North Yorkshire Moors Railway: 'there truly is light at the end of the tunnel'

As the 2021 season at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway draws to a close, it’s time to look back and reflect on a challenging but rewarding 12 months.

The illuminated train journeys were a highlight of the North York Moors Railway's 2021 season. picture: Robert Townsend.
The illuminated train journeys were a highlight of the North York Moors Railway's 2021 season. picture: Robert Townsend.

Like many other heritage railways across the country, we’ve faced plenty of obstacles and hurdles to overcome - but the good news is that we’ve come out of the other side.

Covid has, of course, been the biggest challenge to the railway - not least causing us to close for months on end, heavily affecting our revenue and putting us back in terms of vital maintenance and restoration work.

Our workforce has been fantastic (it has been exhausting!) and we’ve been helped massively by a Culture Recovery Fund Grant as well as our own crisis appeal which helped raise more than £500,000.

Throw into the mix a landslip at Beck Hole earlier in the year, and we really have had our work cut out at times.

Another lesser challenge has been how to invest in technology without dramatically impacting the heritage element of the railway - we’ve introduced initiatives such as our fuss-free coaches and the introduction of Geographic Information System software, which will map the line and build up our knowledge in layers digitally.

So enough of the challenges; what of the highlights?

Well, happily, there have been plenty, not least the opening of our £4m carriage stable at Pickering, just one of six projects within our £10m Yorkshire’s Magnificent Journey project, which is designed to transform the railway and secure its future, is funded by grants from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Local Enterprise Partnership and by donations from the charity’s members and supporters.

Yorkshire’s Magnificent Journey also includes ongoing lineside and heritage conservation work which has continued throughout 2021; we’ve redeveloped the old school at Stape with a new role as ‘The Outstation’, the railway’s new 22-bed Volunteer Development Hub and outreach centre; work has continued on the new education coach at Goathland; we’ve converted four carriages to provide fuss-free access coaches, with tailored seating for wheelchair users and accessible toilets on every train.

In January 2022, the Yorkshire’s Magnificent Journey funding will also enable the renewal and reconstruction of bridges 24 and 25 at Goathland Station – crucial to the railway’s ongoing operation.

We still need a further £300,000 to complete this bridge work; donations to make this happen are welcome - click here.

There has been plenty for visitors to see at the railway this year too, not least two Hollywood films being made, the return of our popular annual Steam Gala and Santa Specials, as well as the hugely successful Light Spectacular in October half-term.

Another great highlight of 2021 has been our Love Your Railway campaign; spearheaded by the railway, we brought together over 50 other heritage railways from across the UK to shine a light on the great work that’s being done, along with the challenges we all face to preserve our heritage for future generations.

The response was phenomenal, and we’re already planning Love Your Railway in 2022.

We’re incredibly positive about the next 12 months, there truly is light at the end of the tunnel, but we’d be nothing without the help and support of our volunteers, visitors and, of course, our amazing team.