We set off in three groups, depending on where we lived (on the Gloucester-Birmingham axis essentially). This meant separate ticketing, and different travel arrangements, so that, surprisingly, we did not end up on the same train after Birmingham, except for the last stretch into Whitby.
Yours truly was with Robert and Peter on a cross country train to Darlington. We had a 5 minute changeover there for a train to Middlesborough, from where our tickets took us on a third train down the Esk valley line to Whitby.
Now some blog readers earlier doubted the feasibility of a 5 minute changeover at Darlington. These doubts, it soon appeared, were well grounded as our train was held for 2 vital minutes outside Doncaster. As we neared Darlington and stood in the doorway armed and ready for our cross platform dash, Robert began to lower our chances of catching the Middlesborough train from a still hopeful '40 per cent chance' to a somewhat resigned '20 per cent chance' when a fellow traveller, armed with a Northern Rail app, helpfully announced that it had just left.
We pulled into Darlington...
After 20 minutes another Northern rail train to Middlesborough duly appeared, but a hasty calculation revealed that it would arrive there too late to catch the Whitby train. We boarded the Sprinter, a DMU with bus seats that was rather better than often described in the press. We bowled along merrily, passing a famous swing bridge and another with a traverser under it.
Our plan B at Middlesborough, after a failed 5 minute connection at Darlington, was (don't say it too loudly) to catch a bus to Whitby. A bus!
Yes, here are two PWay gang members, now in civvies, about to board a double decker to conclude our railway trip to Whitby by road.
This after a breathless dash across town, as the bus terminal was nowhere near the railway station, but a good 15 minute gallop along the streets with little or no signposting from one to the other. Fortunately Robert had done his homework, but what would Joe Ordinary Public have done?
And so it was that group one, ex Birmingham new street railway station, arrived at Whitby station - by road. Our first glimpse of it therefore was from the outside.
We allowed ourselves a victorious chuckle though, as although group 2 travelling via York had indeed caught their Esk valley line train, we beat them to Whitby by 5 minutes with our double decker bus. Hah !
Whitby is a pretty town, and we even had 5 minutes to look into the harbour before making for the station to greet the others arriving from Middlesborough by train.
|Group 2 arrive by rail in a Sprinter
|Been here for hours....
Group 3 consisted of Dave P, travelling solo, who had decided to attack the NYMR from the rear, arriving in a surprise move at Pickering instead. He then took a NYMR train north, and we met at Grosmont.
The loco crew were cheerful and competent, as we tackled the climb steadily, with just a brief slip as we pulled away, uphill round a curve, from a slack inconveniently situated at the bottom of the steepest part.
John M had got us a great deal in a local pub with dinner, bed and breakfast for all 11 of us. We stayed at the Black Swan, a 1740 coaching inn with its own micro brewery. This pleased several of us, and we felt it downright impolite not to sample the local brew extensively.
There was even time for a quick video of 1264's departure and on to the main running line through the tunnel.
|Better than anything you lot have down south...
Black 5 Eric Treacy was near the end of the production line on a 7 year boiler service, already equipped with a fabulous black paint scheme. Look at the depth of that shine!
The GWSR group were somewhat taken aback by some claims of the Northern Powerhouse...
''LNER engines are twice as strong and twice as fast as GWR ones''
''Gad Sir, surely not?''
The decor was very unusual for us, with our unrelenting diet of Mk1s. Despite the third class there was a certain opulence about it, with thickly chromed fittings, mirrors, Rexine surfaces and these superb bucket seats. The ride seemed slightly harsher than a Mk1, and the track ranged from distinctly bumpy with dipped joints to perfectly smooth on recently relaid and completely new sections of track. The NYMR's heavy track investment programme is well known to PWay people, especially its use of large capacity bogie Seacow hoppers brought in via the railway's main line connection.
Safely back at Pickering and finding our rail link to Malton dismantled since 1966, we opted to take a bus connection from Eastgate. Here our group's travel plans split again. Having booked separately, the routes taken were once more completely different. Both groups took the bus to Malton, where Peter, Robert and yours truly got off while the rest carried on to York to head south.
Our little group of 3 was once again reduced to fretfully consulting our watches, as we had a train to catch at Malton! Although it only started 4 miles away, the bus failed to arrive on time. We waited and waited were on the point of abandoning everything, racing back to the station and taking an expensive taxi when the bus finally appeared - preceded by a horse and cart!
We made Malton on time, to find a train (that was supposed to stop only briefly) terminated at the station.
You could also work out from this board, knowing there was but a single line, that our train heading west was going to interfere with the 16.08 heading east, even if it did arrive at 16.21 as 'expected'.
It turned out that the correct timing on the board was 16.11, and our train left on time. What an introduction to train travel in the UK....
Our dastardly plan was to change at York, not to head south directly to Birmingham, but further west over the Pennines to Manchester. This roundabout saved £20 on the cost of the ticket, and was worth the extra adventure. We needed to change to a Manchester Piccadilly train at York, whereas ours from Malton also headed to Manchester, but to its Victoria station on the other side of town.
We were on time, but would our Piccadilly train be on time at York? If not, we would fail to connect with our Birmingham train at Piccadilly. This did not make for a relaxing journey. We asked the train manager for news of the Piccadilly train, but as it did not show up on his online directory he had to confess that it might have been cancelled. Via text messages with group 2 already at York by bus, we learned that our connection did exist, but was increasingly late.
|An anxious John M tries to read a destination board at York from a moving train
At this point a helpful, experienced Manchester commuter overheard our worried discussions and gave us her advice. Catch an airport train at Victoria (which stops at Piccadilly) or if there is none on time, take the tram across town. She would show us how. And she did too!
Airport trains there were none of use to us, so it was the tram outside the station. We galloped across the tracks, to find that the next one on the branch to Ashton under Lyne would be too late to help us. As we stood dejected, another tram rolled in with a PICCADILLY destination blind. Really??? Yessss! We clambered on board to immense relief, and made our Cross Country train back to Birmingham, perfectly on time.
What an adventure. Shall we try another trip next year? Yes, but will our nerves survive the experience? Rail travel in the UK is for the experienced, not for the faint hearted.