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Travel North - 13: Re-Opened Railways - Halcyon Days for the North York Moors, Wensleydale and Weardale Lines

Alan has built up a wealth of knowledge on railways in North Yorkshire, and feels he should share that knowledge with like-minded readers

Hard Times...

An apt title chosen by Dickens for one of his works. Hard times this year, 2020, for both the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, the Wensleydale Railway and the Weardale Railway with the Covid-19 'lockdown' and the tourist trade in general hit..

How long it lasts is up to us all, when things can get back to normal? Also up to us. Many of us will suffer from 'Cabin Fever', unable to go anywhere, nowhere open in the UK at least for the foreseeable future. Scroll down the page here and dream, that's all you can do for now. It's something at least, this and YouTube.

"It'll be all over by Christmas..." Now where have we seen that before? On a brighter note, look forward things going back to normal, when I can take this panel down..

On the North York Moors Railway

Pickering Station - a rake of British Railways' Eastern Region C1 carriages in post-1956 maroon livery awaits its locomotive for the next return working north to Grosmont or Whitby

Pickering Station - a rake of British Railways' Eastern Region C1 carriages in post-1956 maroon livery awaits its locomotive for the next return working north to Grosmont or Whitby

Preserved Class B1 4-6-0 61264 simmers at Grosmont's 'Up' platform whilst the crew go for a cuppa (hot work on the footplate!) 26th September, 2016

Preserved Class B1 4-6-0 61264 simmers at Grosmont's 'Up' platform whilst the crew go for a cuppa (hot work on the footplate!) 26th September, 2016

Motive power might be the new-ish A1 60163 'Tornado, seen here' entering Grosmont tunnel on her southward run to Pickering - or Deviation Shed for water and coal replenishment

Motive power might be the new-ish A1 60163 'Tornado, seen here' entering Grosmont tunnel on her southward run to Pickering - or Deviation Shed for water and coal replenishment

80136, one of the new 'fillies' in the 'stable, sister loco to the NYMR's BR Standard Class 4MT 2-6-4 T 80135. These engines were built at Brighton works in the mid-1950s. Some were allocated to the North East, all in black mixed traffic livery.'

80136, one of the new 'fillies' in the 'stable, sister loco to the NYMR's BR Standard Class 4MT 2-6-4 T 80135. These engines were built at Brighton works in the mid-1950s. Some were allocated to the North East, all in black mixed traffic livery.'

There are many preserved railways up and down the UK over England, Scotland Wales and Ireland

One of the best known has its origins in the 1830's, planned and executed by George Stephenson under contract to George Hudson, at the time property owner and budding railway entrepreneur in Whitby. This was the Whitby & Pickering Railway, opened throughout in 1836.

The railway was to carry passengers in horse-drawn carriages, much like those on the post routes, and goods such as fish and Baltic timber for inland destinations, and coal amongst other materials for Whitby. It was not long before the passenger facilities were considered inadequate, and goods movements also needed to be increased. Steam hauled trains could not negotiate the gradients the line was originally built on and a deviation route was created later in the 19th Century. The gradient was still steep, but negotiable by strong engines... Flash forward to 1965, the line was closed under Beeching's plans, just like the nearby Whitby-Scarborough railway opened much later in the 1880's. The line was still in situ, and movements were afoot to restore the line, and in 1975 the line was re-opened by the Duchess of Kent. Developments went apace, but track was lifted by British Rail and much of the line was singled, with passing loops at intermediate stations - Levisham and Goathland.

Since then the company has not looked back. Aside from the outbreak of Foot & Mouth in 2001, when tourist numbers were drastically reduced, visitor numbers have been increasing annually. A share issue was snapped up in the 1990s by an eager public - including myself - and urgent projects were thus financed. Another share issue has been promoted since then, and urgent works have been undertaken after flooding in the Murk Esk valley destroyed civil engineering such as bridge abutments, embankments and trackwork.

Much of Grosmont Station is as it was, but the signal cabin in the junction was replaced in the early days of the NYMR by a ground frame by the crossing gates. This in turn has been replaced by a brick signal cabin in the pattern of of North Eastern Railway Central division, the bricks from Whitby town's three-storey signal cabin. The line from Grosmont climbs steeply past Deviation shed up to Goathland Station three miles away. Here the buildings are as they were in NER days, but the goods shed has been converted into a cafe-cum-museum. The line carries on climbing past where the new line deviated at its southern end near Fylingdales Early Warning Station. The old radomes - the 'golf balls' - have gone now, replaced by something that looks like a square sandcastle, and the A169 Whitby-Pickering road passes close by here as it winds towards the Hole of Horcum. Through Newtondale you see the difficulty Stephenson encountered in building the line, but his experiences paid off in building the Liverpool-Manchester Railway over Chat Moss, and in consultation from the Board of the Midland Railway after their initial failures in the building of the Settle-Carlisle Railway. Near here the Newtondale Halt allows the traveller to alight in the North Riding Forest Park and perhaps walk on to the next station, Levisham. The station house here was a farmhouse before the railway arrived and you can see the original platform height from the 'Up' side. The present height brings the platform to within eighteen inches or so below the window sills. The original signal cabin has been extended to include a booking office, but everything else is pretty much the same as when the North Eastern Railway owned the line. The wooden crossing gates were replaced by a lifting barrier, however, which 'jars' on the eye.