National Railway Museum, York, North Yorkshire
Knowing I would finish a recent business meeting in York before lunch my wife tagged along and we decided we would visit the National Railway Museum once my business meeting had finished.
The National Railway Museum is home to the history of trains in Britain and is within easy reach of the M1 and M62 and once in York is fairly easy to get too.
Once there the best part of the National Railway Museum is that admission is free but parking is £4.50 per vehicle.
As we went during the teachers annual six week summer sabbatical (Summer Holidays) the place was pretty busy, but due to the size of the place you don’t really notice. The only place that was really crowded was the gift shop but I’d say this was more to do with it being part of the main entrance than people buying things.
Lets start with the Great hall as this was the area that most interested me due to the large number of engines on show.
Now I’m not going to go into massive technical details about each engine as I’m not sure what all the numbers mean and I’m not a massive fan of Trains its just the engineering aspects which excites me.
Depending on through which entrance you enter the Great Hall, will depend on what you will first see. If you enter from the car park as we did, then you will see the Locomotive turntable directly in front of you and the most amazing set of gates I have ever seen, which where apparently the original gates from Euston Station.
If you walk around the Great Hall you will see a great many locomotives, and perhaps the most famous of these is the Mallard. This engine broke the train speed record in 1938 at a speed of 126mph (202kph) and as far I have been able to find out this record still stands. It’s amazing that a steam train from 1938 is still faster than most UK trains of today!
Next to the Mallard is a new exhibition which is the Shinkansen, Bullet Train from Japan. This is a 1976 Bullet train given to the National Museum by the Japanese Railways West division and is a look at the future of railways from the past of a more forward looking railway company. The inside of the Shinkansen has been split into two halves and at each end of the carriage are large video screens showing a presentation about the Shinkansen, how it came to be, the rail system and the trains. There are also models of the newer Shikansen’s in a large glass case outside. Museum staff also give talks about the Shinkansen at periods throughout the day. Announcements for these are made over the Museums Tannoy system.
All around the great hall there are many great engines however I’m not going to give you a big list as if you’re going to visit you’ll find that out for yourself or look at the NRM website, link below.
There are also a variety of smaller exhibits throughout the hall and they range from one of the engines having been cut open so you can see the insides, and another engine which you can walk underneath. At the bottom of the hall there is a postal train exhibition which goes from the very first postal trains to the latest trains.
This takes us to the next room we visited which is The Warehouse. This room was just amazing and is full of railway paraphernalia which the museum has no permanent plans to display but still wants the public to see. The amount of property in this room is quite amazing, there is everything from model trains, through to station badges, sign posts, carriage interiors, etc, etc…. There is loads of stuff, all labeled.
Next, on to another area called the works. Where you can watch the staff at the museum fixing, painting and bringing old engines back to life. There is also a show here where you can watch how the trains would have been made in the 1900 – 1960’s. It last about 15 minutes and is well worth watching to give you a view of what the original builders went through to make the engines.
This leads you onto the working railway exhibit, which informs about how a railway works. The most important part of this informs about how signaling works. There is also lots of information about railway time tabling. At the end of The Works is the railway observation which overlooks York railway station and if you stand here long enough you might see one of those modern trains.
On to the Station hall now and this is where the showy trains preside. Here you will find all of the royal trains which are owned by the NRM as well as lots of carriages, some of which are in superb condition, you can look inside as there are steps and platforms at the side.
The other areas at the National Railway Museum are the restaurant which is in the middle of the Station Hall, the buffet in the Great Hall, the children’s play area and learning zone which are outside of the Station Hall and the Gift shop as you enter the Station Hall. In there Great Hall there is the model railway exhibition and the Balcony galleries which are both quite interesting.
There is a massive amount of stuff to do here, and I honestly think that one day would not be enough if you stopped and read all the information and took pictures of every thing. We arrived at 11am-ish and left just before 6pm and still didn’t see everything in as much detail as I would have liked but that can wait for another day.
My overall impression of the National Railway Museum is WOW! This place is amazing, there is so many things to see and do, and touch and feel, It’s a pity you don’t get the smell as well but Health and Safety might have something to say about that!
I will be going again, I don’t know when but I hope it’s not as long as the gap last time. I first went when I was still at Primary school and that was before 1982!