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Yorkshire North York Moors Railway

The Pickering and Whitby Railway was built in an attempt to improve links from Whitby to the rest of the country so halting the decline of Whitby as a port. It opened in 1836 as a horse drawn railway to Pickering, which included a rope hauled incline at Beckhole. The line was acquired by the York and North Midland Railway in 1845 and converted to steam power and building the stations . The Beckhole incline was equipped with a stationary steam engine and iron hauling rope. In 1854 the company became part of the North Eastern Railway who constructed a new route to avoid the Beckhole incline. This has become a popular walking trail. Thgere is a lot more information about the old railway and the walk from #2 here.

The line was extended to Malton where it joined the York to Scarborough line.

Following the Beeching Report, the line was closed for passenger transport in 1965 and to freight the following year. A preservation group was formed to purchase the line and run it as a heritage line, reopening in 1972. Not only is it a popular tourist attraction bringing money into the area, it is also a major employer with over one hundred paid staff and fifty seasonal staff as well as many enthusiastic volunteers. Since 2007, the railway has been operating some services on Network Rail into Whitby.

At 18 miles from Pickering to Grosmont (or 24 miles into Whitby), this is one of the longest preserved standard gauge railways. it is an exhilarating run through the North York Moors and down the Esk valley into Whitby.

Most trips begin at Pickering Station.


This is a long low stone building in the centre of the town and almost impossible to photograph with cars parked on the road outside.

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It has been restored to its 1930s appearance with booking office and parcels office, signal box and footbridge painted in the traditional green and cream.



On a wall is a tile map showing the extent of the North Eastern Railway. There were once found at all stations, but few now survive.


Pickering station originally had a roof but this was removed by British Railways in 1952 as it was badly corroded. This has now been replaced to the original design.


Leaving Pickering Station, the line passes the carriage sheds where small diesels or coaches may be seen.

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The line follows the wooded valley of Pickering Beck north of the town, past a terrace of attractive stone built houses.


Tokens are changed at New Bridge Signal Box which also controls a gated crossing on the road to Levisham.


Deciduous woodland lines the railway with primroses and wood anemones in late April. Valley bottoms are wet with very rough grazing.





An unmade track follows the railway to Levisham station.

Levisham is an attractive small station on the edge of Cropton Forest, and two miles from the village. It has been restored to what it might have looked like around 1912. The station master’s house is now a holiday cottage.



Leaving Levisham, the line now follows Newton Dale with its mix of deciduous and commercial coniferous forest on the steep valley sides. Goods wagons can often be seen on a siding.


The line swings out along the edge of Levisham Moor, skirting the mass of the Hole of Horcum. This is a deep hollow about three quarters of a mile across and 400’ deep. Spring water welling up has caused erosion of the sides of the valley resulting in the massive hollow seen today.



The tiny unmanned Newton Dale Halt was built by the railway in 1981 to give walkers access to Cropton Forest. There is no road access.

The railway continues through Cropton Forest before beginning the climb up to the summit at Goathland Moor. This is bleak countryside with poor grasses, bracken and heather.




The railway is now following the Eller Beck which gradually widens becoming lush grassland with sheep.


Goathland Station was originally at the top of the Beckhole incline (#2), The present station was built by the North Eastern Railway in 1865 when it built the deviation avoiding the Beckhole incline. Trains regularly pass here.



The station with its stone buildings, water tower and signal box is virtually unchanged.




There are two camping coaches next to the platform.


Goathland is popular with visitors and is always busy. it featured as Hogsmeade Station in the film ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’. The village is a short walk up the hill from the station and was Aidensfield in the long running TV series ‘Heartbeat.’
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From Goathland, the railway drops down the valley to Grosmont.


Beckhole can be seen down through the trees. Approaching Grosmont, the valley widens and is increasingly fertile farmland.



The locomotive sheds and workshops are just south of Grosmont and can be visited as part of a tour. There are always locos parked up outside.




Grosmont Station with its level crossing and stone signal box, is the largest station on the line with three platforms. The bay is used by the Pullman dining service.



It is a 1950s style station with white and turquoise wooden buildings.

Next to it, is Network Rail’s Esk Valley Line station. Grosmont was the permanent terminus until trains began to run through to Whitby.

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Beyond Grosmont, the train joins the Network Rail line to Whitby. This follows the wide valley of the River Esk, crossing the river several times.


The valley widens with gently wooded slopes and farms.



Sleights Station was built in 1848, replacing a simple halt. It originally had a small goods yard with a single siding. The splendid stone built station master’s house is now a private residence.


Tthe river is now wide and slow flowing and is popular with rowing boats and kayaks.


The valley widens out with farms and fertile farmland.


Ruswarp station is one and a half miles from Whitby and separated from it by the steep and narrow valley of the River Esk. Its size reflects its importance.


Approaching Whitby, the line goes under the splendid viaduct of the long closed Whitby to Scarborough Railway, another casualty of the Beeching cuts.

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There is a wonderful view of Whitby seen through the A171 bridge across the valley.


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Whitby Station is an impressive stone building near the quayside. As well as the North York Moors Railway, there is a regular service along the Esk Valley line to Middlesborough.

The Railway makes a great day out, pulled by an interesting selection of preserved steam locos owned by the railway as well as visiting steam locos. Check the timetable as some services are diesel hauled. It also offers steam and diesel experiences with a ride on the footplate as well as tours of the workshops and digital photographic workshops.

North York Moors Railway website

Information about Pickering
Information about Whitby


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Visiting the Engine Sheds

Grosmont is the base of the Motive Power Depot for the railway and where all maintenance work is done. Specialist shed tours are run by the railway, but visitors are welcome to visit the viewing gallery in the shed.

The sheds are be reached by crossing over the level crossing by the station and taking the path along side the railway line to the old tunnel of the horse drawn railway. This is adjacent to the newer and much larger tunnel, designed for steam locos rather than horses.


Opened in 1836, this is one of the oldest tunnels in the world. It has a castlellated northern portal. The southern end is plainer, possibly because that was less visible to the travelling public. The Directors censored George Stephenson for wasting money, although castellations were common in the early days of building railways and designed to assure passengers of the safety of the structure they were about to enter!


The tunnel gives pedestrian access to the Loco sheds. There are a series of information boards about the work of the shed and personnel.


Name plates and other railway artefacts are displayed on the walls.


A steep metal stairway gives access to a viewing platform.


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