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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.

Pickering's overall roof has been replaced, in the manner of North Eastern stations in the area as designed by George Townsend Andrews in the early days of the York & North Midland Railway. A turntable was installed some years ago to turn engines and avoid uneven flange wear and a carriage shed was built about a decade ago on the 'down' side. What has been exciting in its development in the last decade also is the running in to Whitby Town Station of alternate trains with the permission of Regional Railways. Tourism reigns OK! An evening Pullman dining car train, 'the Moorlander' runs from Pickering to Whitby and back, so that diners can enjoy the scenery and relax with a three-course meal. Try it some time!

There is a rover ticket available, with which you can spend all day on or near the railway, alighting as and when you fancy - to rejoin the service elsewhere. In this way you can, for example, leave the train at Goathland and walk through the village. Take the road down to Beck Hole and have a drink at the Birch Hall Inn, then cross the road, open the gate and follow a pathway to the old railway trackbed. Turn right and follow the course through woodland. Cross the Murk Esk close to old ruined bridges and pass the single row terrace at Eskdale. Not far from here you leave the old trackbed where it joins the present one, climb up the footpath and over the tunnel. If you like, enter the Deviation shed and climb to the public viewing gallery where you overlook the locomotives being serviced. A shop on this level sells souvenirs and model railway items, and has a viewing window from where you can see other locos being worked on in the other side of the shed. Beyond Deviation Shed is the North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group's workshop. This is open to the public when work is not underway. Walk between some of NELPG's loco stock (the rest is either on loan to other railways or being worked on at the North Road workshop premises they share with the A1 Locomotive Trust in Darlington).

The cafe on Grosmont Station serves hot meals and drinks or snacks and cold drinks. There is a station shop as well as the Co-operative Shop across the road and the Station public house behind the brick signal cabin. A viewing platform next to the line lets you take pictures on a level with the engine cabs (this platform is in the style of token exchange platforms built by the NER and LNER).

Since Platform 2 at Whitby was reinstated for the NYMR's services to Grosmont and Pickering, the turnaround has been a lot quicker. Where previously passengers had to wait on Platform 1 for the train to be pushed out again for the locomotive(s) to be released and push stock back in again for passengers to board, now the stock stays put whilst the loco runs round and is then pushed further when coupled up again for the return journey. This also means NYMR services do not interfere with those of Northern Rail to and from Middlesbrough and Darlington.

Think about it, George Hudson's 1835 railway will have been realised again, with that little hiccup in the sixties leaving just a bad taste in the mouth, courtesy of Dr Richard Beeching and Ernie Marples. From the 2014 season things will look different at Whitby Town station again (I've heard the BR [NE] tangerine nameboard has been found, it's all plusses!) Who knows, NYMR could get the contract to run services between Grosmont-Whitby and back to Battersby. Fancy a ride in a teak carriage on a steam-hauled train between Whitby and Battersby? It might not be a dream for too much longer!

Have a good day out!

PS: Since that STOP PRESS announcement I've been back to Whitby and walked along the reinstated Platform 2 (this used to back onto the bay platform for Grosmont shuttle services up to the 1960s). It's long enough for the usual NYMR Whitby Pullman diners and alternate tourist trains during the day, and these services can be run more often. There's a locomotive release road that extends between the main rails as there was before..Try a visit, have a day out in Whitby and soak up the atmosphere. Walk across the harbour bridge and up Church Street with all its jet workshops (buy some ornaments or jewellery). Saunter back down for a fish & chip supper (fish landed that morning in the harbour close by, lads'n'lasses!) at any of the dozen pubs or cafes in the town centre before taking the train back to Grosmont and beyond.

One day maybe you'll be able to travel past Pickering to Marishes Road and Malton for York or Scarborough. The plans are there, it's just a matter of time versus funds.

