Sunday 4 December 2011

National Railway Museum

I was in York last weekend where I managed a side-trip to the National Railway Museum which I would heartily recommend if you're in the neighbourhood. 

I admit that it was my second choice as I had planned on taking in the Craven Collection of vintage motorcycles. However, as is my want, I didn't read the details on their website properly. It only opens to the public one day a month.

View from gallery over Main Hall
Anyway, back to the trains. As mentioned in an earlier post I'm not exactly a big railway fan, but it made a welcome diversion when you've traipsed around half a dozen other museums extolling the virtues of the Romans, the Vikings, and the Elizabethans etc.

Japanese 'Bullet Train
Unlike the other museums in York, this was also technically free (all the others require you to put your hand in your pocket and hand over the best part of a tenner per person for the privilege of looking at things). I say, technically, as you are encouraged to make a donation of about three pounds, which I was quite happy to hand over.

Locomotive name-plates
carriage before restoration
replica station and footbridge
So what is it like? Well, it's big, obviously, as it's full of large locomotives. Also on view is a quite staggering amount of memorabilia, ephemera, station signs, model trains, assorted interactive things, film shows etc. And, if all these static displays are too boring, you can step out onto a viewing platform and watch the real trains plying their trade at York railway station. The tracks are about 30 feet away from you.
York main railway station
Locomotives in Main Hall (turntable in foreground)
What is it about steam trains? Why do we seem to have such an attraction to them? One view I heard expressed is that it's because most of the moving bits are on the outside and you can actually see things working. Oh, and maybe something to do with smoke and fire. We're all big kids at heart.

I could only really dredge up the names of two of the more famous steam trains, Mallard and The Flying Scotsman

Mallard foot-plate
Sure enough, there was The Mallard. However, although there is a whole room devoted to The Flying Scotsman, the actual locomotive itself was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps they were working on it elsewhere during the off-season. It was a bit disappointing that there wasn't even a sign explaining its absence.  

All told, a good day out.


  1. Was just thinking the last time I was at the Museum was 1983 with the old boy. Might make a point of having another visit the next time am in York.
    The missing Train, they say the restoration of Flying Scotsman is expected to be complete by late spring 2012. Was nearly finished during the summer but they found some faults which have to be rectified. Also it will be taking part in the journey of the 2012 Olympic torch. The Olympic flame will stay in York overnight on 19 June, then Flying Scotsman will carry it from York to Thirsk on 20 June

  2. Looks like quite a museum. A Japanese 'Bullet' train, that's amazing. When I was about 6 or 7 years old my family was traveling on a locomotive train in Japan. We saw one of the first Bullet trains sitting on a siding along the main track. This was about 1958 or '59, some years before the Bullet was running. Wonder what Vintage the one in your museum is? I worked on the California Railroad Museum project, so have a passing interest in trains. Someday I'd like to visit the one in Scotland.