Chugging through the rugged landscape of the North Yorkshire Moors, steam billowing past your window, there can be few greater ways of transport than steam locomotives.
And, after navigating the difficulties of the pandemic, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) is ploughing full steam ahead into the 2022 season with daily services, running Monday to Saturdays until October 30, and a calendar of events.
Sinking back into the red, velvet seats of our private compartment, it really is a glorious way to see Yorkshire, as you make your way through 24 miles of the North Yorkshire Moors national park.
Little has changed on this evocative stretch of England over the decades, with the stations of Pickering, Levisham, Goathland, Grosmont and Whitby fantastically well-preserved examples of the golden age of travel, from the charming 1930s features of Pickering Station to the line itself, which dates back 180 years when it was planned by the Father of the Railways, George Stephenson, to open up trade routes with Whitby.
It’s an attention to detail that’s passionately preserved by the staff and volunteers of The North York Moors Historical Railway Trust who keep this important, and much loved, part of British history alive and kicking.
Their love of the heritage railway is clear to see and they’re certainly a friendlier bunch than your average railway staff, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the dozens of vintage steam and diesel locomotives and their carriages.
It took around 1hr 45mins to travel the distance from Pickering to Whitby, with plenty to see along the way – as well as a buffet car to keep you as well fuelled as the train.
Although Goathland is perhaps the most famous of the old stations, thanks to its appearance in Heartbeat and Harry Potter, the other stations along the way all have a charm of their own too.
Grosmont, with its kitsch fifties blue colour scheme, for example, looks like it’s sprung straight from a picture postcard while Levisham is a prime example of a station that harks back to the turn of the last century. It feels very much like you’re travelling through a living, breathing, working museum – and that’s because you are.
After departing Pickering at noon on the daily Seaside Express service, we departed back from Whitby at 5.10pm, which gives you just over three hours to wander the cobbled streets of this iconic seaside town. Just enough time to ascend the 199 steps and tuck into some fish and chips and a lemon top – provided the seagulls don’t get to your chips first.
There are also hop on and hop off options, however, for those who want to explore some of the smaller stops – as well as three quaint tearooms along the route which are the perfect pitstop. While the Seaside Express and Yorkshire Express services offer the full line between Pickering and Whitby, the Moors Explorer offers shorter journeys for the villages inbetween.
Laura Strangeway, director of Corporate Services at NYMR, said it was great to have passengers back on board this unique attraction, saying: “After nearly two years of trials and tribulations we couldn’t be more excited to once again welcome visitors back for a season of special events, incredible journeys through the picturesque national park and memories that will last a lifetime.”
Steam Gala (22-25 September) - a chance to experience a range of iconic steam locomotives, along with traction engines and the much-loved annual beer festival.
Light Spectacular (22-30 October) - enjoy an hour-long illuminated journey from Pickering to Levisham Station, with carriages adorned with 17,000 LEDs. A one-of-a-kind highly visual and audio-based event.
Santa Specials (Selected dates during December) - the ultimate family festive adventure on board the Santa Express and the chance to meet and greet Santa and his elves in a truly unique setting.
Prices for the attraction start from £20.50 for children and £41 for adults and £84 for a family for full line return tickets, with reserved seats, on the Seaside Special from Pickering or Yorkshire Express from Whitby. There’s a large carpark, including an overflow, at Pickering Station which costs £5 for the day.
Journeys are also available to buy on the day from the booking offices, but pre-booking is advised.
Every penny you spend on tickets, tea, cake and memorabilia goes back into necessary funding towards the heritage railway to ensure all charitable aims are being delivered. This means you’ll be contributing directly to the running of the heritage railway as a dedicated charity.
For more information about the heritage railway, or to book tickets, visit nymr.co.uk