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Review: North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Attraction - Railway & Train

Wetherby Road, York, North Yorkshire, YO26 5BS, United Kingdom

A lovely ride through the North York Moors

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2149 reviews

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  • April 2019
  • On your own

16 people found this review helpful

There is something special about steam trains – they are living and breathing beasts which appeal to the child in all of us. The North York Moors is one of the longest preserved standard gauge railways and is an exhilarating run through the North York Moors to Grosmont and then along the Esk Valley into Whitby. The line is long enough and gradients steep enough to give the steam locos a proper work out. As well as their own selection of steam locos, there are also visiting locos which have included Flying Scotsman.

Stations are carefully restored and have great character. Goathland with its HArry Potter and Heartbeat connections is popular with visitors and is always busy. You can even hire a camping coach here…

Newtondale Halt has no road access and is a popular starting (or finishing point) for walkers in Cropton Forest.

Grosmont and Picjkering stations have very good cafes.

The Pickering and Whitby Railway was built as an attempt to improve links from Whitby to the rest of the country so preventing the decline of Whitby as a port. It opened in 1836 as a horse drawn railway to Pickering, which included a rope hauled incline at Beckhole. The line was acquired by the York and North Midland Railway in 1845 and converted to steam power and they built the stations. The Beckhole incline was equipped with a stationary steam engine and iron hauling rope. In 1854 the company became part of the North Eastern Railway who constructed an new route to avoid the Beckhole incline. The line was extended to Malton where it joined the York to Scarborough line.

Following the Beeching Report, the line was closed for passenger transport in 1965 and to freight the following year. A preservation group was formed to purchase the line and run it as a heritage line, reopening in 1972.

Not only is it a popular tourist attraction bringing money into the area, it is also a major employer with over one hundred paid staff and fifty seasonal staff as well as many enthusiastic volunteers. Since 2007, the railway has been operating some services on Network Rail into Whitby.

Most trips begin at Pickering Station. This is a long low stone building in the centre of the town. It has been restored to its 1930s appearance with booking office and parcels office, signal box footbridge and green and cream. The original roof was removed by British Railways in 1952 as it was badly corroded but has now been replaced to the original design.

Leaving Pickering Station the line passes the sheds where small diesels or coaches may be seen. The line follows the wooded valley of Pickering Beck north of the town, past a terrace of attractive stone built houses. Tokens are changed at New Bridge Signal Box which also controls a gated crossing on the road to Levisham.

Deciduous woodland lines the railway with primroses and wood anemones in late April. Valley bottoms are wet with very rough grazing. An unmade track follows the railway to Levisham station.

Levisham is an attractive small station on the edge of Cropton Forest, two miles from the village. It has been restored to what it might have looked like a hundred years ago. The station master’s house is now a holiday cottage.

Leaving Levisham, the line now follows Newton Dale with its mix of deciduous and commercial coniferous forest on the steep valley sides. It swings out along the edge of Levisham Moor to the tiny unmanned Newton Dale Halt .

From here, the railway begins the climb to the summit at Goathland Moor. This is bleak countryside with poor grasses, bracken and heather. The railway is now following the Eller Beck which gradually widens becoming lush grassland with sheep.

Goathland Station was built by the North Eastern Railway in 1865 when it built the deviation avoiding the Beckhole incline. This is now part of a very popular heritage rail walk to Grosmont. Trains regularly pass here. The station with its stone buildings and signal box is virtually unchanged.

From Goathland, the railway drops down the valley to Grosmont. Beckhole be seen down through the trees. Approaching Grosmont, the valley widens and is increasingly fertile farmland.

The locomotive sheds and workshops are just south of Grosmont and are a good place to loco spot. They can be visited as part of a tour .

Grosmont Station with its level crossing and stone signal box, is the largest station on the line with three platforms. The bay is used by the Pullman dining service. It is a 1950s style station with white and turquoise wooden buildings. It is next to Network Rails Esk Valley Line station. This was the permanent terminus until trains began to run through to Whitby.

Beyond Grosmont, the train joins the Network Rail to Whitby. The line follows the River Esk with Sleights and Ruswarp stations. After Ruswarp, the river is wide and slow flowing. It is popular with rowing boats and kayaks.

As the line approaches Whitby the valley widens out with farms and fertile farmland. There is a wonderful view of Whitby with its abbey, seen through the A171 bridge across the valley.

Whitby Station is an impressive stone building near the quayside. As well as the North York Moors Railway, there is a regular service along the Esk Valley line to Middlesborough.

The Railway makes a great day out. Check the timetable as some services are diesel hauled. It also offers steam and diesel experiences with a ride on the footplate as well as tours of the workshops and digital photographic workshops. Full details here.

Their access statement for disabled visitors is here.

There are more pictures here.

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 3 Comment(s)

  • discerning-traveller
    3 months ago
    Thank you, ESW, you've really whetted my appetite. Like you, I love steam trains. I grew up in a small coastal town in Devon where Beeching also closed the line. Fond memories of steam trains and the romance of that kind of travel. I've often looked at doing a few days away on a rail tour of Yorkshire as I throughly enjoyed the one that I did in the Highlands.
  • ESW
    3 months ago
    Grandson was also disappointed not to get a ride behind Union of South Africa but perked up when I explained City of Wells used to pull the Golden Arrow which I used to admire thundering through Orpington station when I was his age. I always dreamed of being pulled by it rather than the Southern Region electrics!
  • GBG
    3 months ago
    It is certainly a beautiful railway. We were there at the beginning of April and had booked a special behind Union of South Africa. Sadly the engine was unable to get there due to mechanical problems. The substituted City of Wells was interesting but not what we had hoped to travel behind. However, it was our first visit to the NYMR and we certainly were not disappointed by the scenery and the lovely stations. It is certainly worth a visit for the route itself but they also run some interesting engines on the line.