!!)’ CarolyneC19
- ‘A fantastic…and I mean fantastic childens’ play area and woodland activities’ Susan D
- ‘A wonderful place […] We were particularly impressed with the children’s play areas and train and station.’ Thomas D
- ‘The kiddies love the different play areas’ HNcc
- ‘As we have young children, we spend alot of our time there in the various children’s play parks, the particular favourites of our 7 & 3 year old boys are the fort park and the train park.’ Daftgit
- ‘My sons made significant use of the excellent play areas (closer to the house) and would probably have spent most of the day there, given half the chance!’ Neldoo
- ‘The children play areas have improved and are perfect for children of all ages.’ geordielass96
- ‘Family friendly- children will love this place […] Could easily spend a whole day here’ Paul C
- ‘One of the best [National] Trust play areas.’ Allans1519
- ‘The provision of the children’s play areas are excellent and great fun can be had in the children’s fort and railway station.’ Lesley E
- ‘My four children really loved the play areas.’ Hannah M
- ‘we took a short walk to the first play area which the grandson loved. Next it was onto the play area with the train, this too was great fun […] Thirdly the favourite for our grandson had to be the wooden fort. He absolutely loved this and we ended up staying there quite a while.’ GatesheadCheekychops
- ‘Love it, brilliant for all the family, […] a firm favourite with great play areas for the kids.’ Debbie N
- ‘importantly the children got to play on and loved the play areas!’ Malcolm W
- ‘Kids loved the play park and train play park.’ D E
- ‘the kids loved the play grounds’ Paul M
- ‘My kids loved the several play parks dotted round the grounds’ Vicki B
- ‘brilliant children’s play areas’ geeklove
- ‘Super play areas for children’ Driffenbeg
Please use this play train and station as inspiration for your own project. For more ideas, take a look at our other play trains and outdoor play areas. Please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us to discuss your own project – we are more than happy to talk you through the design process and help make something that you can be proud of.