The railway is the second-longest heritage line in the United Kingdom and runs across the North York Moors from Pickering via Levisham, Newton Dale and Goathland to Grosmont. It is the middle section of the former Whitby, Pickering and Malton line which was closed in 1965 as part of the Beeching cuts. The NYMR is owned by the North York Moors Historical Railway Trust Ltd (a Charitable Trust and Registered Museum) and is operated by its wholly owned subsidiary North Yorkshire Moors Railway Enterprises Plc.. It is mostly operated and staffed by volunteers.
Trains run every day from the beginning of April and the end of October, plus selected dates through the winter. Trains are mostly steam-hauled; however in some cases heritage diesel is used. At the height of the running timetable, trains depart hourly from each station. As well as the normal passenger running, there are dining services on some evenings and weekends. The recent extension of steam operated services to the seaside town of Whitby have proved extremely popular. 'The NYMR . . . has proved to be one of the UK’s most popular heritage attractions in 2007, drawing some 321,986 visitors in the year.'
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway was first opened in 1836 as the Whitby and Pickering Railway. The railway was planned in 1831 by George Stephenson as a means of opening up trade routes inland from the then important seaport of Whitby. The initial railway was designed and built to be used by horse-drawn carriages. Construction was carried out by navvies and coordinated by top engineers. Their three main achievements were cutting a 110 m tunnel through rock at Grosmont, constructing a rope-worked incline system at Beck Hole and traversing the marshy and deep Fen Bog using a bed of timber and sheep fleeces. The tunnel is believed to be one of the oldest railway tunnels in the world. In its first year of operation, the railway carried 10,000 tons of stone from Grosmont to Whitby, as well as 6,000 passengers, who paid a fare of 1 shilling to sit on the roof of a coach, or 1 shilling and 3 pence to sit inside. It took two and a half hours to travel from Whitby to Pickering.
In 1845, the railway was acquired by the York and North Midland Railway who re-engineered the line to allow the use of steam locomotives. They also constructed the permanent stations and other structures along the line which still remain today. The Beck Hole Incline was re-equipped with a steam powered stationary engine and iron rope. They also added the line south from Pickering so that the line had a connection to York and London. In 1854 the York and North Midland Railway became part of the North Eastern Railway. Steam locomotives could not operate on the Beck Hole incline; so in the early 1860s the North Eastern Railway started construction of an alternate route which opened in 1865 - this is the route which is still in use today. The original route is now a pleasant walk named the Historic Rail Trail.
In 1923 the North Eastern Railway was absorbed into the London and North Eastern Railway as a result of the Railways Act 1921. In 1948 nationalisation meant that British Railways took control. During this time, little changed on the line. However, in his controversial report, Dr Beeching declared that the Whitby-Pickering line was uneconomic and listed it for closure, which took place in 1965.
This was not the end for the Whitby to Pickering railway. In 1967, the NYMR Preservation Society was formed, and negotiations began for the purchase of the line. After running various Open Weekends and Steam Galas during the early 1970s (by permission of British Railways} the NYMRPS transformed itself into a Charitable Trust (to ensure the future of the railway) and became The North York Moors Historical Railway Trust Ltd. Purchase of the line was completed and the necessary Light Railway Order obtained, giving powers to operate the railway. The railway was able to reopen for running in 1973 as the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, with much of the traction provided by the North East Locomotive Preservation Group.
Since then, the preserved line has gone from strength to strength, and is now a major tourist attraction, as seen in the awards below.