More on the NYMR

Preserved BR Standard 2-6-4 tank 80136 leaves Goathland for Pickering

Preserved BR Standard 2-6-4 tank 80136 leaves Goathland for Pickering

Preserved ex-LMS Fairburn 2-6-4 tank arrives at Levisham with a train for Grosmont on a bright, sunny afternoon

Preserved ex-LMS Fairburn 2-6-4 tank arrives at Levisham with a train for Grosmont on a bright, sunny afternoon

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An architect's model of Pickering's station with its roof - now reinstated - see below: 'Pickering, the resurgence' Whitby Town Station had an overall roof similar to this, but wider, to accommodate a slip road between the two main platforms.

An architect's model of Pickering's station with its roof - now reinstated - see below: 'Pickering, the resurgence' Whitby Town Station had an overall roof similar to this, but wider, to accommodate a slip road between the two main platforms.

A schematic map of North Yorkshire's extant railways inland from Whitby and Scarborough

A schematic map of North Yorkshire's extant railways inland from Whitby and Scarborough

Maintenance on the line - Bridge 27 at Goathland, January-February 2020

Work on the bridge deck by Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Ltd (CB&EL) of Darlington. VolkRail cranes took the strain of lifting the old Bridge 27 before CB&EL got to grips...

Work on the bridge deck by Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Ltd (CB&EL) of Darlington. VolkRail cranes took the strain of lifting the old Bridge 27 before CB&EL got to grips...

CB&EL brought in hired VolkRail cranes after a 'dry run', assembling the newly engineered bridge units at their factory before delivering them to Middlesbrough Station. The old sections were taken out - see below - and need to be replaced by Apri

CB&EL brought in hired VolkRail cranes after a 'dry run', assembling the newly engineered bridge units at their factory before delivering them to Middlesbrough Station. The old sections were taken out - see below - and need to be replaced by Apri

The old bridge sections cut up, ready for removal to Teesside

The old bridge sections cut up, ready for removal to Teesside

"Bridge that gap" - concrete emplacements will support the new units - see bridge side, left - with the whole bridge hopefully ready to take the 2020 season's tourist traffic,

"Bridge that gap" - concrete emplacements will support the new units - see bridge side, left - with the whole bridge hopefully ready to take the 2020 season's tourist traffic,

Bridge 27 at Goathland was replaced late January-late February, 2020, the new structure assembled and built by Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Ltd (CB&EL) - the company that assembled the Sydney Harbour Bridge and one of the San Francisco bay bridge in the early 20th Century - across Eller Beck, (that turns and runs northward alongside the back of the station towards the Murk Esk and Grosmont). The new bridge marks the first of a series of engineering repairs on the line for the NYMR's "Yorkshire's Magnificent Journey".

Installing the 84-tonne single span structure included dismantling the old bridge. When made the CB&E engineers trial-fitted the bridge to ascertain the installation would be completed faultlessly. The bridge and components was taken by road from the factory near Darlington to A V Dawson's freight depot in Middlesbrough for transfer to rail wagons for onward movement to Goathland.

Jim Mawson, head of operational delivery for CB&E stated, "Working closely with our transport partners and NYMR we have ensured the delivery of the components has been completed within the project schedule, enabling our engineers to undertake the installation of the bridge in the stunning setting of the North York Moors National Park".

NYMR General Manager Chris Price added, "This investment in the future of our railway paves the way for future generations to enjoy our vibrant rail history. We're pleased to be working with such an iconic bridge manufacturing and installation company who are proud to be from the north of England, just like the railway".

The work is expected to be completed for the beginning of the new 2020 season in April as part of the NYMR's 'Magnificent Yorkshire Journey', for which Heritage Lottery Funding was sought against a 50% outlay by NYMR raised by donations and gifts.


