North Yorkshire Moors Railway is Whitby bound from Pickering with its new service ‘The Optimist’ – Review

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All aboard for a family day out as Yorkshire Families hopped on a steam train on Yorkshire’s famous railway transporting us from Pickering ‘the gateway to North Yorks Moors’ to Whitby. 

North Yorkshire Moors Railway has now opened up bookings for a newly named service that will enable passengers to journey all the way along the 24-mile heritage line, directly to Whitby and they invited our family to review the experience. 

The newly named ‘The Optimist’ train was waiting for us at the station on arrival from a car journey from Wakefield to Pickering (You can find Pickering between the four major Yorkshire towns of Scarborough, Whitby, Helmsley and Malton). 

Despite a challenging car journey with the kids, as soon as we arrived we were immersed into the historic feel of North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) as staff and volunteers kindly ushered us over the old bridge and directed us to our seats. 

We’d been on a few smaller steam trains and loved Kirklees Light Railway last Summer but we’d never been on a life size steam train steeped in history like this one. 

It was great to see people of all ages enjoy the experience, some were child-free and others like us had two little ones (aged 5 and 8).  

We played the “ultimate game of eye spy” as the train passed through the stunning North Yorkshire Moors as we headed for the seaside.

They say life is about the journey not the destination and that’s very true with NYMR.  

We would have happily spent the day on the train watching the Yorkshire moors whizz by and hearing the sound of the steam train chug through the countryside. So it’s a bonus that this 1hour 45 minute journey was taking us to one of my favourite places for a staycation… Whitby. 

As we got off the train, social distancing measures and masks in place, we were at the train station which is right in the heart of the seaside town also steeped in history.

We had around three hours to explore Whitby which has a plethora of options from climbing (and counting the steps) up to Whitby Abbey, heading to the beach, shopping, going for food and drink or setting sail on one of the ships.  

As the small town centre was swarmed with people on a pleasant Bank Holiday Weekend, we opted to feed the kids first before they got too ratty. 

So we escaped the hustle and bustle of the small cobbled streets and had an Italian meal. Normally we would have had a picnic on the beach and played with the kids or if it had just been us adults we would have climbed the steps up to the abbey. But as there were so many people everywhere we opted for sustenance first in a quiet restaurant. 

Following a freshly cooked Italian meal (we did want Fish and Chips but my eldest daughter has expensive taste and demanded Cannelloni for lunch!). 

We then went to one of the old sweet and rock shops to purchase some dessert and by the time we had been in a couple of shops, as everything is obviously slower these days, it was time to head back on board the train. 

Our journey home and the verdict: 

We got chatting to a couple on the way back who had spent their wedding day (which had been postponed) on the train. They had travelled up north especially for this trip and what a lovely way to mark a special occasion. 

It’s a brilliant way to spend a day out with the family and once you’ve parked up in the railway’s car park it is a fuss-free memorable day out without lots of walking for the kids either or the hassle of parking in Whitby itself. 

What’s more is the railway and train is just fantastic. It’s great in terms of educational purposes but also fun for all the whole family, young and old. 

I would happily return again without the kids as this experience suits all ages. NYMR is also a not-for-profit charitable organisation too so not only are you all learning about the past but buy purchasing a ticket you are helping to preserve one of the world’s greatest railways.

More about North Yorkshire Moors Railway and The Optimist service:  

Visit the popular attraction now to try out ‘The Optimist’ a non-stop journey from Pickering to Whitby*, with ample time to explore the historic seaside town, before embarking on the journey back to Pickering station.

Chris Price General Manager said “Our initial plan was to get the railway operational and we now feel that we can progress to phase two of our plans with our newly named service; ‘The Optimist’. Easing of social distancing and our enhanced cleaning measures have allowed us to create this new journey to allow our passengers to once again travel the full length of the line and explore the town that’s famed for its prominence in Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Whitby.”

To ensure social distancing measures continue to be adhered to for guests, tickets must be pre-booked online before visiting. A return journey costs £35 for an adult, £70 for a duo ticket for two seated at a table, £72 for a family of four at a table, or a compartment for up to six people is £150. Dogs are also welcome for £3, carers go free with a paying blue badge holder, and NYMR members get 50% off the advertised ticket price.

For more information or to book tickets visit

*Trains will depart Pickering at 09:20, 12:00, and arrive at Whitby at 11:10 and 13:45. Departures from Whitby will be at 14:00 and 16:30 with arrival at Pickering at 15:40 and 18:05 each day.

Travel on our new service ‘The Optimist’ and enjoy the seaside town of Whitby!

Starting from Monday 17th August to Sunday 27th September. 

‘The Optimist’ services are pre-booked, steam-hauled, with limited capacity. Services will depart from Pickering and will travel directly to Whitby where you will be able to disembark and enjoy 2.45 hours exploring the Yorkshire Seaside Town before returning back to Pickering. 

Tickets will be released in two-week blocks, as we closely monitor the situation. ‘The Optimist’ does not stop at any intermediate stations – Levisham, Goathland & Grosmont. Currently we are unable to offer any other journeys. Passengers can book either a private compartment (max 6) or travel in a standard TSO Carriage (min 1/max 4) with social distancing measures in place. Passengers include children from 1 years old. 

Service 1: Departs Pickering at 09:20 and returns from Whitby at 14:00, allowing approx 3 hours in Whitby.

Service 2: Departs Pickering at 12:00 and returns from Whitby at 16:30, allow approx 2 hours 45 mins in Whitby. 

NYMR History 

Railway Conservation. Run by Volunteers. Not for profit.

In June 1967 a small group of local people formed the North Yorkshire Moors Railway Preservation Society. Its members were convinced that operating the line between Grosmont and Pickering could be viable if sufficient voluntary help was forthcoming. From one person in 1972 the numbers have grown with over 550 volunteers.

Today the North York Moors Historical Railway Trust is a not-for profit charitable organisation run as part of the local community. Day to day operation is carried out by volunteers with railway operations and business experience. With a core team of paid staff together with approximately 100 full time staff and 50 seasonal staff staff, the charity operates the train services and works steadily to improve the quality of the infrastructure, the railway vehicles and experience to our visitors travelling on the railway.

Every visitor that travels on the railway helps preserve one of the world’s greatest railway experiences. The railway operates with the support and commitment of over 550 volunteers.

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