THE NATIONAL RAILWAY MUSEUM
If you are on a self-catering break to North Yorkshire, then your stay should include a visit to the magnificent National Railway Museum in York. From the moment you walk through the imposing entrance and see the incredible exhibits of the vast main hall, to seeing how rail points work in the outside yard area, you will be totally captivated.
The preservation of the railways’ past began in London in 1866 when the Science Museum obtained Stephenson’s Rocket. As a result, other railway companies began to sit up and take note and preserve their own heritage. The most dedicated of these companies was the North Eastern Railway (NER), which opened a specially-dedicated museum in York that opened its doors to the public in 1927.
It was during the 1930’s that many of the UK’s great railways had amassed considerable collections of their own railway memorabilia, but it wasn’t until the 1948 railways’ nationalisation that all these collections were all brought together.
And so, in 1951, the first ever national curator of railway relics was appointed, paving the way for a National Railway Museum to be built to house the massive and ever expanding collection. It enabled the eventual housing of the National Collection of railway artefacts in one location leading to subsequent opening of the revamped National Railway Museum at its current location in York in 1975.
There has been a programme of continual improvement at the museum since then including the launch of the Institute of Railway Studies in 1994, the opening of “the Works” in 1999, increasing the size of the museum three-fold in size from when it opening in 1975, winning the European Museum of the Year award in 2001, and the opening of the Yorkshire Rail Academy in 2004. The £4 million research centre and national archive has also just recently opened.
However, aside from the wonderful history and variety of exhibits, many of which you can clamber on or climb through, there are plenty of special days and activities held throughout the year, from face-painting to trips aboard the kiddies’ favourite, Thomas the Tank Engine. There are rest areas with cafés and refreshment booths, so you will have plenty of opportunity to rest any feet that may tire!
For the visitor to the area, a wonderful day out at the National Railway Museum is one not to be missed – whatever age child you might be! Not only is admission free, but as the single largest collection of railway history and memorabilia in one place, much of it quite famous, it is really well worth a visit.
And if you don’t complete all the exhibits and features first time around, you can always make a second visit!
And when you’ve imbibed as much locomotive history as you can manage, the centre of the magnificent city of York, with its restaurants, inns and pubs is but a short distance away.