Family Rail Adventures: Pickering to Whitby to experience a taste of days gone by...
Capturing all the family fun aboard the North Yorkshire Railway, Junior writer Rebecca Hay hopped on this fabulous tourist attraction and reports back...
Published: October 25, 2022 at 10:30 AM
Northern Exposure: Seaside Special from Pickering to Whitby to experience a taste of days gone by
At the heart of the vibrant and bustling market town of Pickering is the North Yorkshire Railway, proudly standing just yards from traditional stone cottages, a nod to the good times when life was simpler. Made famous in the 1990’s through the nostalgic feel good BBC television series, Heartbeat, set in the 1960s, Pickering is on the border of the North Yorkshire Moors and for a small place, it has a plethora of attractions from a Roman camp to a castle.
Accommodation wise there is an upmarket Premier Inn, just five minutes away from the railway station. The hotel opened in 2021 and has lots of free parking , big and airy bedrooms and a first class restaurant inside the building. Premier Inn plus is available meaning more room, better toiletries, refreshments and Wifi.
The beautifully kept Pickering station is the start of a wonderful steam train journey through the moors and over to the popular seaside town of Whitby. Run by the non for profit North York Moors Historical Railway Trust, the summer service runs until October, with an early train at 9 a.m. and the later one at noon. There are also services on the Moors Explorer from Grosmont to Pickering and back and The Yorkshire Express, which starts at Whitby and finishes at Pickering. That is if you can tear yourself away from the old style station.
Lovingly restored and impeccably clean and shiny, the arched iron bridge from the car park takes you to the platform and a shop, café and Peter’s Railway Young Engineer’s Centre. Children can learn about how the steam engines work and are repaired in the sidings and the smartly dressed station staff are on hand to help and open the old style train doors, complete with windows which actually slide down so you can see out and breathe the good Yorkshire air.
The carriages are traditional, with saggy seats and big tables and full of excited visitors, which in our case included a group of very happy Scouts from Canada. Moor fires in the national park have meant the trains are currently being pulled by heritage diesel locomotives, which when we were on board, was switched at Grosmont to the LMS Black 5 No 5428 Eric Treacy, much to the delight of the passengers who could see the huge plumes of steam puffing out of the train spout as it chugged gently along.
On board is a hive of activity as everyone settles down and enjoys the journey through God’s finest county, rolling hills, quaint cottages and plenty of woolly livestock. The two-hour meander passes through Levisham, Newtondale Hall, and Goathland stations, the latter which was used as a set in the very first Harry Potter film, The Philosopher’s Stone and Grosmont. You can get off and take a look at the peaceful village, which is best known for the discovery of iron stone in 1836 when George Stephenson’s original railway from Whitby to Pickering was built.
With a huge toot and a trail of steam, the train pulls into the popular seaside town of Whitby, famous for its Gothic abbey, which is said to have inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Such is the popularity of the steam train, that crowds gather to watch it arrive and people are invited into the driver’s cab to see the coal being loaded into the fire and have their photographs taken.
Once inside the bustling town, there is plenty to see and do and with a visit to Whitby Abbey, cared for by English Heritage, a must. It’s a big climb up 199 steps to the abbey, but worth it when you see how hauntingly beautiful it really is. This year marks the 125th anniversary of Dracula and the abbey has a special outdoor culture project to honour the occasion. The museum inside tells the story of Viking raids and saintly Saxons who called the place home. An audio guide is a must to help experience the many goings on over the years in the 13th century building which towers over the town.
Back down in the town, vampire fans can enjoy The Dracula Experience, a walk through museum which is full of spooks and horrors and not for those of a nervous disposition! A full size Dracula greets you at the door and inside there is memorabilia and facts about the gothic great, including the cape which actor Christopher Lee wore in the various films. A historical film ends the tour and gives a great insight into why Whitby was chosen as the setting for the book.
It’s a great family day out and as Dracula would say: “something to sink your teeth into……”
MAIN IMAGE: Charlotte Graham