North Yorkshire Moors Railway: History of the Yorkshire railway line from Grosmont to Pickering line after 50 years of service

This year marks the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) Grosmont to Pickering line’s 50 anniversary, so we have taken a look back at where it all began.

It has been exactly 50 years since the NYMR opened its services to the public and later this year the railway will host a variety of events as part of its anniversary celebrations.

This year’s Gala in September will include a selection of steam locomotives visiting the railway, the Annual Steam Gala Beer Festival which will offer a wide range of real ales from local breweries and Station Tea Rooms and Levisham Tea Hut will be open for refreshments.

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The railway first opened in 1836 as the Whitby and Pickering Railway, the railway was planned in 1831 by George Stephenson for the purpose of opening up trade routes inland from the seaport of Whitby.

Grosmont Station. (Pic credit: Jonathan Gawthorpe)Grosmont Station. (Pic credit: Jonathan Gawthorpe)
Grosmont Station. (Pic credit: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

However, the line between Grosmont and Rillington was closed in 1965 and the section between Grosmont and Pickering was reopened in 1973 by the North York Moors Historical Railway Trust.

The preserved line has been a tourist attraction for many years.

History of NYMR Grosmont to Pickering railway line

A small group of people set up the North Yorkshire Moors Railway Preservation Society (NYMRPS) in June 1967 and the members were persuaded that operating the line between Grosmont and Pickering could be successful if enough voluntary support was provided.

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After running various open weekends and steam galas during the early 1970s, with the permission of British Railways, the NYMRPS modified itself into a charitable trust to secure the future of the railway, and later became The North York Moors Historical Railway Trust in 1972. Volunteers grew from just one person in 1972 to more than 550.

The acquisition 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 most of the traction provided by the North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group.

One of the first services to Whitby was in 1987 when 92220 Evening Star worked a service between Pickering and Whitby.

Since then, services ran intermittently with third party operators, including the West Coast Railway Company in the early 2000s, as the NYMR was not a licensed company authorised to operate over Network Rail metals.

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Trains were operated regularly over the Esk Valley Line from Grosmont to Whitby from 2007 and provided a service over the entire length of the original Whitby and Pickering Railway.

The Visitor Centre on platform two of Pickering Station officially opened in October 2010.

Services were further improved in 2014 by the re-opening of a second platform at Whitby to enable services to increase. Following a year of operation, it was announced that 120,000 people had travelled over the new operating section to Whitby and that overall in 2014, the railway had attracted nearly 350,000 visitors.

The preserved line is now a tourist attraction and has received numerous tourist industry and heritage awards.

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The NYMR received one half of a planned £9.2 million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2017 and the balance was paid and used towards the renewal of iron bridges at Goathland railway station in May 2019 and a new carriage shed at Pickering.

In February 2021, a report stated that the railway had received a £1.9 million grant from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund.

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