Whitby to Pickering – Strangers on a Steam Train
It’s cold. It’s gray. It’s raining. I dawdle.
“Don’t dawdle,” I hear.
The train doesn’t leave till 9:45. The station is less than five minutes away. My dawdling continues. I think I picked a very bad day for this adventure. We bought the tickets for the round trip steam train to Pickering in Saturday’s sunshine. I should have checked Weather Bug. Michael reminds me that the train leaves at 9:30—not 9:45. I hurry.
The train is mostly empty, and because I dawdled, we are among the last to board. It is the last day of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) Annual Steam Gala, with eleven different locomotives in steam chugging their way from Whitby to Pickering and back. We are instructed to change trains in Grosmont—perhaps twenty minutes away—in order to proceed to Pickering. There are a lot of steam engine fans, lining the rails and hills and bridges along the way, cameras at the ready.
I snap my own photos from the comfort of the railway carriage. Michael suggests I use his camera which can be held on high in the tiny opening above, missing the rain spattered windows. But I like the amorphous water droplets that cling to the glass. They tell the story of what is.
In Grosmont there is an air of excitement as the passengers disembark, finding their way to the appropriate track to continue their journey. Cameras click and click and click.
In Pickering we stay on the same train but need to change cars to one of the first three. We shift from a carriage with two seats and a table to a semi-private enclosed carriage with two long upholstered seats facing each other.
Our carriage mates are a single man, who remains silent almost the entire trip, and a lovely woman and her well behaved, but very frightened thirteen year old dog. We pass the time, before our scheduled departure at Goathland, chatting about pets and kids and trains and England and the States and taking for granted the things closest to where we live.
The nameless woman (I can’t help but think of Strangers on a Train) tells us she and her husband never walked among the moors till the week before they moved away from Yorkshire—too busy just living their lives—totally immersed in the dailiness of it all. I think, unfortunately, we are all a bit guilty of that.
Departing our train at Goathland we search for the promised Beer Festival which is supposed to offer a wide selection of real ales from local breweries. I imagine the lively and rowdy Wurstfest celebration at home. We find the festival at the back of the crowded tea room where a group of volunteers pull draft beers from beautiful spigots. Michael is in charge of the brew selection while I stand in line for a snack to accompany our tepid beer—savory fillings encased in a puff pastry crust. I choose a sausage roll and some type of cheese and onion tart—my favorite.
With almost two hours before the train to Whitby is due to depart, we decide to explore the tiny Goathland hamlet. Unbeknownst to us before today, Goathland is famous, especially the train station which was featured in the first Harry Potter movie. The tiny village was portrayed as Hogsmeade, Harry’s home. It is also the location of Aidensfield in a popular British TV series.
Of course the walk to get there is up a steep hill. I would prefer the road which seems safer than the slippery stones winding to the top that are embedded in the wet grass, but I follow both Michael and the crowd. We Walk. We shop. We stop in a warm pub and drink hot cappuccino. Our adventure is proving to be a wet but fun experience, and I’m glad I didn’t check Weather Bug. If I had, I might not have handed over my credit card quite so willingly on that very sunny Saturday.
Arriving home with almost two hours to spare before we try Indian food in Whitby, I head for the computer while Michael opts for the couch and a nap.