|Number & Name||Description||Disposition||Main Line Registered|
|80135||BR 2-6-4T Class 4MT||Stored pending major overhaul.||No|
|30926 Repton||SR 4-4-0 Schools Class||Operational.||No|
|29||Lambton Collieries 0-6-2T||Undergoing Overhaul.||No|
|75029||BR 4-6-0 Class 4MT||Operational.||Yes (Whitby branch only)|
|45212||LMS 4-6-0 Class 5MT||Operational.||No|
|6619||GWR 0-6-2T 5600 Class||Operational.||No|
|62005 Lord of the Isles||LNER 2-6-0 Class K1||Hauling 'The Jacobite' services in Fort William.||Yes|
|5224||GWR 2-8-0 GWR 5205 Class||Operational.||No|
|3814||GWR 2-8-0 2884 Class||Restoration underway.||No|
|44767 George Stephenson||LMS 4-6-0 Class 5MT||Undergoing overhaul at Hepscott. (May return in 2008)||No|
|45428 Eric Treacy||LMS 4-6-0 Class 5MT||Undergoing overhaul.||No|
|63395||NER 0-8-0 Class T2/LNER Class Q6||Operational.||No|
|69023 Joem||NER J72 Class J72||Undergoing overhaul at Hopetown Carriage Works.||No|
|825||SR 4-6-0 Class S15||Operational.||Yes (Whitby Branch Only)|
|60007 Sir Nigel Gresley||LNER 4-6-2 Class A4||Operational.||Yes|
|30830||SR 4-6-0 Class S15||Undergoing restoration.||No|
|30841||SR 4-6-0 Class S15||Awaiting overhaul. Original frames found to be out of line, most of the components can be found on 825.||No|
|34101 Hartland||SR 4-6-2 West Country Class||Undergoing overhaul.||No|
|3180 Antwerp||WD 0-6-0ST WD Austerity Tank||At Grosmont in store.||No|
|3672 Dame Vera Lynn||WD Austerity 2-10-0||At Grosmont in store (awaiting heavy overhaul).||No|
|5||Lambton Collieries 0-6-2T||Steady progress has been made on overhaul.||No|
|2253||USA 2-8-0 Class S160||At Grosmont in store, pending removal by new owner.||No|
|Number & Name||Description||Status|
|DSRM No 1 Ron Rothwell||DSRM 0-4-0||Operational.|
|DSRM No 2||DSRM 0-4-0||Awaiting repairs.|
|No 2||BR 0-4-0 88D||Awaiting repairs.|
|2207||BR 0-6-0 Class 04||Needs Painting.|
|D4018||BR 0-6-0 Class 08||Under repair.|
|08556||BR 0-6-0 Class 08||Operational. RESCO Main Line Registered|
|12139 Neil D Barker||BR 0-6-0 Class 11||Operational.|
|D5032 Helen Turner||BR Bo-Bo Class 24||Undergoing Overhaul.|
|D5061||BR Bo-Bo Class 24||Undergoing repairs.|
|D7541 The Diana||BR Bo-Bo Class 25||In store, pending removal by new owner.|
|D7628 Sybilla||BR Bo-Bo Class 25||Operational - NWR and RESCO Main Line certified|
|50027 Lion||BR Co-Co Class 50||Operational.|
|101680||BR Class 101||51511 + 59539 + 53204||Not in use.|
|205205||BR Class 205||60110 + 70547 + 60810||Wheel set found. Requires fitting. This unit is now for sale.|
|Number & Name||Description||From||Whitby Compatible(Mainlined)|
|49395||LNWR 0-8-0 G2a||National Railway Museum||No|
|D6700||BR Co-Co Class 37||National Railway Museum||NO|
|45231 'The Sherwood Forester'||LMS 5MT 'Black 5'||Private Owner||YES|
|71000 'Duke Of Gloucester'||BR Standard Class 8||71000 Trust||YES|
The possibility of reopening the 'missing section' between Rillington Junction (on the York - Malton - Scarborough line) and Pickering has often been discussed. This might allow the running of steam services from York to Whitby again (or even Scarborough to Whitby, if the short lived curve towards Scarborough were reinstated too). To achieve this would require considerable engineering work, not least in getting out of Pickering where a new road and several houses have been built on the track bed.
Reinstating this missing rail link was adopted as a policy objective by the North Yorkshire County Council some years ago; the NYMHRT board agreed to support this policy in principle, whilst having reservations about its implementation.
A more detailed discussion of this topic, with some of the possible advantages and disadvantages from the NYMR point of view can be found in the North Yorkshire Moors Railway Conservation Management Plan (available from the NYMR).
The NYMR runs several special events through the year, usually revolving around a particular theme.
Other special events include a Vintage Vehicle Weekend, Music on the Moors and a Wizard Weekend.
The railway has been seen both on television and in film. The station at Goathland has been used as both Hogsmeade Station in the Harry Potter films, and Aidensfield in the popular sixties drama Heartbeat. Pickering Station was used in the film Possession. Other appearances include Casualty, Brideshead Revisited, All Creatures Great and Small, Poirot and Sherlock Holmes television series. The railway has also featured in a documentary series for local television.