Pickering resurgence

North Eastern Tile network wall map installed at Pickering 2009 is investigated by a group of children. A girl points to her own local station on the western edge of the North Yorkshire Moors (one of many closed in the 1950s and 1960s)

North Eastern Tile network wall map installed at Pickering 2009 is investigated by a group of children. A girl points to her own local station on the western edge of the North Yorkshire Moors (one of many closed in the 1950s and 1960s)

Pickering, the 'down' platform where trains came in for Grosmont and Whitby - with its overall roof, as originally designed by G T Andrews in the mid-1850s

Pickering, the 'down' platform where trains came in for Grosmont and Whitby - with its overall roof, as originally designed by G T Andrews in the mid-1850s

Under the trainshed roof now, a view of the 'up' platform (Malton and York, and at one time Scarborough via Forge Valley and Helmsley via Kirkbymoorside - pron. 'Kirbymoorside)

Under the trainshed roof now, a view of the 'up' platform (Malton and York, and at one time Scarborough via Forge Valley and Helmsley via Kirkbymoorside - pron. 'Kirbymoorside)

Porter's hut on the 'up' platform next to the footbridge the NYMR bought from East Yorkshire

Porter's hut on the 'up' platform next to the footbridge the NYMR bought from East Yorkshire

Behind the 'up' platform you'll find this peaceful little garden with benches to get away from it all - located near the porter's hut above

Behind the 'up' platform you'll find this peaceful little garden with benches to get away from it all - located near the porter's hut above

Looking 'down' along the end of the 'up' plaftorm - across the tracks is a small platform signal cabin that may one day house levers and block instruments for visitors to look into and  understand some of the basics of steam age signalling

Looking 'down' along the end of the 'up' plaftorm - across the tracks is a small platform signal cabin that may one day house levers and block instruments for visitors to look into and understand some of the basics of steam age signalling

A look inside the small cabin seen above on the left. Designated 'Pickering South', there was a full-sized NER Southern Division cabin beyond where the station premises ends...

A look inside the small cabin seen above on the left. Designated 'Pickering South', there was a full-sized NER Southern Division cabin beyond where the station premises ends...

The cabin seen from the platform end, erected to show children how a manually operated signal installation looked and worked

The cabin seen from the platform end, erected to show children how a manually operated signal installation looked and worked

At the end of the headshunt a board shows the scene before closure in 1965. Past the Pickering-Helmsley road a three-way junction led east to Scarborough by Forge Valley, west to Helmsley by Kirkbymoorside, on to Rillington Junction for York/Scarboro

At the end of the headshunt a board shows the scene before closure in 1965. Past the Pickering-Helmsley road a three-way junction led east to Scarborough by Forge Valley, west to Helmsley by Kirkbymoorside, on to Rillington Junction for York/Scarboro

'SCOTSMAN' looked in on the NYMR in March 2016

Scotsman's week on the NYMR, March 12-20th, 2016. Periodically the railway hosts steam and diesel galas. Watch out for future events on the NYMR web-site

Scotsman's week on the NYMR, March 12-20th, 2016. Periodically the railway hosts steam and diesel galas. Watch out for future events on the NYMR web-site

Almost fresh from her £4.2M restoration paint job. Confusing that, isn't it, locomotives are 'she' but her name is 'Flying Scotsman' named after the express working* between Kings Cross and Waverley Station, Edinburgh that pre-dated the engine by several generations. Now in British Railways Brunswick green livery she gleamed and stunned crowds on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (where else?) At Pickering she probably also deafened when she eased forward after releasing her train under the overall roof, rebuilt in 2012.

Ten years after funds were poured in from commercial and private donors, the engine built as A1 4-6-2 4472 'Flying Scotsman' in the early 1920's (in less than a decade she'll celebrate her centenary) was shown off on Yorkshire's premier preserved railway, the NYMR. I suspect there wasn't a dry eye around amongst the very few left of the generation that saw her first run, or that saw her sold off to Alan Pegler in the early Sixties*, resplendent in Doncaster loco green (a darker shade than A1 'Tornado' was painted, in Darlington apple green).

Were you there?

