A much-loved Yorkshire tourist attraction, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, is seeking to raise £2.5 million in a public appeal to help secure matching Heritage Lottery funds. The appeal is focused on a set of projects that are key to the Railway’s long-term survival

In March 2018 'The Yorkshire Steam Railway: All Aboard', a three-part documentary series aired on Channel 5, which took viewers behind the scenes of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and introduced some of the Railway’s key characters, such as Paul Middleton aka Piglet, Head of Traction and Rolling Stock and Kieran Murray, who reports to Piglet and ensures the Railway’s carriages and wagons are in top-notch condition.

Late last year the Railway launched a public appeal to raise £2.5 million, which was named ‘Yorkshire’s Magnificent Journey Appeal’. Both Piglet and Kieran have a vested interest in ensuring that the Appeal is a major success as their department will potentially gain a carriage stable to house the Railway’s historic vehicles and ‘Fuss-Free Access’ coaches for the elderly, disabled and families with pushchairs.

 

Paul Middleton explains the challenges facing his department.

“The Railway’s Carriage & Wagon department does a fantastic job in maintaining the fleet up to the highest main line standards, but their efforts are hampered by the fact that the stock lives out in the open, exposed to everything the Yorkshire climate can throw at it, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Rot and corrosion are one of the biggest issues faced by the fleet. We must stay on top of their maintenance, as there are no new carriages from the same era to replace them.

The solution lies at Pickering on a site on the west side of the line, just short of New Bridge and opposite the old overflow car park. There it is planned to build a four-road single-storey carriage shed running parallel to the railway, with a cantilever roof stretching out over an existing siding to provide a fifth road. Nearly all the Railway’s fleet of carriages will be kept under cover here, as well as other carriages awaiting restoration.

Kieran Murray, Carriage & Wagon Manager said:

The deterioration levels in the fleet will drop significantly, which in turn will have a positive effect on the throughput of carriage overhauls and on the quality of the journey experience for our visitors.

Any passengers that have travelled on a steam-hauled train will agree it is a wonderful and enjoyable experience… or at least it should be! For most of us the adventure begins when we climb aboard and search for our seats using the customary check list: Have we got a table? Is the window clean? Is there somewhere to stow coats and bags? Are we near the Buffet? And, for those with small children, are we near the toilet? Yet for some people the adventure isn’t quite so exciting, namely the less-able and/or wheelchair-bound passenger. The current accommodation for wheelchairs on the railway consists of designated wheelchair bays located in one end of selected second class ‘open’ carriages. However, these vehicles do not have suitable bodyside doors wide enough to enable the loading of wheelchairs. Each such vehicle is thus positioned adjacent to a ‘Brake’ vehicle, which has a Guard’s compartment and an adjacent luggage area, which is provided with double doors.

Paul Middleton explains:

Once the wheelchair user is on board, they have to navigate through the corridor gangway into the next carriage, then pass through a further doorway in the vestibule partition to gain access to the wheelchair dedicated accommodation. Typically, we are limited to two wheelchair users per train, and there are times when disabled passengers have had to suffer the indignity of being hidden away from the rest of the passengers, usually in the unheated and austere luggage area if there is no other way of transporting them. The issue is often further exacerbated during busy periods when the Guard’s compartment fills up with prams, pushchairs and buggies, all of which seem to be getting larger.

 

Although we operate a 19th Century railway using 20th Century locomotives and rolling stock, it is becoming increasingly unacceptable here in the 21st Century for those with mobility problems to be conveyed in these conditions.

The ‘Fuss-free Access’ part of the project will ensure that every carriage set in service contains one vehicle that has been specially adapted to ease access for everyone with mobility problems and accommodate them with their friends and family. To provide a ‘Fuss-free Access’ carriage to each of the Railway’s services, there is a need to convert four carriages, one of which is an original 1930’s teak built vehicle. The proposal is to convert a significant area (nearly half of the vehicle) to be fully accessible for wheelchair users, including a wheelchair accessible toilet.

Kieran emphasises:

Entry to the vehicle will be via double doors enabling easy access, thereby eliminating the need to fit through narrow, corridor gangways. The space available is comparable with the capacity of a minibus adapted to carry a quantity of wheelchairs. The ‘Fuss-Free Access’ section of the project will mean that all guests are able to see the stunning vistas of the North York Moors National Park and receive the same experience that most of our passengers receive.  

The Heritage Lottery Fund has offered us up to £4.6 million as a 50% contribution to the appeal. Every pound you donate unlocks another pound from the Heritage Lottery. If you can give a little each month that will help us reach our goal. For further information on Yorkshire’s Magnificent Journey Appeal and ways to donate visit nymr.co.uk/YMJ