Back in May and June of this year, we watched a wonderfully engaging Channel 5 documentary series entitled The North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR). If we hadn’t already, coincidentally, booked a holiday which would include a trip on this very railway, then we may well have been persuaded to do so.
According to what we had seen, Pickering station would remind us of the golden age of the steam railway. Tiled walls, original signage and staff (many are volunteers nowadays) in traditional uniforms would add to the nostalgia.
We were holidaying for the first time on an escorted tour. Boarding the train at Whitby we enjoyed the scenery of the North Yorkshire Moors past rolling hills, small becks and a variety of wildlife including numerous pheasants as our train chugged through the countryside. The itinerary had promised us free time at Pickering. It would be our choice whether to use it to explore the 1930’s themed station and memorabilia, enjoy a coffee in the station cafe and take advantage of the great photo opportunities (essentials of the NYMR experience so far as we were concerned), or to visit the town described by the travel company as ‘delightful and traditional’. Sadly it didn’t work out as we’d hoped. As it was, we were herded off the train by the tour manager straight out into the street to get back on the coach. I managed just the one shot of the engine above as we rushed past. I have no doubt that the NYMR provides the ‘safe harbour for tradition’ of my post title but we got to see very little of it which was a shame, not only for us, but for the railway which relies heavily on its visitors spending money at the station, as we would surely have done.
It wasn’t the first time we’d missed out. Earlier in the day our coach had stopped in Goathland (mentioned in my previous post) and we were expecting to walk from the coach park to Goathland Station, enjoy the tea room (a conversion of the 1922 goods shed), and take our own versions of some of the stunning photos we’d seen online. However, the time given in Goathland was insufficient to walk down the valley to the station and get back before departure time. We had to settle for a brief, distant glimpse of the station from the coach as we left the village.
We hoped that the following day’s visit to the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Railway would go some way to recompensing us for the previous day’s disappointment. Hope, however, proved to be forlorn. We arrived at Embsay station where we were greeted with surprise. We heard mutterings of being ‘double booked’ which meant hastily attaching an extra carriage to the train….clearly not one they had planned to use since the windows were so dirty that any view we could have seen was partly obscured. We boarded the freezing cold carriage and waited…and waited….and waited for forty minutes! Had we been made aware that the wait would be this long we could at least have spent the time in the cafe.
On arrival in Bolton Abbey we were once again hurried back onto the coach with no opportunity to peruse our surroundings. Here too we had been promised free time but it did not materialise. Initially the itinerary had included a trip on the Keighly and Worth Valley Railway but it had been undergoing maintenance. We understood this and accepted that it wasn’t the fault of the tour company, but that trip had included an ‘on-train tour guide and a chance to visit the Vintage Carriage Museum and goods shed in Oxenhope’. No alternative activities had been provided when they’d changed to the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Railway. You can probably imaging that by now I was letting the tour manager know just how dissatisfied I was. We were greatly looking forward to spending some time at the stations. In fact, we spent NONE – no time whatsoever, which denied us a major attraction of the holiday.
It’s not that we are great steam train afficondos, but we do like something a little different. I love 20th Century social history and had really looked forward to this holiday and absorbing the past by means of the restored stations. My husband is a keen photographer and had hoped to find shots which he could use in some of the many competitions run at the photography club of which he is a member.
This 5 day holiday was called ‘Yorkshire by Steam’. What a misdescription. The fact that it consisted on just two hours steam travel and that the holiday company had completely ignored the fact that there is more to a steam train experience than just the train journey, has formed the basis of a very comprehensive complaint letter to the company. I also pointed out that on one day we had been so vigorously herded and hurried through the ‘tick boxes’ (done this, done that) that we had been left for FIVE hours without access to a drink! I await their response.