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Together with several engines of the North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group (NELPG) and the A4 'Sir Nigel Gresley', 'Flying Scotsman' was at Locomotion, Shildon for a 'Shed-Bash'. With rides behind J72 'Joem' to and from the Timothy Hackworth museum about a mile away, the event took place Saturday-to-Saturday, 23rd-30th July.

*4472/60103 'Flying Scotsman' operated into Kings Cross until steam was officially excluded south of Peterborough. The train of the same name also ran with other diagrammed Pacifics. The service is still in operation, 10.00 am from 'The Cross', albeit in East Coast livery (now a Virgin Railways undertaking).

North Yorkshire Moors Railway - From the Footplate

See description below

See description below

For steam enthusiasts, a footplate ride on cd with driver John Middleditch - who normally drives Southern electrics out from Waterloo Station, London - and Ian Pearson, a local lad in his middle years. Living history and geography aboard British Railways Standard 2-6-4 mixed traffic tank loco No. 80135 (see the engine in episodes of 'Heartbeat'). A must for atmosphere, everything but the 'creosote' smell!

Remnants - where the branches met south of Pickering Station

One of three cast iron bridges that carried the 'Railway King' George Hudson's erstwhile York & North Midland railway route south from Pickering to his main line at Rillington Junction (York-Scarborough)

One of three cast iron bridges that carried the 'Railway King' George Hudson's erstwhile York & North Midland railway route south from Pickering to his main line at Rillington Junction (York-Scarborough)

Another of the three cast-iron bridges, both now being on privately owned land. This one crosses a stone-built storm drain to a public footpath

Another of the three cast-iron bridges, both now being on privately owned land. This one crosses a stone-built storm drain to a public footpath

One of a pair of concrete stiles either side of the line to Rillington Junction, close to the third bridge that spans the storm drain. The stile on the other side has not fared as well

One of a pair of concrete stiles either side of the line to Rillington Junction, close to the third bridge that spans the storm drain. The stile on the other side has not fared as well

Carriage restoration

Beautifully restored 2nd generation British Railways open carriage with Commonwealth bogies, Timken roller bearings. Vehicle was privately bought, probably brought on a low-loader, liveried 'chocolate and cream' (Western Region) now with 'E' prefix

Beautifully restored 2nd generation British Railways open carriage with Commonwealth bogies, Timken roller bearings. Vehicle was privately bought, probably brought on a low-loader, liveried 'chocolate and cream' (Western Region) now with 'E' prefix

A close-up of the carriage-side roundel transfer showing ownership. This was the 1955 livery after early 1948 crimson and cream (known affectionately by railwaymen as 'blood-and-custard')

A close-up of the carriage-side roundel transfer showing ownership. This was the 1955 livery after early 1948 crimson and cream (known affectionately by railwaymen as 'blood-and-custard')

Restoration work underway at the LNER Coach Association's workshop at Pickering, NYMR

Restoration work underway at the LNER Coach Association's workshop at Pickering, NYMR

Lettering and numbering is a rewarding, if back-breaking job. A restorer works on a restaurant car waist panel

Lettering and numbering is a rewarding, if back-breaking job. A restorer works on a restaurant car waist panel

Work complete on a carriage, the corridor connection sets off the panel work and underframe paintwork

Work complete on a carriage, the corridor connection sets off the panel work and underframe paintwork

Preserved Class V2 4771 'Green Arrow' takes a rake of restored LNERCA Gresley stock for a spin near the highest point of the NYMR line into Newtondale past Fylingdale's early warning station

Preserved Class V2 4771 'Green Arrow' takes a rake of restored LNERCA Gresley stock for a spin near the highest point of the NYMR line into Newtondale past Fylingdale's early warning station

LNER Coach Association, Pickering Station, North York Moors Railway

North of Pickering Station at New Bridge

From the south side of New Bridge signal cabin, built in the style of the North Eastern Railway's Central Division with round-topped windows that hide the store room.

From the south side of New Bridge signal cabin, built in the style of the North Eastern Railway's Central Division with round-topped windows that hide the store room.

