Places to Visit in North Yorkshire
phill@philljamesbroadcasting.co.uk
phill@todoinyork.com

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Visit York and North Yorkshire through Video

   

The video below relates to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway which is the UK’s largest heritage steam railway. The video is a brief guide to the route between Pickering and Whitby calling at Levisham, Goathland and Grosmont along the way.

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Useful Links for the North Yorkshire Moors Railway

North Yorkshire Moors Railway Website

Pickering

Levisham Moor & Hole of Horcum

Goathland

Whitby

Coastliner Bus Service 840 (bus services between Leeds, York, Pickering and Whitby)

East Yorkshire Bus Services (bus service from Scarborough and Helmsley to Pickering)

Where is Pickering?

Watch the North Yorkshire Moors Railway Video Documentary

Narrative from the North Yorkshire Moors Video Documentary

Pickering, North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Pickering is a market town in North Yorkshire that has some interesting landmarks and attractions such as the St Peter and St Paul’s Church that contains some historic wall art. The Medieval Wall Paintings date back to 1450.

Pickering also has a castle open to the public under the care of English Heritage. The castle dates back to the 12th century and it developed until the 14th century. It is also a short walk away from Pickering station.

An even shorter walk to the railway station, in fact neighbours is the Beck Isle Museum which contains over 50,000 objects pertaining to Ryedale in which Pickering resides.

Just a mile away down the road Scarborough bound is the picturesque village of Thornton le Dale, a popular tourist destination with the most photographed cottage in England.

Pickering Station

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

More relevant to the theme of our video is Pickering Station. You can both pre-book or purchase tickets on the day. You can also purchase tickets on the train if you have cash. Purchasing tickets is similar to the conventional railway, where you can buy tickets either single or return to any station on the North Yorkshire Moors route. For example, you might wish to buy a return ticket for travel between Levisham and Goathland.

Today Pickering is a terminus station but hasn’t always been so. In 1845 the York and North Midland Railway Company constructed an extension to the York to Scarborough line to link the port of Whitby. This extension split from the Scarborough line at Rillington near Malton, and until 1930 Rillington had a station. The route of the Whitby line was to call at Pickering. Of course, this route is now part of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. The stretch of the railway between Pickering and Grosmont is owned and maintained by the North York Moors Historical Railway Trust. However, the line from Grosmont through to Whitby is presently owned by Network Rail as it forms the conventional railway route between Middlesborough and Whitby known as the Esk Valley line.

Pickering Station North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Pickering Station North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Of course, with the railway coming in 1845, so did this fantastic sandstone station designed by architect George Townsend Andrews under the York and North Midland Railway Company. Like today, the railways were in private ownership at this time with several railway companies operating different railways. This sometimes is the reason why a town or city has two railway stations as initially they were owned by different railway companies that had the construction of the line passed through parliament.

However, the original roof of Pickering station was demolished in 1952 when under public ownership of British Railways. The roof was replaced by short awnings, but financed with the Heritage Lottery Fund work began on restoring the roof in 2009. An educational centre was also established too and the Reussner Learning Centre and the Yorventure Visitor Centre both opened the following year. The roof that required 8,700 slate tiles quarried in Wales wasn’t completed until 2011. A noteworthy point to make is the roof contains a Euston Truss designed by Robert Stephenson. The truss is the framework that supports the station roof which unlike the original roof is made of steel. However, having said that, the timber boarding as well as the vents are replica’s of what originally existed.

You will come to learn along this route is that the railway stations all represent different era’s. Pickering station is set in the 1930’s era. Many of the adorning platform accessories where not originally from Pickering but were donated from other parts of the country.

If you have the opportunity, it is a good idea to call in at the Visitor Centre that gives you a great deal of information about the railway. In 2016, The Peter’s Railway Young Engineer’s Centre was established which features some interactive exhibits and you can learn about steam pressure as well as signalling. The station also has a gift shop as well as a tea room so you certainly have plenty to do before you even board the train itself!

