CYCLE THE SOLAR SYSTEM

Welcome to the York Solar System model. This scale model of the Solar System is spread out along 6.4 miles of the old East Coast main-line railway. Along it you can find scale models of all the planets in our solar system as well as models of the Cassini and Voyager spacecraft.

The scale of our model is 575,872,239 to 1. So every 100 metres along the track corresponds to more than 57 million kilometres in space. This means that along the route the speed of light is about 1.16 mph, so it is easy to walk at around 3 times the speed of light and to cycle at about 10 times the speed of light!

THE ROUTE

York is in the north of England, about half way between London and Edinburgh. It is well-served by trains, both from north (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle) and south (London, Kings Cross), and on the cross-country service from Manchester airport to Hull. There are also direct trains from major cities such as Bristol, Birmingham, Sheffield etc. All trains will carry bikes but check the conditions as different operators have different policies.

It is also easy to get to York by car, lying to the east of the M1 and A1 along the A64. The A19 from Middlesbrough to Doncaster passes through York.

Of course you could get to the Solar System by bike! The model lies on the national cycle network route 65. There is an excellent cycle map of York available from the City of York council. The Solar system model is marked in top left-hand corner of square C9.

Parking: It should be possible to park a car in Riccall quite easily, but please avoid just outside the last house just before the off-road section starts. Notices there will advise you. There is a car park at the old Escrick station, right next to the track.

If you’re planning to cycle the whole solar system model from the York end then it may be possible to park down Simbalk Lane, beyond the new buildings of York College. Or park behind the race course and add a couple more miles off-road across the Knavesmire - follow signs to Selby on Route 65 of the national cycle Network.

Bike Hire: Bike hire is possible in York from the International youth hostel and some of the bike shops in town. You can also rent bikes at York Railway Station. Other bike hire places in York can be found here.

VIEW GOOGLE MAP OF THE ROUTE >

ALONG THE ROUTE

There’s lots to see and do along the solar system model. The track is a wonderful nature reserve with many different species of trees along the way, and an abundance of wild life to see and hear. Remember too that this was once a railway line. There are several good pubs not far from the track, most of which serve good food.

The Fisher of Dreams is one example of an feature you will find along the route. Constructed in the main from galvanized 2cm diameter steel rod, the height of the fisher from the top of the bridge to the top of his head is over 4 metres. The dog is 3.3 metres from nose to tail and 2 metres tall. The bike wheels are 8 feet in diameter.

FEATURES & ATTRACTIONS ALONG THE ROUTE >

THE PLANETS

The walk forms a scale model of the solar system with each of the planets represented.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PLANETS >

Scale of the Model

 Real Model 
DiameterDistance from SunDiameterDistance from Sun
thousand kmmillion kmcmmeter
Sun1391900242
Mercury4.9580.84100
Venus121082.1188
Earth12.81502.11260
Mars6.72281.17396
Jupiter14077824.231351
Saturn116142720.222478
Uranus4728708.154984
Neptune4545007.897814
Pluto3.459130.5910195

The Making of the Route

When the Selby coal field was developed in the early 1980s the train line was diverted. The route was bought by the newly-formed Sustrans for £1. The construction of this track in 1985-1987 was the first venture for Sustrans, who have gone on to create the National Cycle Network with the help of a £43.5 million grant from the Millennium Commission.

In 1999 Adam Hart- Davis cut the tape and officially opened the route. Since then many events have taken place along the tracks such as guided tours of the model and even a unicycle ride.

The Solar System model was constructed over a period of about 6 months at the end of 1999. First the track needed to be measured to get the correct scale. The positions of the sun and Pluto were known so distance between them was measured and remeasured. The distance is 10.2 km or about 6.4 miles.

The planet bases are made from concrete sewer pipes. The tops of the bases are made from stainless steel which was shot-blasted. The bases were filled with concrete and the tops set into the concrete after a few fine adjustments. Then the smaller planets were screwed in place. Saturn and Jupiter were welded in place on the stainless steel tops.

Construction of the Sun was another matter.... The Sun is made from 2 fibreglass hemispheres manufactured for a septic tank. A hole was cut into one of the hemisphere and then the two halves were fiber glass together. Next the internal steel work to support the Sun was installed and the sphere sealed before being painted gold. The supporting steel-work was manufactured by Minster Engineering. The foundations were prepared, 10 tons of concrete poured in and finally the finished model was installed.

SPONSORS

Cycle the Solar System was made possible by a Millennium Award to its creators Dave Coulthard, Willy Hoedeman & Peter Thompson. Our award was administered by The Royal Society and the British Association. The community partner for the project was Sustrans. The project would have not been possible without the generous support of Dave Jackson and his sons Paul and Phil.

CONTACT US

If you want to get in touch with us please email: info@solar.york.ac.uk

Want a guided tour by the creators of the Solar system? If your group would like a guided tour, contact us! We have experience of taking school groups, families and adults.