The Esk Valley line is a scenic and interesting route that connects the two towns of Middlesborough and Whitby, in North Yorkshire. At 35 miles long, it's far from the longest route that exists in the UK but it's quite substantial, with a full run taking about 1 and a half hours. A different route to most proposed for TSW, the Esk Valley line is mostly single track and has a few unique quirks to it that make it a very distinct offering for the Unreal engine and the train simulation world! Route Beginning our journey at Middlesborough station, we immediately find ourselves diverging onto single track railway. Hopefully you're not allergic to this, as most of the route is one track! From here we go via James Cook station, built relatively recently (in May 2014) to serve James Cook University Hospital. The line then continues to Marton station and thence Gypsy Lane, before arriving at Nunthorpe station, where the line briefly becomes double track again and a signal box controls the flow of traffic further onto the single track line past this point. Once permission is given, trains may continue on to Battersby station. While not major in its own right, it offers a quirk in the route, as trains continuing to Whitby have to perform a reversing manoeuvre here. This makes good use of the walking functionality in TSW, as one would need to shut the cab down and secure the train before changing ends! This can be done with 2 trains at once too, as the platform is long enough to accommodate this. Once this has been done and passengers loaded, we continue on through Kildale, Commondale, Castleton and thence Danby, which is just 1 mile by foot from the North York Moors National Park visitors' centre. From here the line continues to Lealholm and then Glaisdale, where a passing loop exists for trains to pass each other. Then, we continue to Egton and then Grosmont, by which point we're getting close to the sea! Grosmont station is a slice of history too, as it's also used by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. A heritage line offering services from Grosmont to Whitby and Pickering, most trains are hauled by steam locomotives (including a Black 5) but they also have a diesel fleet. While the heritage railway route itself would probably not a part of the TSW Esk Valley route, that doesn't mean it's ignored altogether - see below for more And it's still a great part of the Esk Valley and gives Grosmont its distinct look! Just a few stations left now, and after departing from Grosmont we arrive at Sleights, then Ruswarp stations, and then begins the final stretch, past the site of what was once Whitby West Cliff station, before finally ending our journey at the picturesque seaside station of Whitby, for some well earned fish and chips! Services The Esk Valley line may lack much in the way of services - seeing just five trains a day travelling the full route - but it makes up for that in other areas, as I'll explain in just a moment. There are services that run a part route to Nunthorpe, Danby and Battersby, usually having already come up from Carlisle, Chathill and Newcastle, which will turn around at points further down the line after terminating and go back with a new passenger services. These longer part routes to Danby and Battersby are more common in the evening. A run from Middlesborough to Nunthorpe is just 15 minutes, to Battersby is 25 minutes, to Danby about 45 minutes, and finally to Whitby around 95 minutes. Rolling stock Northern are the sole operator of services on the route, so you know what that means... British Rail Class 142 "Pacer" Yeeeeees, it's the 142 again! Before you sigh a collective sigh of anguish and annoyance, though, know that the Pacer is only an optional unit as they're almost retiring - at the end of 2019. So if this route is made near then, you won't have to deal with them. :P But, for the benefit of the enthusiasts, a near copy-paste from the Tyne Valley Line thread: Pictured here at Middlesborough station, and built between 1985 and 1987 by BREL and Leyland Bus at Derby Litchurch Lane Works, the BR Class 142 is part of the Pacer family of trains, and is a good example of a "railbus" - a train that mostly consists of bus components and uses two solid axles instead of bogies. This helps to keep costs down and allow for a cheaper alternative to a bespoke train, although that comes with its drawbacks too - a bouncy and noisy ride compared to trains with bogies, hence their nicknames, "nodding donkeys"! Each Pacer unit is made up of 2 cars, and each car is powered by a single Cummins LTA10-R 10 litre straight-6 engine, which produces 225HP, giving a power output of 450HP per 2-car unit, and are permitted to go up to 75mph. They are also fitted with a Voith 2-stage hydraulic transmission, with the first stage being a torque converter before switching to a fluid coupling drive at 45mph. All class 142s currently operated by Northern are scheduled to be withdrawn by 2020, and other operators' Pacers soon after. Regardless, the Pacer has arguably been the savior of lines like this one - their high availability and cheap running costs allow lines like this to stay alive! British Rail Class 156 "Super Sprinter" Here's a far more well-received unit, and the standard fare on this line from 2020 onwards, once the Pacers finally retire. Seen here at Commondale, the Class 156 has seen high praise throughout its life. Part of the Sprinter family of DMUs, the 156es were built from 1987 to 1989 by Metro-Cammell at Washwood Heath, and are similar to the Class 150 that preceded it, however with a more rounded shape and with just one set of doors at each end of the unit, to reflect the longer journeys the 156 was intended to work. Each 156 comprises of 2 cars, each powered by a 285HP Cummins NT855-R5 6-cylinder, 14 litre engine, making for a total power output of 570HP per 2-car unit. They share the same 75mph permitted speed with the Pacers, however, and use a similar transmission, but as bogied trains are smoother on journeys and can corner faster. The 156es are set to be refurbished and returned to service on Northern routes, alongside refurbished Class 158 units once their new Class 195 trains begin operations, though the Esk Valley will likely only see 156es. Potential expansions The North Yorkshire Moors Railway, despite not featuring in terms of a physical route, could be present in this route - as they operate services during the summer along the line! They have several diesel and electric locomotives, but I think the most popular by far would be their resident Class 37 There's the potential to use the Mk1 stock from WSR, repainted into BR Blue, and a new loco for special charter services. A fine choice all round! The Esk Valley's "it" factor But even with all this potential, there's still not much variety, I hear you say! Ah, but you fail to grasp the point. See, the Esk Valley line is very different from any TSW proposal thus far. You see, this is a very proactive route, due to a single distinguishing operational feature - physical token exchanges! Yes, the Esk Valley line still uses a manual token system. The signal box at Nunthorpe, as well as cabinets at Battersby, Glaisdale and Whitby, contain tokens, which allow trains to proceed. If a driver is not in possession of a section token, they can't go anywhere, and have to wait for another driver to return it before they can go. The idea here is that drivers could exit the cab of their trains at any of these stations, and take and return tokens as they encounter cabinets. If a player must wait for an AI train to pass, this could be simulated via a longer dwell, and materialisation of the token once the AI leaves. This would add a hands-on element to the route, and kindle some nostalgia for the good old days for sure! And if multi-player were ever to come to TSW, it would be perfect for the Esk Valley - to see one player place the token back and then take it yourself, or maybe even conduct a direct handover, would really be an experience! Tokens, reversing, and classic signage, then. The Esk Valley Line is a throwback to the old ways, in the modern day, and futureproofed by good stock. A solid, if quiet route.