A Journey on the North Yorkshire Moors Heritage Railway
The North Yorkshire Moors Heritage Railway (NYMR) is a heritage railway in North Yorkshire, England, that runs through the North York Moors National Park. First opened in 1836 as the Whitby and Pickering Railway. The North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) heritage steam trains run on the NYMR line from Grosmont to Goathland and onto Pickering and includes a stop at the famous Harry Potter station in Goathland on its journey. These trains are all maintained and operated by volunteers.
The steam locomotives run on the old steam train lines managed by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. A ride on a steam train has always been a dream, but the chance to ride the Hogwarts Express Train to Hogsmeade was an opportunity not to be missed.
The railway is one of only a few British heritage railways which can operate a Pullman train with the famous Umber & Cream livery. NYMR’s Pullman carriages have gorgeous polished teak interiors and have been used in the filming of Downton Abbey and Dad’s Army. For an extra cost there’s the opportunity to enjoy lunch, afternoon tea or dinner on board the Pullman Dining Train or heritage saloon cars.
History of the North Yorkshire Moors 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 Whitby & Pickering Railway was built as the culmination of attempts to halt the gradual decline of the port of Whitby. The basic industries of Whitby, whaling and shipbuilding, had been in decline for years and it was felt that opening up better links with the interior of the country would help to regenerate both town and port.
In the 1950’s modernisation of the railways began and steam trains were replaced by diesel locomotives. Starting in 1967 a small group of local people wanted to see the Grosmont to Pickering line brought back to life, and they got access to the line to carry out maintenance and operate the occasional ‘Steam Galas’.
The society grew and turned itself into a charity (to ensure no-one could take over the railway for personal profit). From one person in 1972 the numbers have grown to one hundred full time paid staff and around fifty part time paid staff (in the summer months), still supported by a large number of volunteers.
Stations on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway
We began the journey at Grosmont Railway station where you can completely immerse yourself in the history and heritage of the steam train in this picturesque village.
Grosmont Station is where you will find the engine sheds where the North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s steam and diesel locomotives are maintained and restored (all by volunteers I might add).
Across from the station itself, you can see the George Stephenson tunnel if you follow the walkway you will find yourself at the engine sheds where you can see some of the steam trains being worked on. The shed usually has 2 or 3 steam trains in it being restored or maintained and it is really interesting to know that this work is all done by volunteers who are totally obsessed with steam trains.
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway operates entirely with volunteer staff, which is just so impressive. When you stand on the platform and see those steam trains shunting back and forth and finally your train arrives it really it a moment out of time.
I have to say it’s very confusing though at the station itself. I purchased the tickets online and when you arrive, you park down in a lot where you have at least a 10 to 15-minute walk to get to the station. Once you cross the bridge to the station however there is a bit of confusion as to where you show your tickets and make sure you get on the train. You don’t show your tickets or buy them from the actual train station office itself.
There is a little hut just down from the main office where you have to go to show your tickets and make sure you can board but it doesn’t open until the trains arrive and are ready to board. I am sure this is because the volunteers (who are very pleasant) operate it and they are doing the best they can but it is confusing and when you have at least 100 odd people milling around (mostly tourists) there is no-one who you can ask to sort out tickets until the volunteers arrive.
The Harry Potter train runs from Grosmont from March until November and they are an absolutely perfect way to see the North Yorkshire Moors and take in some of the best-preserved old railway stations in England. The trip begins at Grosmont Station and takes in Goathland, Newton Dale Halt and Levisham and the final stop is Pickering Station, then returning to Grosmont.
None of the trains says Hogwarts Express so you will have to use your imagination to see in your mind’s eye your Harry Potter train journey to Hogwarts.
Goathland the Harry Potter station
The first stop from Grosmont is Hogsmeade, sorry Goathland Station. At this station, everyone jumps off the train to get those all-important I was there photos and generally stops at the station cafe for a bacon buttie and a cup of tea.
Heartbeat railway station
Prior to becoming a feature film star in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Goathland was made famous in a British TV show called Heartbeat… Just up from the station is a little hotel called The Aidensfield Arms, which is exactly as it appears in the show. It’s an okay location to grab a pint at least but the quality of food and the service do leave something to be desired.
The station Cafe at Goathland isn’t much better, to be honest. The tea and coffee are hot but the cost of the bacon butties and the quality is not particularly good and to be honest, the cakes are a little stale, much could be done to improve upon this. You are really better off bringing a little picnic lunch with you.
When I first posted this article the Cafe responded and said they were trying to improve things and I was impressed that they bothered. It’s pretty cool to hear people are listening to what you say – good for them.
Newton Dale Halt Station
From Goathland, we passed Newton Dale Halt which is actually a station with access only by walking or mountain bike. This is a request stop and is the perfect place to inhale the Yorkshire moor’s atmosphere and intensity.
From Newton Dale Hall the train meanders onto Levisham, which was built to replicate, I assume the original from 1912 and during the season hosts the North Yorkshire Moors Railways artist-in-residence program. We don’t get off the train at these two stations but it is a beautiful journey through this part of the moors.
I loved Pickering from the moment we arrived in Yorkshire and we discovered this lovely village. Pickering is a really picturesque market town that we made sure we managed to get to on its weekly set-up. We loved the Church in Pickering with its incredible medieval wall paintings and the nostalgic railway station in a 1930s theme perched near the river.
Pickering is around 40 minutes from the City of York and you can catch the train at this station.
Pickering Station was recently featured in the 2016 remake of the film Dad’s Army, which is quite famous here in England. At Pickering, we grabbed some hot tea and a sandwich for the journey back to Grosmont.
All in all, the NYMR journey made for a fascinating day out if you read The Railway Children or saw the film back in 1970 this is the fulfilment of a dream. For those of you who are younger and adore the Harry Potter books and films, this is a must make journey. It was well worth the money and certainly a trip of a lifetime – after all who gets to ride the rails on a steam train these days?
North Yorkshire Moors Railway tickets
NYMR Train Fares
A Short Journey Ticket allows day return travel between up to two stations (e.g. Pickering – Goathland Day Return, Whitby – Goathland Day Return) for a fixed fare price for 1 Station – £12.00 per adult (16+) and free for children (0-15) and 2 Stations – £22.50 per adult (16+) and free for children (0-15). Shorter Journey Tickets are only available to buy from a Station Booking Office on the day of your visit. For more than two stops, opt for the Unlimited Annual Pass ticket at £45.00 for the year!
I loved Yorkshire from the overdosing on savoury pies, Yorkshire cheese and all the delights of the Yorkshire markets to the fascinating history deep in the stones of the area.
Travelling on the North Yorkshire Heritage steam train is an experience that should not be missed. The beautiful scenery of the North York Moors combined with the nostalgia of a bygone era creates a unique and unforgettable journey. From the sound of the whistle to the smell of coal smoke, passengers are transported back in time for a few hours. Whether you are a train enthusiast or just looking for something different to do, riding on this historic locomotive is an adventure worth taking. So sit back, relax and enjoy a journey through history on one of Britain’s most cherished heritage railways.
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