Take a step back in time! Enjoy a day out on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway among the steam and smoke belching giants of yesteryear. Here is a place to relax to the rhythmic click-a-ti-clack of the wheels on the rails whilst indulging in a fine dining experience aboard the romantic Pullman cars; somewhere to learn how steam is converted to raw traction power. And give the kids a chance to thrill at the sight and sounds and smells of something we old codgers took for granted when we were kids.
The route of The North Yorkshire Moors Railway today generally follows the line of the original Whitby & Pickering Railway, first mooted in 1832 to give a much needed boost to the failing fortunes of Whitby. One of the earlier of England’s railways, horse-drawn through trains from Whitby to Pickering started to run from May 1836. From 1845 the railway was converted to steam haulage. For almost a hundred and thirty years, until closure resulting from the infamous Dr Beeching Report, the line continued to carry goods and passengers; bringing a degree of prosperity, through new industry, to the communities it served.
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is now a highly successful tourist attraction visited by more than 300,000 visitors each year. As Britain’s most popular heritage railway, 300 volunteers, supplemented by 130 full- and part-time staff keep the trains running and the visitors happy. Tourists and railway buffs alike love the interesting blend of various time periods represented by the stations, locomotives and rolling stock. Now that trains once again run the entire length from Pickering through to Whitby a return ticket gives a fifty mile round trip over remote moorland and down through the Esk valley to the sea.
In October 2011 I enjoyed my ride on The Moors Explorer which left Whitby at 11 o’clock (11:00am) bound for Pickering. The journey lasted one and three quarter hours, making brief stops at Grosmont, Goathland and Levisham; arriving in Pickering at about a quarter to one (12:45pm).
With an incline of 1 in 49 between Grosmont and Goathland to negotiate, our ‘Black 5’ locomotive ‘Eric Treacy’ was working really hard – the deep, thumping, “chuff chuff” of the pistons reverberating down the line. At journey’s end in Pickering station the hustle and bustle of passengers leaving the train mingled with nostalgic smells of loco smoke and the distinctive sound of carriage doors slamming shut, carried me back to the days of rail travel at the end of the steam era.
My return train was to depart at 3 o’clock (15:00pm) leaving plenty of time for a wander around the town and take lunch in the station’s tea room. Tasty, hot soup and a couple of bread rolls were very welcome as the day was cold. The scene within conjured images of Celia Johnson’s poignant meeting with stranger Trevor Howard in the 1945 classic film ‘Brief Encounter’.
Rolling into Whitby station as dusk took the brightness from the day, I reflected on my day out on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Many pictures were now stored on my camera’s memory card – hopefully one or two good ones! – and I had briefly glimpsed the workings of this popular attraction. I had forgotten how much I used to enjoy travelling on the railways.
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway has other attractions and holds Special Events throughout the year. For adventurous adults there is the opportunity to drive a steam loco and experience the feel of riding the footplate.
Walks by the railway
A number of walks afford views of the trains as they pass through the picturesque landscape. One such is The Rail Trail that follows the track of the original railway line between Goathland and Grosmont. Take this direction, walking downhill with views of the hard-working steam locomotives labouring their way up the steep incline, with the chance of a ride back on the train!
Book holiday accommodation in one of the two camping coaches at Levisham and Goathland or a station cottage at Grosmont – fantastic for steam train enthusiasts because the charges include unlimited travel on the NYMR trains!
Grosmont Station has been restored to resemble the British Rail style of the 1950s and is home to the extensive engine sheds and workshops.
The station now boasts four platforms, being the junction with the national railway network. Visitors are encouraged to walk the short distance, through the original tunnel built for the horses, to see the engine sheds. This is where the locos are coaled and maintained, have their fireboxes cleared at the end of the day and are fired up ready for the new day.
Goathland Station reflects the 1920s period and is perhaps the most photogenic. Extremely popular with film crews from television and cinema, the station has found itself renamed as Aidensfield for the TV series ‘Heartbeat’. On another occasion it became Hogsmeade Station for the very first Harry Potter film, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, to name but two productions.
The Edwardian style of 1912 is showcased at Levisham Station, a small country station a mile away from the village it serves and about a quarter of an hour out of Pickering.
Pickering used to be a through station but since the Beeching cuts it is the southern terminus of the railway. Restored to the romantic style of the 1930s, Pickering Station serves the historic town very well.
A day out on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway can be a truly nostalgic experience. Watch out for the special events such as the Swinging Sixties weekend in June and the Railway in Wartime event in October – really busy, atmospheric times to be a part of.
For more information about the North Yorkshire Moors Railway click here