HARRY Potter would have loved it. An entire 84-ton iron and steel railway bridge is lifted, removed and replaced – well, not quite the whip of a magic wand. But quickly enough, however.
The railway bridge in question is the 112-year-old iron and steel bridge that transports the North Yorkshire Moors railway through Eller Beck to Goathland station. Perhaps it is better known by millions of young movie fans as the iconic railroad track on which the Hogwarts Express thundered as it approached Hogsmeade station.
The railway line closed after Christmas. And by mid-January the old bridge – one of 32 across the entire 24-mile railroad – was gone.
Since then, engineers have fought against the elements to install a new bridge designed and built by Cleveland Bridge UK, based in Darlington. Purpose? To have everything finished and the line reopened by April 6, in time for Easter.
In fact, despite Storms Ciara and Dennis and many other heavy rains, the climate on the Moors has not been too bad, admits Andrew Scott, vice president of the North York Moors Historical Railway Trust. There was even some sun (just look at the photos). And luckily, most of the heavy engineering work was done before the worst of the rains came.
The bridge was, in fact, built in the Cleveland Bridge factory in Darlington. It was first assembled, then dismantled again and moved into six road loads in a freight depot in Middlesbrough. From there he was transferred to a special freight train, which took him to Goathland – the final stages of the journey, conveniently, are located along the same North Yorkshire Moors railway.
Since January, engineers have been reassembling it at the intersection with Eller Beck. As of this week, the iron and steel skeleton was in place and the engineers were building between the beams. Starting today and April 6, they will then have to rebuild up to 200 meters of railway tracks that had to be raised during the replacement of the bridge, in addition to signaling cables and other infrastructure.
And then, says Mr. Scott, he will hardly be able to say that the bridge has ever been replaced. “It was designed so that it doesn’t look really different,” he said.
It had to be replaced, however. Some of the 32 bridges along the length of the heritage railway are made of stone. “They will last forever,” said Scott. But others are made of iron and steel. “They last only for about 120 years.”
The Goathland bridge – plus two other smaller iron bridges south of Goathland station, which will be replaced next year – had reached the end of their working lives. “We must replace all three if the line is to continue operating,” concluded a bridge report.
The bridge replacements are only part of a huge five-year £ 10 million project – codenamed “Magnificent Yorkshire Journey” – to safeguard the future of the 180-year-old North Yorkshire Moors railway, which runs 24 miles of steep slopes, remote landscapes and breathtaking views from Pickering across the moors to Whitby.
Originally opened in 1832 (such as Pickering and Whitby Railway) to attempt to halt the gradual decline of Whitby harbor, the railway has operated as a “legacy” line since the late 1960s.
It now carries over 300,000 visitors annually – and has starred on television and in movies, most notably Harry Potter.
Yorkshire’s Magnificent Journey project – funded with the help of a £ 4.4 million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, as well as £ 1.75 million of EU funds paid through the rural payments agency of the DEFRA and a further considerable contribution from the region’s local business partnership – was launched last summer.
In addition to replacing the three bridges, the plan is to build the first wagon depot in the Pickering line over the next four years so that its rolling stock can be repaired from rain and snow when not in use. A former village school in Stape, on top of the North York Moors, was also purchased, which will be converted into an “outward” center for North Yorkshire Moors Railway volunteers.
The project will also see better access (also for the disabled); an educational center in a converted carriage in Goathland; a new line-side storage program; and an apprenticeship scheme.
“These are exciting times,” said John Bailey, president of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. “This is the result of two years of careful planning (and it is) the most ambitious project we have ever undertaken.”
Harry Potter would certainly agree …
Thanks to various scholarships, most of the money needed to deliver the project was insured. However, the confidence of the railways has yet to raise funds to complete the project over the next four years. To find out more or to make a donation, visit nymr.co.uk/YMJ
History of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway …
WHAT is now the North Yorkshire Moors Railway which came to life almost 180 years ago as the Whitby and Pickering Railway. The hope was that it would stop Whitby’s decline as an important port for whaling and shipbuilding. “It was thought that opening up better links to the interior of the country would help regenerate both the city and the port,” says an article on the history of the railroad on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway website.
The railroad was taken over by the York and North Midland railways in 1845, the Northeast railroad in 1854 and then the London and Northeast railroad in 1948. It was part of the British Rail network between 1948 and 1965 before closing after the Beeching report.
Railway enthusiasts soon started talking about the opening as a heritage line and the first meeting of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway Preservation Society was held on November 18, 1967, in the hall of the village of Goathland.
- Other significant dates since then include:
- February 2, 1969: first train journey from Pickering to Grosmont.
- March 28, 1970: First passenger trains for North Yorkshire Railway Members’ Day.
- July 23, 1971: first steam passenger train, from Grosmont to Pickering.
- December 31, 1971: North York Moors Historical Railway Trust is incorporated as a successor to the Preservation Society.
- February 14, 1972: registered as a charity.
- May 1, 1973: The North Yorkshire Moors Railway officially opened by the Duchess of Kent officially opened New York.
- May 24, 1975: public services are extended to Pickering station.
- October 11, 1987: first direct train from Whitby to Pickering.
- September 17, 2005: extension of approved Whitby and Esk Valley Line operations.
- April 3, 2007: passenger operations to Whitby begin.
- August 2008: first week for young volunteers.
- 22 October 2010: official opening of the Visitor Center on platform 2 of Pickering Station.
- August 15, 2014: opening of the second platform in Whitby.
- 2016: Flying Scotsman returns.