Katie Hallett on Pickering Railway at War Weekend

By Rosanna Holmes,
14th October 2009 - 15:59
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Every October the market town of Pickering in North Yorkshire is transported to 1943 for the Railway at War Weekend and, as a fan of all things vintage, when the chance to see an entire town dressed in Forties attire arose – I jumped (or rather, Lindy Hopped) at it.

Built in the 1830s, the North Yorkshire Moors steam Railway runs through the town of Pickering, with each station on the line dressed in a different era of the early 20th century. Pickering station has been paused in the 1930s – all vintage advertising posters, racing green paint and a cosy tearoom. The event started when volunteers wanted to raise money for the station and 17 years later it now attracts around 12,000 visitors.

Arriving in the town was like stepping onto a film set. From school children clutching ration boxes, glamorous women in skirt suits pouting for cameras and people clad in every Second World War uniform imaginable, everyone was dressed in authentic Forties garb. After waving off children dressed as evacuees as their train departed, watching a parade of military vehicles and observing a blackout on platform two, it was time to dance the night away at one of the event’s dances. My hair had been perfectly set (or hairsprayed) into a classic Forties do earlier in the day, so after a quick costume change into a tea dress I was good to go. The hall was packed with couples jitterbugging and jiving and, thinking that a dance called ‘strolling’ sounded easy enough for a newbie, I was encouraged onto the dance floor – but even this proved problematic to my two left feet!

Despite the jovial atmosphere of the weekend – think people breaking into song on train carriages and crowds dancing to the songs of vintage singer Lola Lamour on the station platform – the underlying message of the weekend wasn’t forgotten. With the laying of the remembrance wreath on the Sunday the weekend drew to a close and I for one was reluctant to return to the noughties on the (non-steam) railway…

Look out for the full feature on the weekend in H&A in 2010