The north side of New Bridge crossing signal cabin

The north side of New Bridge crossing signal cabin

On the operating floor, manual signal levers and gate wheel vie for space with 21st Century signalling technology. The volunteer signalman explains the functions to the three of us allowed access at a time (North Eastern Railway Association members)

On the operating floor, manual signal levers and gate wheel vie for space with 21st Century signalling technology. The volunteer signalman explains the functions to the three of us allowed access at a time (North Eastern Railway Association members)

In the permanent way workshop beside the NYMR line north of New Bridge crossing, an Ashford (Kent) built BR standard brake-fitted goods brake van (for fast-running freight trains) awaits parts and restoration

In the permanent way workshop beside the NYMR line north of New Bridge crossing, an Ashford (Kent) built BR standard brake-fitted goods brake van (for fast-running freight trains) awaits parts and restoration

Inside the van cabin, the brake wheel standard can be made out in this view

Inside the van cabin, the brake wheel standard can be made out in this view

At the far side, by the door, is the stove that was meant to keep the guard warm in winter. Wooden, windowed duckets built centrally into the van body sides enabled the guard to see along his train of wagons

At the far side, by the door, is the stove that was meant to keep the guard warm in winter. Wooden, windowed duckets built centrally into the van body sides enabled the guard to see along his train of wagons

A look inside one of the Barnard Castle snow ploughs - the brake wheel with its handle can be seen on the far side of the vehicle floor

A look inside one of the Barnard Castle snow ploughs - the brake wheel with its handle can be seen on the far side of the vehicle floor

NERA Pickering visit, 27th May, 2017

A group of us, North Eastern Railway Association members armed with notes and diagrams, visited Pickering for two reasons, a) to look around the south side of the station where three railway branches met. From Scarborough to the east by way of Forge Valley came one that was closed to traffic early in the 1950s. From Helmsley in the west, by way of Kirkbymoorside, came another that was closed in the mid-1950s. The longest-lasting was the line that linked Pickering with the main line at Rillington Junction. The 'Railway King', George Hudson was the prime mover behind the Whitby & Pickering Railway that opened in 1836, surveyed and built by George Stephenson. Hudson was also the leading light of the York & North Midland Railway, a secondary main line of which ran from York to Scarborough and was opened several years after. The connecting point between both railways lay at Rillington Junction, several miles west of Malton Station. This line is still in use, although the connection to Pickering was finally severed in the late 1960s after services ended in 1965 as a casualty of Dr Richard Beeching's railway rationalisation plans. Not everyone was sad about the closures. There had been several level crossings south of Pickering, and at one time there had been frequent - passenger and goods - services in all three directions. Think of the number of times the gates opened and closed daily, and think also of road delivery drivers who had to pass through Pickering in any one of four directions.

We set about at around 11 am walking southward from the station to locate what could be seen - if anything - of the three branches, taking pictures and rummaging through bushes and nettles etc. In the afternoon we set about going north from the station, looking at the remains of several stone quarries - one of which had been for the building of Pickering Castle by the Normans later in the 11th Century. A look at and into the level crossing signal cabin at New Bridge preceded a walk around the nearby NYMR workshops. We then set out on a track that led past a few points of interest, including where original plans had been made to build the Helmsley branch north around Pickering. This would have entailed a tunnel and may not have ensured the foreseen traffic necessary to keep the branch open. It lasted barely a century, only a little longer than the Forge Valley branch.

Along the way north to Grosmont

Goathland Station seen from across Goathland Beck - the village is worth a couple of hours' visit, the centre stage of 'Heartbeat' country

Goathland Station seen from across Goathland Beck - the village is worth a couple of hours' visit, the centre stage of 'Heartbeat' country

Along the original trackbed constructed by George Stephenson is this plaque put here by the National Park authority to commemorate this historic landmark

Along the original trackbed constructed by George Stephenson is this plaque put here by the National Park authority to commemorate this historic landmark