A ten day festival is starting on Friday to celebrate for 40th anniversary of one of the region’s most iconic railways.
Tomorrow sees a special anniversary day at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway preceding the festival to mark four decades of steam powered heritage.
On Wednesday, May 1, it was exactly 40 years to the day since the Duchess of Kent officially opened the heritage railway line.
To mark the occasion a special train made the run from Whitby to Pickering where it joined by one of the original train drivers, Chris Cubitt.
Mr Cubitt, who remains an active volunteer and is vice chairman of the North York Moors Historical Railway Trust, said: “The 40th Anniversary day and festival that will follow is a great chance to celebrate everything that has helped the railway develop, during our first 40 years.”
The 10 day festival, which starts tomorrow and runs until Sunday, May 12, will focus on the locomotives that have contributed to the history of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.
The home-based fleet will be led by the Pacific “Sir Nigel Gresley” 60007, the fastest steam locomotive since World War II, and the only other surviving B1 locomotive of the 407 that were originally built.
Philip Benham, the railway’s general manager said: “We believe this is the first time both surviving B1 locos have appeared together on a heritage railway.
“These were the very last class of steam locomotive to work the line for British Railways prior to closure in 1965, so should be an exciting spectacle to see.”
The Festival will also feature three LMS Black 5s and the North Eastern Railway Saloon coach that featured as the “Old Gentleman’s Coach” from the 1970 film The Railway Children.
Demonstration freight trains will run on various days throughout the event and there will be a chance to travel in style through the heart of the North York Moors including historic pre-war teak carriages, or passengers can upgrade to First Class Travel and enjoy the luxury of recently refurbished compartment seats.
There will be a special Pie and Peas supper on the Esk Valley route from Grosmont to Battersby on Monday May 6, at 7.50pm and the Scarborough & District Railway Modellers will hold a model railway exhibition in the learning centre on Platform 2 on May 11 and 12.
The anniversary celebrations are bringing back to life memories from the railway’s heyday.
Speaking about when the heritage line was extended from Grosmont to Whitby, 33 years after it was opened to the public, Mr Cubitt said: “Previous to that we went from Pickering to Grosmont. We were turfing thousands of passengers a day into a little village in the middle of nowhere.
“Now we go from Pickering to Whitby, so there’s a destination at both ends.
“But we are the only heritage railway in the country that runs on the national network, so we had to prove to Network Rail that we are capable of doing it.”
Since 1973, and accelerated by the extension into Whitby, the railway has continued to grow. From one paid employee in 1972, there are now around 135 staff at the height of summer, supported by hundreds of volunteers.
However, among the extended staff and almost 400,000 passengers each year, a dedicated group of steam enthusiasts retain that sense of a tight-knit community.