The recent growth of interest in heritage events has relied implicitly upon a modernist ontology in the way assumptions are made about the distinctiveness between visitor and performer identities. This article questions these assumptions through an analysis of the different groups of social actors attracted to war‐weekends organised through preserved steam railways. War‐weekends bring together in the same locality visitors, volunteers, performers, dressers‐up and re‐enactors sharing stories, enjoying the present and reflecting on the past—experiences in which each individual’s participation is enhanced. Although these and other ‘events’ are crucial to the continued existence of preserved railways in the UK they provide the participants with more than just a nostalgic trip back to the community spirit articulated through the so‐called ‘blitz mentality’ of the 1940s. They provide the opportunity for participants to engage both in the theatrical act of ‘being on’; of being observed by the ‘audience’ whilst at the same time acting as audience in the way they observe the other participants in the spectacle. The participants’ need to be observed is accomplished without the necessity of engaging in the rigorous training and audition processes associated with formal theatrical environments, whilst audience participation and interaction is not constrained by the usual formalities of traditional theatre.