North Yorkshire Moors Railway began its new Northern Lights Express service at the weekend. Our Rural Community Reporter, Louise Perrin, went along for the ride.
The bitterly cold November evening of our visit suited NYMR's latest offering perfectly, and passengers were certainly pleased to discover that hot drinks were available on board.
The light switch-on for the inaugural service transformed the train from standard locomotive to spectacular Christmas experience.
As we entered the carriage at Pickering station we were greeted with the Carol of the Bells, the traditional dramatic music a fitting accompaniment to the frisson of excitement that was in the air.
We began our journey to Levisham with the customary steam whistle before we began to wend our way across the North Yorkshire Moors.
The train projects an array of lights on to the surrounding countryside, giving an ever-changing display which drew ooh’s and aah’s from those on board.
We travelled as a family group of five, a grandmother, a couple in their late 40s and two teenagers, all of whom enjoyed the trip.
By far the best part of the journey is the magical secrets hidden along the way, gnome villages and illuminated deer gradually emerge from the darkness, drawing cries of “Look!” and “Over there!” from the passengers.
As we pulled into Levisham, we could barely believe it as it began to snow, the timing seemed too perfect (in truth it was… NYMR have ensured that each passenger will see at least some snow, even if they do have to make it themselves!)
At Levisham we were entertained with music and lights, giving the driver time to manoeuvre the engine to the front of the train for the return journey.
I asked my daughter Lamorna, 17, what she thought of the trip: “It’s pretty cool! Especially the fact that with Richard, they’ve accommodated his needs.” My son, Richard, has special needs, and staff quickly adapted, turning down the music and checking everything was okay. They even made his cup of tea in his own special cup! Frankly, they were brilliant!
William, 5, and Laurence, 9, from Hull, travelled with their grandparents. William, a young man who clearly knew his own mind, refused to say the journey was magical “because magic doesn’t exist!”. Laurence, however, contradicted him and said “It’s lovely, really magical, and the snow was quite realistic!”
Nikki Turner-Chaplin, who runs the Yorkshire Wonders blog site which concentrates on family days out in Yorkshire, said: “It’s exciting, enchanting and magical, definitely for older children as the younger ones may not be as entertained. We’re very lucky to have such a marvellous attraction on our doorstep.”
The Northern Lights Express is a whistle-stop tour through a kaleidoscope of colour. Remaining services will operate on December 7, 8, 12*, 13*, 14, 15, 19*, 20*, 21, 22 & 23* departing at 7pm.
*Two evening services will take place on highlighted dates departing at 5pm and 7pm.
For ticket prices and details visit nymr.co.uk