CHILDREN screamed with delight on the maiden voyage of a new tourist train at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock.
And the Woodstock stately home’s miniature railway now features a tunnel.
The 910m (2,985ft) track was unveiled during half term last week along with the new engine, called Winston, after Sir Winston Churchill, who was born at the palace.
Many visitors were unaware of the latest additions but said the service was an improvement as they travelled on the miniature railway.
Three-year-old Michael Babcock, from Combe, West Oxfordshire, was one of its first passengers on Wednesday.
He said: “My favourite bit was shouting in the tunnel.”
Mum Shuguang Shen, 39, said: “That’s his favourite place. He loves the trains so we had to ride on it twice.
“The seats were more spacious than before and it was a vastly improved service.
“We’ve been there many times before and it’s always a popular place for children.
“We didn’t know they had a new train and tunnel so that was very exciting.”
Abingdon residents Mark Reeve and his wife Lorraine took their grandsons Joshua, nine, and Thomas, six, on the new train.
Mr Reeve said: “My mum lives in Woodstock so we take the boys to Blenheim Palace when we visit her. It was a complete shock to find out there was a new train.
“It was very impressive, particularly the tunnel which the boys loved.
“It was a bit of an adventure for them because of the tunnel and they were both shouting in it.”
- Blenheim Palace’s revamped tourist train, left, takes its first journey round the park
The small red locomotive is the third train to be named after the former Prime Minister and replaced a 20-year-old train.
It transports visitors between the palace and the Pleasure Gardens and carries up to 16 passengers. The tunnel is also used as a storage shed for the carriages.
The 31m (100ft) tunnel cost £20,000 and took three weeks to build.
To subsidise the cost, a 50p charge has been introduced for people aged over five to ride on the train.
Mrs Reeve said she was surprised to have to pay the charge for both legs of the journey.
She said: “Although it’s not a big charge, historically it’s always been free so it was a surprise.
“We didn’t mind paying it because it was a nice train and they’ve done more to it but we thought it would be 50p for the return journey as well.”
Blenheim Palace’s head of operations Heather Carter said: “Winston’s predecessor did a magnificent job of carrying literally hundreds of thousands of visitors over more than 20 years.
“Now a new Winston has inherited both the role and the famous name and we’re confident he will live up to the task.
“The idea behind adding the tunnel is to add a little excitement to the train journey.
“It will be decorated at Halloween and Christmas, making it great added value to the ride.”
The train runs every half hour daily from now until October.