The National Railway Museum is Britain’s largest repository of historic railway material and includes locomotives dating as far back as 1829. The collection began when British Railways inherited the collections of previous railway companies in 1948. British Rail went on to expand them during the 1960’s. In 1975, the National Railway Museum, housed in a different building at the time, inherited British Rail’s collection and continued to develop it. All areas of railway history are covered in the three exhibition halls.
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The Great Hall displays interesting railway carriages ranging from a 1913 dining car to a Japanese bullet train. The 1938 Mallard—the fastest steam engine in the world at the time—is here. A replica of Eurostar’s nose cone is set in a channel tunnel ring.
Twice a day, one of the largest turntables in the UK is demonstrated, turning one of the historic locomotives. 170-year old winding engines are in motion every hour. The Interactive Learning Centre explores science, history and technology, including learning how to drive a steam locomotive.
Station Hall, a re-created period station, complete with sound effects, contains a variety of carriages and wagons—dining cars and sleeping compartments as well as coaches—into which visitors can peer. A Palaces on Wheels Royal Trains exhibition includes carriages dating from the 1840’s to the 1940’s. England’s kings and queens travelled with bedroom, dining room, and saloon carriages.
The Works, a newer section of the museum, is where work on the museum's collection takes place on a daily basis. Visitors can view regularly changing activity, depending on the needs for conservation and restoration.
A display, The Working Railway, explains railway safety, signals, and computer communications systems. Of special interest is the live link to the computer system that controls York’s train movement. Other displays are on railway accidents and disasters. The link between Greenwich Mean Time and the existence of the railways is explained.
An interactive exhibit on mail delivery lets visitors sort letters and look at early and modern mail carriages. Further exhibits include Women at Work on the Railways, freight movement, and passenger travel.
The Warehouse is full of thousands of railroad objects and memorabilia. Included are such items as gold and silver travel passes, model trains, railway medals, and the bullion box involved in the 1855 First Great Train Robbery. Tickets, buttons, posters, archived documents, videos, old movies, photographs, silver and crockery, drawings and art bring the railroad experience to life. Station platform clocks, office clocks, and guards’ watches, are part of the memorabilia.
In the Museum’s library archive are found extensive research materials on all aspects of the British railways. More than 20,000 books, 600 periodical titles, timetables from the 1840’s onward, 1½ million photographs, an archive of technical documents, engineering drawings, and a pictorial collection of paintings, prints, and engravings are available for the serious researcher by appointment.
One hundred and three locomotives and one hundred seventy-seven other items of rolling stock are just part of the world’s pre-eminent railway collection in the National Railway Museum. Never has a story been told in more detail. Anyone with an interest in train travel will want to spend a day at this fascinating museum.
National Railway Museum
York YO26 4XJ
Tel. 0 1904 621 261
24 hour information line: 01904 686286
Fax. 01904 611112
Website: National Railway Museum
Opening Times: Daily 10am-6pm
Closed: 24, 25, 26 Dec
Restaurant in Station Hall
Car park: charge
Facilities for disabled visitors: ramps and chair lifts to most of the Museum.
- From London take the train at Kings Cross station. Trains run on the half-hour and take two hours to reach York. The Museum is ten minutes on foot from the railway station.
- From Manchester International Airport, trains leave every hour during the day. Other trains run to York from regional UK centres.
- By car, York is 15 minutes from the A1. The Museum is signposted from all city entrance roads. From York Minster, a shuttle runs to the Museum every half-hour, 10am-6pm during the summer.