NYMR Pickering to Whitby Seaside Special – Review
By Matt Callard
Such is the pleasure of this sedate, steam-powered way of travelling, where the joy is in the journey and not necessarily the destination, our 20 minutes sat stationary in Goathland station – the setting for that Harry Potter scene – wasn’t so much a frustrating inconvenience, but a memorable treat for me and my five companions. Course, my seven year-old made me Google it for proof, but there it was and there we were, sat just metres from where Harry, Hermione and Ron took a ride in the final scene of The Philosopher’s Stone. Heck, we even got to disembark and mill around the old station for a bit.
It helped that we had our own six-seater compartment – and what a treat it was to travel like this, in full, indulgent Orient Express style. Yes, you can go cheaper and join in with the more convivial formalities of back-to-back rail travel – and I realise for some, that’s the whole point of a steam journey – but for this non-aficionado, with my partner, three kids and a granny in tow, what a simple joy it was to sit in our carriage, no fear of a three-year old annoying a man with a map, or a seven-year old with ants in his pants irritating anyone within shouting distance.
No, in our own private compartment we really did have the rare privelege of switching off and relaxing. And what a way to do it, as a gorgeous claret and black steam train rattled through the prettier parts of the North Yorkshire countryside, heading from pretty Pickering to wonderful Whitby.
As a family, I’ve experienced the not-so-pleasant trials and tribulations of regular rail travel, so must admit to being somewhat apprehensive at what the 12pm Seaside Special would bring. I needn’t have worried – from the moment we parked in the convenient (and cheap) car park adjacent to Pickering station and made the small foot journey to the platform, the adventure was every bit as magical as you could hope. Even the immaculately black-clad uniformed guards (volunteers, all of them) played their parts with a smile for the kids and a spot of advice for us grown-ups as we waited with baited breath for the big arrival.
“Kids were in awe”
And what an arrival the train is, as the steam, noise and visual beauty combine into an entrance like no other. The kids were in awe – and frankly, so were the adults. Steam lovers and trainspotters lined the bridge and snapped away as our transport rolled into view.
Everyone was excited as we stepped on board, located our compartment and settled into our carriage. We couldn’t help but feel spoiled as the metal machine gently chugged away from Pickering. We knew we had a couple of hours of travel ahead of us, but once the glorious countryside started unfolding out the window and the kids eased into their seats, time really didn’t matter. For once, we were fully relaxed and everyone genuinely was thrilled.
A trip to the on-board kiosk allowed me to go into full on Murder on the Orient Express mode as I swayed through the carriages looking for suspects. Delightfully and authentically, the kiosk – manned again by another of those brilliant volunteers – only accepted cash. So remember this, those that eschew notes for cards (the rude bloke who grumbled to the volunteer about not carrying cash anymore was, I think, missing the point of the whole experience. I hope he didn’t die of thirst before we got to Whitby).
The arrival in Whitby came a little late, but it hardly mattered. The grand old abbey looked as magnificent as ever on the cliff. The station is a very short walk from the new town. It took the six of us about 25 minutes to reach the beach, which had plenty of room despite it being a fine day. Remember, you only get 3-4 hours in Whitby before catching the 5:10pm return train to Pickering and time really does fly. A spot of sea paddling, some fish and chips and a ice cream and a dive into the amusements and time was pretty much up.
It was a different atmosphere on the journey home. Quieter, the kids less boistrous, the sinking sun glinting into our compartment – but we were all still thrilled to be traveling home in such style. It won’t be long before we do it all again.
Prices start from £20.50 for children and £41 for adults and £84 for a family for full line return tickets, with reserved seats, on the ‘Seaside Special’ from Pickering or ‘Yorkshire Express’ from Whitby. Shorter journeys are also available to buy on the day from the booking offices.
For more info visit: nymr.co.uk