It is a good idea to keep a check on the website at NYMR.co.uk for events as they are held throughout the year including a steam gala. They not only exhibit their own rolling stock but also have visiting locomotives too, so the event is certainly worth attendance. If you require accommodation, there are hotels, guest houses and holiday homes available in the Pickering area.

Pickering to Levisham (Around 17 minutes)

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

The journey to Levisham from Pickering is around 17 minutes. One of the nicest things about this heritage steam railway is the varying landscapes it sojourns. We see fields, woodlands, moorland, becks and rivers, as well as towns and villages en-route. This is not just a scenic journey, it is an ever changing one.

Departing the station, the journey may seem a tad slow owing to the speed restriction. The train leaves the station and passes by railway sheds and rolling stock on your left but keep an eye open for the turntable that was constructed in York. If you are travelling with a return ticket, I recommend sitting on the opposite side on your return journey. Either side of the train holds some stunning views, but I also recommend sitting in one of the rear carriages. This is because you will attain a good view of the locomotive when travelling around bends in the line, especially after Levisham.

Levisham Station North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Levisham Station North Yorkshire Moors Railway

After crossing High Mill level crossing, the scenery opens out to the former Trout Farm site which is now largely filled in. It serves as part of the car park area for the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Ample parking is available at Pickering in the station car park, but if you prefer, you can take the Coastliner 840 bus from York and Leeds or the East Yorkshire Buses services from Scarborough and Helmsley.

In our documentary, we are not going to film all the route along but rather point out some of the highlights including the stations. Of course, the real star of the show is the amazing scenery that the North York Moors has to offer. If you pick a nice sunny day, the scenery is even more fantastic. However, the route is stunning in any weather.

Keep an eye open for the many railway cottages on route which were purposely for the railway workers in its heyday. However, these cottages where so remote that drinking water had to be delivered by train as well as other goods. In fact, market day trains called to take shoppers to the market.

Levisham to Goathland (30 minutes)

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Levisham is one the smallest stations on the route, but then Levisham is only a small village. For me it is a favourite as it is very scenic and very rural. It is also very historic because it is set in the era of 1912. The village of Levisham stands a mile away on the left and it is also where actress Lisa Kay is from who played Carol Cassidy in ITV’s Heartbeat. The station building is now a dwelling for a local artist, Chris Ware.

Levisham has featured in TV and I am not referring to any documentaries here. It was Melton Carbury in Brideshead Revisited and was also in All Creatures Great and Small as well as Sherlock Homes.

The station lamp room is an award winner, that being the small cream and red wooden building. The signal box still exists with a level crossing, and there is also an exhibition in a railway wagon. Additionally, a Weighbridge Tea Room is open on weekends and there is also a camping coach at the station too. This station is also very floral especially in the summer with its trackside flower beds. This station gives you a feeling of not just being on a heritage railway, but a North Yorkshire heritage railway.

You might find that there is a brief pause in travel at Levisham, not solely because of boarding and alighting passengers. It is also because the line changes from single track to double track creating a passing loop for trains travelling the opposite direction. So do not be surprised if a train arrives on the adjacent platform before the train departs. The brief pause gives you enough time to admire the station and its adornments, but it isn’t recommended to alight the train to do so! I am speaking for myself here, but the entire station is an award winner in my opinion not just the Lamp Room. The station is well maintained by a group known as the “the Wombles” but officially they are the Levisham Station Group!

Levisham is a great place to alight if you have a passion for walking as I do. The train progresses to Goathland entering a gorge and forested area known as Levisham Wood. However, just above you on the right are some public rights of way that take you to the Hole of Horcum and Saltergate as well as Skelton Tower and Levisham village itself on the opposite side of the line. After Levisham Station, the line becomes quite curvatious as it follows the gorge. Above you on your right hand side resides Skelton Tower which you can see from the window if you are vigilant.

