One of the longest standard gauge steam railways
Pickering and Whitby Railway was built in an attempt to improve links
from Whitby to the rest of the country, thus halting 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. The Beckole 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. This has now become a popular walking trail. 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.
At 18 miles from Pickering to Grosmont (or 24 miles into Whitby), this is one of the longest preserved standard gauge railways. it is an exhilarating run through the North York Moors and down the Esk valley into Whitby.
Most trips begin at Pickering Station. This is a long low stone building in the centre of the town and almost impossible to photograph with cars parked on the road outside.
The station has been restored to its 1930s appearance with booking office and parcels office, signal box footbridge and green and cream.
On a wall is a tile map showing the extent of the North Eastern Railway.
Pickering station originally had a roof but this was removed by British Railways in 1952 as it was badly corroded. This 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, and 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.
The railway continues through Cropton Forest before beginning the climb up 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 originally at the top of the Beckhole incline, The present station was built by the North Eastern Railway in 1865 when it built the deviation avoiding the Beckhole incline. Trains regularly pass here.
There are two camping coaches next to the platform.
Goathland is popular with visitors and is always busy. it featured as Hogsmeade Station in the film ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’. The village is a short walk up the hill from the station and was Aidensfield in the long running TV series ‘Heartbeat.’
From Goathland, the railway drops down the valley to Grosmont. Beckhole can 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 can be visited as part of a tour. There are always loomotives to be seen outside.
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. It was the permanent terminus until trains began to run through to Whitby.
It is next to Network Rails Esk Valley Line station. It 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 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 North York Moors Railway makes a great day out, pulled by an interesting selection of preserved steam locos owned by the railway as well as visiting steam locos. 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.
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