The North Yorkshire Moors Railway hosted the biggest and best attended ‘Railway at War event’ yet, following the 3 day event which took place last Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The event, now in its 17th year, attracted an estimated 15,000 visitors to the North York Moors area, with more than 8,000 travelling by steam train between Pickering, Levisham, Goathland, Grosmont and Whitby. Visitors came from all across the UK, with interest also being shown this year from Norway, Holland and Germany.
For the weekend the clocks are turned back to 1943 and the Home Front, to give a poignant reminder of what life was like during those dark days, including for thousands of railwaymen and women. Hundreds of visitors can be seen in civilian and military clothing from the period and at Pickering, a large parade through the town brings the event into sharper focus.
Re-enactment groups with their vehicles and equipment help to bring to life a number of scenarios along the Railway, including fire-fighting during the blitz, dealing with an air raid, and keeping the Home Guard on their toes. ENSA entertainers help to boost morale whilst wreath-laying ceremonies at Pickering and Grosmont help to underpin a serious message.
NYMR General Manager, Philip Benham, said: “This has to be one of the best events of the year for local tourism. It is about nostalgia, and we can all be proud of the crowds, the spectacle, the atmosphere and general goodwill. The growing interest year on year in this weekend is amazing. This year was particularly special as we remember the outbreak of war 70 years ago. There is a serious message throughout the event, and we are particularly keen to remember the sacrifices made by the many thousands of railwaymen and women who served on the Home Front. But people also come for an experience, and to have fun – we can certainly deliver that. The historic railway, period stations and timeless countryside all play their part. I would also like to pay tribute to our volunteers and staff without whose hard work over many weeks in planning and preparation, the event would not be possible.”
The event also helps to swell the coffers of not just the Railway, but also many local traders and businesses. The Railway enjoyed record takings at the booking office in Pickering and an overall increase in income across the Railway compared to pervious years.
As Philip Benham says, “Everyone benefits – the Railway, the shops, accommodation providers, local charities and other attractions. It is good for the whole region. But we need to keep a careful eye on managing that growth. The demand for this event is such that we are contemplating making this a 4 day in the future, But for this to happen, we really do need to have talks with the wider community, whose help would be essential, and of course with our own loyal army of volunteers and staff who already give so much.”
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