Skelton Tower was built by the Vicar of Levisham, Robert Skelton. Why he chose this location to build a tower is obvious but he used the tower to write his sermons here, as well as a quiet place to have a drink and also to entertain the ladies! The tower is only a mile away from the station, and fortunately you don’t need to climb the very steep hill to get there as you take the path around it. In any case, you receive some fantastic views from here.

Skelton Tower Levisham
Skelton Tower Levisham

You can also walk to the Hole of Horcum from here but sadly on this occasion you will need to ascend the steep hill. It is also further to get to but achievable. The Hole of Horcum has been created over thousands of years owing to Watersapping and still continues today.

If you do decided to take a walk, please keep to the paths and dogs on leads. This is because adders exist on the moors and tend to be more prevalent when it is warm. Also ticks are a problem too which can cause Lime Disease.

Obviously, creating tunnels was a very expensive process so the line follows the contours of the gorge. From a passengers perspective, this is just as well as the scenery is far more interesting than a soot filled tunnel. Unlike most modern trains, windows open on the carriages here so you can use these for ventilation. It isn’t recommended to lean out of the windows at the carriage vestibules although many people do, admittedly myself included!

Goathland to Grosmont (10 minutes)

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Within 30 minutes of leaving Levisham you will arrive at Goathland. However, a station we have missed out here is Newtondale Halt as it is a request stop only. However, prior to arriving in Goathland you will cross over the over bridge which is popular with rail photographers and film crews. To the left of the over bridge you will notice George Stephenson’s original route and a cattle arch. For a short time at Goathland the present route deviates slightly from the original route. The rail trail from Goathland to Grosmont follows part of the original route.

The over-bridges that we see at Goathland are not the original bridges but where procured second hand and these are soon to be replaced. In any case, you can walk along the original route which is the tree-lined path just further up the hill. This forms part of a circuit walk around Goathland you can achieve that consists of one of North Yorkshire’s tallest waterfalls, Mallyan Spout.

Goathland Station

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Goathland Station is set in the era of the 1920’s which is particularly interesting as it featured as the station of ‘Aidensfield’ set in the 1960’s throughout ITV’s Heartbeat. In any case, this is an idyllic station in every era, and it is fully featured too. Not only is there a fully functioning booking office, but there is also a signal box, a water-tower, and a goods shed which is the Warehouse Tea Room. In addition, there is a small wooden structure near the old mill which is the station shop. The platforms are short here, so you need to be at the front of the train to alight.

Goathland Station North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Goathland Station North Yorkshire Moors Railway

There are some rolling stock at this station adding to the feel of this station and there is also a camping coach similar to Levisham. Something else similar to Levisham is that you might have a short breather here as another train travelling the opposite direction will take advantage of the passing loop.

Goathland station and York station have something in common, and of course this certainly isn’t size as York station was once the largest in the world at the time of completion. However, both of these stations were constructed on a curve. However, Goathland was associated with a former whinstone quarry and the large stone crushing machinery was located on the right hand side prior to entering the station.

Aforementioned, Goathland station is world famous because of its involvement with the Heartbeat police drama set in the sixties that continued for 18 years. However, it also played Hogsmeade in the Harry Potter movies too. The station also appeared in a Simply Red video for Holding Back the Years, as was Whitby Abbey too. Suffice as it is to say, Goathland Station is very famous in its own right.

As the majority of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is a bi-directional single line, a safety token is required for the driver to occupy the line. If the driver doesn’t possess the token he cannot occupy that stretch of track. Therefore, you will witness a token exchange at the station to give the train right of way to Levisham. However, the other train will now possess the token required to travel to Grosmont.

