Machinery and scenery on Yorkshire’s heritage steam railways

From Britain’s busiest regional mainline station to steam-hauled historic rural railway lines, Yorkshire is a living railway museum.

And with the stage version of The Railway Children opening in London this summer after two sell-out summer seasons at the National Railway Museum in York, it’s definitely time to take another look at Yorkshire’s rail heritage.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the much loved classic film, starring Jenny Agutter and Bernard Cribbins and shot in what railway enthusiast, travel writer and broadcaster Simon Calder has nicknamed ‘Yollywood’.

Hundreds of volunteer railway enthusiasts have helped to maintain the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, making it an ideal location for film-makers. But it’s more than just a resource for innumerable TV and movie scenes.

Just an hour away by rail from Leeds – Britain’s busiest station outside London – Keighley is a working railway station, and as well as offering a great family day out for any visitor, the KWVR still provides a handy public transport link for local people.
The line meanders deep into a valley where age-old drystone walls enclose lush pastures, dotted with postcard-pretty stations like Oakworth – decorated with memorabilia of the golden age of steam – and Haworth, home of the Bronte Parsonage Museum, before reaching its northern terminus at Oxenhope.

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is another heritage line that will seem immediately familiar to any visitor who has watched Heartbeat or the Harry Potter films – Goathland, its most picturesque location, features in both.
The NYMR is the world’s most popular heritage steam railway, attracting some 350,000 people every year and pumping an amazing £30 million annually into the local economy. Its single track provide a lifeline across one of the most remote and magical parts of England, with sturdy carriages dating from the 1960s hauled by a locomotive that represents the highest point of the steam age.
Named after her designer, Sir Nigel Gresley, in her day she was the fastest thing on rails, setting a record of 112 mph on the East Coast main line between Edinburgh and London in 1959. Celebrating her 73rd birthday in 2010, locomotive 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley, in gleaming royal-blue livery, is still an amazing piece of wondrous machinery.
The scenery of the former Whitby, Pickering and Malton Railway ranges from deep, wooded vales to lonely moors, making this perhaps England’s most spectacular heritage line.

Meanwhile, in York, there’s another anniversary this year at the National Railway Museum, home of the Evening Star – the last steam locomotive built for British Rail, which rolled out of BR’s Swindon works in 1960.
Half a century on, the Evening Star has pride of place in a collection that enchants visitors young and old, preserving the history of train travel from the earliest days of steam to its golden age. It’s a place of wonder and delight that brings out the Railway Child in everyone.

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