THE historic Whitby to Pickering railway line is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year.
The big celebration to mark the anniversary is a 10 day spring gala extravaganza from 29 April to 8 May, with replicas of some of the oldest engines, including Stephenson’s Rocket and Planet, running up and down within the stations and a range of larger engines, including Tornado and George Stephenson, travelling the length of the railway. Philip Benham, general manager of the railway, has many fond memories, but one of his proudest is being able to run a train from Whitby on the 40th anniversary of the railway’s closure on 5 March 2005.
This was a precursor to enabling the line to run trains to Whitby in 2007.
Mr Benham said: “I’m very proud of that and of our dedicated band of staff and volunteers who have pride in their work and a real commitment to the railway.”
The Whitby and Pickering Railway, one of the earliest railways in Yorkshire, was the work of engineer George Stephenson. It opened in 1836 and was absorbed into the York and North Midland Railway in 1845, when it was rebuilt as a doubletracked steam railway.
In 1948, all the major railway companies in Great Britain were nationalised forming British Railways, and the Whitby-Pickering Railway remained a busy and wellused line until its closure in 1965.
That marked the end of its role as a link in the public rail network, but the beginning of its new life.
A Light Railway Draft Order was granted in 1971, and the NYMR became a charitable trust, the North Yorkshire Railway Historical Trust, which succeeded in reopening the line as the North Yorkshire Moors Railway in 1973.
Since then it has become the largest steam heritage railway in the world, and last year carried 360,000 passengers.
This year, the railway comes full circle, with a replica of the roof that originally capped Pickering Station in 1847 – removed in 1952 – being put back in place by Easter.
This is the final phase of a three stage project which brings the past, present and future of the railway together, with the opening of an education and visitor centre and new archives.
Mr Benham said: “The roof going back on is an important part of our 175th anniversary.”