If you are alighting the train at Goathland, it is recommended to walk to the road bridge over the railway to watch the trains come in and depart before exploring the village. However, the booking office is fully operational to purchase tickets or to find out information. And if you would like to sit in one of the goods wagons for refreshments you can head over to the Warehouse Tea Rooms or the former goods shed. The beck running past the station buildings is Eller Beck that merges with West Beck about a mile away. It then combines with the River Esk that empties out into the North Sea at Whitby. You will hear the sounds of gushing water as the beck falls over the weirs that once powered the mill next door to the station.

Just beside the station shop is a short path in the direction of Grosmont where you can welcome or take a photo of approaching trains. The line continues to Grosmont taking approximately ten minutes. However, this stretch of the line descends downhill for around 3 miles at at 1 in 49 gradient. Therefore if you are wanting to take the popular Rail Trail walk to Grosmont, it is best to start here in Goathland. Having said this, walking from Grosmont to Goathland is no hardship as the incline is gradual. Close to Darnholme however, is one of the steepest gradients in the country. To get there you can take the path uphill accessible from the furthest platform and turn left at the hill at the top overlooking the station below.

The waiting room at Goathland station was constructed by request of the villagers. There is both a pedestrian crossing over the tracks and a footbridge at the station too. Obviously, when there are trains present, the gates to the crossing are locked so you would need to use the footbridge. Goathland Station in any case, is a great place to take a few photos with your camera or smartphone. If you have a camera with a long lens it is a good idea to stand close to the road bridge over the railway to take a shot. However, be careful of traffic as it is a narrow bridge. It is also a great station just to watch the trains come and go and the timetables are generally available on the station platforms.

Goathland Village

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Goathland Hotel played the Aidensfield Arms in the series of Heartbeat and serves as a public house and accommodation in very much the same way. The building has become world famous as a result of its involvement with Heartbeat. Directly opposite stands the Scripps Funeral Services and Aidensfield Garage with a small picnic area. On the subject of cars, you will also notice the classic Ford Anglia Police Car. It isn’t the same vehicle as in the series but portrays the sixties police theme well. Anglia’s were around for some time but this deluxe model was built in the fifties and sixties. Prior to Heartbeat and Harry Potter, Goathland was popular with Victorian day trippers owing to the 60 foot waterfall Mallyan Spout not far from the village. This particular waterfall is interesting as you can walk up to it and touch it as natural spring water is forced over the ledge above.

Esk Valley

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Further down the line towards Grosmont and on the Rail Trail resides the hamlet of Esk Valley. Again on the left hand side of travel you will see a row of terraced houses that is somewhat isolated. You will see where the once narrow gauge line that was horse drawn, transporting whinstone from the quarries on the moors to the original line close to Esk Valley.

Grosmont to Whitby (25 minutes)

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Passing by the workshop on the right hand side and through a dark tunnel takes you out into Grosmont. This is where the North Yorkshire Moors Railway merges with the Esk Valley line from Middlesborough. The village of Grosmont was once known Tunnel and was heavily associated with iron-ore. The Station Tavern was once called The Tunnel Inn with the post-office next door. It also has a former school which is now a tea room and also a priory overshadowing the station and village below.

Grosmont Station

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Grosmont Station is themed on the 1950’s era and at one time it was a very cramped station that was very difficult to operate. Today it has four platforms including a platform serving the Esk Valley line.

At this point you might have the opportunity to have a walk around the station for a few minutes while there is a possible locomotive change or the current locomotive goes to refuel with coal. There is also a water tower at the end of the platform to quench the locomotives thirst. Again, you might witness another train passing by the opposite direction.

Grosmont Station North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Grosmont Station North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Grosmont station does have an original tea room and there are other shops and eateries in the village too. There are also public conveniences at the station too. You can also, providing you have time, go and visit the viewing area at the workshop by walking through the pedestrian tunnel beside the railway. There is also a gift shop here too. Many of the buildings associated with the railway here were built in 1845 at the arrival of the conventional railway.

Grosmont presents itself as an idyllic rural village, yet in its heyday, it was actually very industrial indeed. It contained a blast furnace at the ironworks which was the main employer for the area. In fact, three ironworks in the area including this location was producing around 70,000 tons per annum.

