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The North Yorkshire Moors Railway can claim to be the most popular heritage line in the UK, and I can understand why it is so successful.

Whilst there are plenty of rail fans who are happy to chug along a few of miles of track and back, the NYMR can offer so much more: magnificent scenery, interesting destinations and 18 miles (29km) of stiffly graded track that really puts the engines through their paces.

It also offers the chance to make a real journey that follows in the footsteps of passengers from pre-heritage days. Many heritage lines seem to start or end in the middle of nowhere, and it feels like you are only doing part of a journey.

Starting from Pickering and with some of the NYMR's services now operating beyond their northern terminus at Grosmont over the Network Rail line to Whitby, it is possible to travel between two large towns, giving that feeling of a real journey that, for me, is always an added bonus.

Check the North Yorkshire Moors Railway's website for opening times etc.

View in Google Earth

If that wasn't enough, the history of the line is also interesting.

Much of the route is based on George Stephenson's Whitby and Pickering Railway which opened in 1832, soon after the Stockton and Darlington.

This wasn't a steam railway, however, but used a combination of horse-drawn level sections and cable-hauled inclines.

Much of the northern section was re-aligned when the line was converted to steam-haulage in the 1860s. The old route is mostly public footpaths, and is sometimes referred to as the Historic Rail Trail.

The finest of the remnant of the old line is George Stephenson's Tunnel at Grosmont. This is suprisingly narrow, and is still used to this day to give pedestrian access to the engine sheds at the Bellwood Centre.