Friday, 6 May 2011

Whitby, and the North York Moors Railway

The North York Moors Railway are holding a gala this week and next to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the opening of the Whitby to Pickering railway. Our 'Planet' steam locomotive from MoSI is attending along with many other visiting locomotives, and some months ago I booked a B&B in Whitby so I could experience the gala.

It subsequently transpired that 'Planet' (and the replica 'Rocket' from the National Railway Museum, which has featured in this blog before) would only be operating at weekends, and in any case I wasn't rostered to fire her at her temporary Pickering base.

My wife dropped me off at Wilmslow railway station on Tuesday 3rd May in time for me to catch the 06:55 train to Manchester Airport. The 07:30 Trans Pennine Express to Middlesborough started its journey from there, and took me via Leeds and York to that town in time to join the 10:38 Middlesborough to Whitby train. This latter must be one of the most picturesque railway journeys in Britain; single track, wending its way (slowly!) through the valleys and villages of the North Yorkshire Moors, to arrive at the coastal town by 12:15.

As ever, please click (twice) on any picture for a full-size image.

Whitby railway station

I made my way up to the West Cliff area of the town to check into my B&B (the 'Leeway', highly recommended) to be greeted by Karen and Garry, the proprietors. Then I set off to explore Whitby, starting with a trip up to the ruined Abbey to get a top-down view of the town.

Whitby Abbey

Looking across the Esk from the Abbey to the West Cliff area of Whitby, where my B&B is located

Looking back up the Esk valley. The 14:00 steam train to Pickering can be seen departing to the right of the picture

The harbour entrance

A street market in the town

The next day I did what I came for - spend a day on the North York Moors Railway. The NYMR actually starts at Grosmont, about five miles down the valley from Whitby, and follows the Esk valley for about eighteen picturesque miles down to Pickering. Occasionally, they are allowed to run steam trains not only over their own lines, but also the five miles of National Rail railway from Grosmont to Whitby making a continuous run of about twenty three miles from Whitby to Pickering.

At Grosmont, the National Rail line swings off to the north; it's the line to Middlesborough by which I reached Whitby on the Tuesday.

Ian Riley's Black Five 'Eric Treacy' at Whitby, having run in from Pickering. The loco will propel the train to a passing loop just outside the station where it will run-round to re-position at the other end of the train ready for our trip to Pickering.

Our train leaves the National Rail line at Grosmont (on the left of the fence) to join the NYMR (on the right of the fence). A BR Standard Class Four locomotive simmers on the NYMR lines.

This strange structure at Fylingdales (click twice on it for a bigger image), about halfway along the railway, is not a Disney castle. It's a 'phased array' solid state radar scanner which forms part of the 'early warning' system for incoming ballistic missiles. It replaced the iconic 'golfballs' on this site which contained rotating radar heads.

Very comfortable ex-BR Mk1 coaches form our train

Southern Railway S150 class loco which took over from the Black Five at Grosmont and hauled us down to Pickering. Not many preserved steam locomotives are cleared to operate on Network Rail metals, 'Eric Treacy' being one of them, which is why it was used between Whitby and Grosmont. Note the newly-reinstated overall station roof at Pickering (British railways removed the original in the 1950s).

I found this delightful pub courtyard for lunch in Pickering. A rare-breed pork bap with salad, and a pint of Copper Dragon - lovely!

The next train from Grosmont runs into Pickering headed by two BR Standard class 4s, a tank engine and its tender-engined equivalent. The Tank engine ran around the train at Pickering to head the train back up to Grosmont, the tender loco remaining on the rear as 'banker'. I rode this train back up the line as far north as Goathland.

J72 tank engine 'Joem' with an ex-Great Western autocoach at Goathland, which I rode to Grosmont.

Luxury abounds inside the GWR Autocoach. Beats a 'Pacer' any day!

Back at Grosmont, a magnificent 9F sets off for Pickering. 9Fs were the last class of steam loco built by British Railways in the late 1950 and early 60s. They were primarily freight engines, though put up some sterling performances on summer Saturday trains on lines like the Somerset & Dorset (they had no steam heat supply for the coaches, so could not work winter trains). Except for the last member of the class (Evening Star), the very last steam loco built for BR, the 9Fs were never named. This one, built at Swindon in 1958 was recently named 'Cock O'the North', which won't be popular with the A1 steam trust who plan to build a replica of Gresley's almost unique 2-8-2 locomotive which actually carried that name.

Finally, from the NYMR website, this video showcases the event and includes extensive coverage of our Replica 'Planet' locomotive which I fire at MoSI.


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