The Esk Valley line came later in 1865 that linked Whitby and Grosmont with Battersby and Stockton on Tees. At the time it was discussed to build a canal but these plans never materialised. The large warehouse looking building opposite the station serves as accommodation for volunteers on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. It was built in 1835 but was purchased by the railway in 1997. The signal box was constructed in 1996 for Grosmont Crossing and much of the materials came from a dismantled signal box at Whitby. Other items came from Seamer and Newtondale and Eskdale Mines, thus being a massive undertaking at the time. Speaking of time – don’t forget to look at the overhanging clock at the booking office.

From Grosmont to Whitby, the railway line crosses the Esk several times, and of course the River Esk forms the Esk Valley which is just as equally stunning in terms of scenery.

As you have probably noticed by now, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is solely based on heritage steam locomotives, they also have diesel locomotives that date back to the early days of diesel. This is what makes the railway special because it preserves a very significant part of the country. This is because the railways were invented and established in Great Britain which eventually spread to other countries too around the world. The railways revolutionised the country and changed the way people lived and worked considerably. Of course, as technology improves, the railways are still progressing today.

Grosmont Engine Shed and Workshop

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Heading back towards the tunnel entrance is a viewing area for trains arriving and departing and includes a higher level platform. It is also suitable for having your lunch in as there are benches provided.

Further along however is the pedestrian access to the engine shed and workshop where they are repaired and restored. You will also notice the signs for the Rail Trail back to Goathland here too. The walk is approximately around 3.5 miles should you wish to walk back to Goathland. There are also information boards relating to the early horse drawn railway between Goathland and Grosmont which was a single line with a passing loop in the middle. The horse-drawn vehicles could take around 10 passengers at a time.

In the engine shed and workshop there is again a viewing area to watch the steam and diesel locomotives being worked on. You can book guided tours around the engine shed through the website mentioned earlier. From the same high level viewing area is the entrance to the gift shop too. However, to view the outside of the engine shed area we can walk along the Rail Trail for a short time to receive an elevated view of it. You can also receive an elevated view of the railway station too, and also you can view the installed webcams for both Goathland and Grosmont through their website.

If you time it right, you might see one of the engines fuelling with coal for the journey. In any case, there are generally plenty of historic locomotives outside including this class 24 locomotive. These were built from 1958 to 1961 and finally all withdrawn before 1980. 151 of these locomotives were built during this time at Derby, Crewe and Darlington. You will also see some class 08 shunters that were built in 1952 but entered service the following year. Production continued until 1962 and 996 of these locomotives were built making them the most numerous of British locomotives. The path turns into a bridleway and you may witness these class 101 diesel multiple units that were built between 1956 and 1959 at Washwood Heath Birmingham. They were actually the longest lived of British Rail’s first generation of DMU’s. The final five of these trains were withdrawn in 2003 and the oldest set was 47 years old!

Sleights and Ruswarp Railway Stations

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Ruswarp and Sleights railway stations, although on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, isn’t a calling point for the preserved line. This is because the line is also the scenic Esk Valley line that runs between Middlesbrough and Whitby. The station opened in 1847 and it is 33 miles back to Middlesbrough from here at Ruswarp.

These heritage diesel locomotives are known as a Class 25. These locomotives were built between 1961 and 1967 and by and large were intended for freight. However, some were fitted out for passenger services as time progressed. They could be found almost everywhere on the rail network.

Larpoool Viaduct

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Around the corner from Ruswarp railway station your attention meets one of the many examples of Victorian engineering, Larpool Viaduct that consists of around 5 million bricks. Construction began in 1882 and took two years to build. It’s purpose was to carry the Yorkshire Coast line, single track, over the Esk Valley line, the River Esk and over the valley itself. The Yorkshire Coast line, or originally the Scarborough and Whitby Railway, was one of the unfortunate lines that closed, and it is now known as Cinders Path and you can walk across the viaduct. You’ll notice that the two island’s in the centre of the Esk are on a twist to match the water flow of the River. The base of the supports also have arches within them making the viaduct even more impressive and ornamental. 

Larpool Viaduct North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Larpool Viaduct North Yorkshire Moors Railway

When you pass underneath the viaduct you are somewhat in awe at its size, especially when you compare it to the size of the houses on the opposite river bank. There won’t be many salmon leaping over this viaduct that’s for sure.

We consider the Victorian’s to be world-class engineers during the period, and indeed they were. However, not all viaducts were completely safe. For example, Danby Dale viaduct became an accident black spot especially when the viaduct collapsed with a train upon it.  In any case, they never just built a box, they built a box with eye catching features and intrigue. Not only were they great engineers of the time, but they were skilled artists as well.

Whitby Station

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

The station buildings were designed by George Townsend Andrews and built in 1845. Not unlike Pickering Station it is made from sandstone making it a very enduring structure. And of course it needed to be too because the goods shed was bombed during the second world war. At present a supermarket stands on the location of where the goods shed once stood. Unlike Pickering station however, its design was intended to be a terminus station as the line ended at the port of Whitby. At the end of the platforms you will notice the engine shed that still stands today except it is now used for a different purpose. As the railway station is on Network Rail territory, as of 2019 it is under the care of Northern Railways who also operate the Esk Valley line. As the railways are privately franchised however, this may not always be the case. Prior to this, Northern Rail operated the line and many other branch lines in the northern region. Plans are underway to increase the amount of trains between Middlesborough and Whitby making a day trip from London by rail possible for the first time. Outside the booking office you will see an historic network map of the former North Eastern Region which is quite interesting to look at and compare.

Whitby Railway Station North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Whitby Railway Station North Yorkshire Moors Railway

It’s certainly no secret that Whitby’s economy was at one time predominantly sea fishing including whaling. Today, Whitby is still has a working harbour. However, during Georgian times, Whitby was known for another commodity, that being spa water. The three springs aroused interest and became popular for their medicinal and tonic qualities. This produced lodging places in the town and by the time of the railway’s arrival in 1845, brought Whitby into tourism. The railway at this time connected Whitby to York, linking the town to a much greater rail network there.

Whitby station like Pickering, Goathland and Grosmont has a booking office for tickets and enquiries. You can also pick up a valid timetable as well as other leaflets relating to your day out.

If you want to take some photographs of the engine it is often a good idea to use the opposite platform as firstly it is less crowded, and secondly you can gain some more interesting shots there against the station buildings and the many ‘Whitby’ signs around. You can oftentimes see the loco decouple from the train for a while, and when the staff return from their break, the locomotive will run light-engined around to the front of the train to form the return journey.

Whitby

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

The site of Whitby Abbey dates way back to AD 657 when Abbess Hild from Northumberland founded a monastery for both men and women. You can walk up the 199 steps to get here!

Another must see is the monument to Whitby’s former whaling industry. Whaling is now banned but still it’s whaling heritage remains through this monument.

Of course a famous person to Whitby is Captain James Cook who began as a shop boy in Staithes until he moved to Whitby and became associated with some prominent coal shippers.

Since 2018, the mock HMS Endeavour is now docked at Whitby Harbour and open to the public which can be clearly seen from the Captain Cook Memorial Museum.

Another landmark is the famous photogenic swing bridge that opens up to allow wider vessels through into the harbour. Crossing this takes you to the historic old town at the east side.

We hope you enjoy your historic journey on the largest heritage railway line in the UK! Until next time!


Further Series Pertaining to North Yorkshire

The North Yorkshire Reporter

My North Yorkshire Walks Video Diaries

North Yorkshire Photography Workshop (Phovlography)

Britain’s Most Scenic Bus Route