In August, while on holiday in Yorkshire we decided to visit the National Railway Museum in York. We had all heard good things about this museum and so we were looking forward to seeing for ourselves. The first pleasant surprise was that as the N.R.M. is a national, it is free to enter. We passed through the turnstile and went downstairs to the main gallery. The most junior member of our party was a complete ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ enthusiast and when we entered the hall containing the engines, his face was a joy to see, it was heaven! It certainly was a spectacular sight, the first thing that the visitor sees on entering is a turntable surrounded by pristine locomotives with a big green tender engine (which we were informed by our expert was ‘Emily’) upon it. We were just in time to watch a demonstration of the turntable given by museum staff, these ‘explainers’ as they are called are often ex railwaymen who are friendly and certainly know their subjects.
After the turntable demo we continued to explore the gallery, gazing in awe at the splendid locos. The public address announced that a talk was about to begin on the ‘Evening Star’ and as we were standing next to her we awaited the explainer who, to our surprise, invited us and several other members of the public up on to the footplate! Wow! How many other museums allow the public on to their objects? This set the mood for the rest of our visit, brilliant.
We spent an entire day at the N.R.M. and around every corner found more treats: there were train rides, both large and small, activities for kids of all ages and plenty of opportunities to get on footplates.
Another interesting hour or so was spent looking around the reserve store and the workshop, indeed, from a window at the back of the store we spotted the ‘Flying Scotsman’ being prepared for her trips that week to Scarborough. Walking around the viewing gallery above the workshop we were glad to see that the museum was working on a real engine, as on the floor, in a very poorly condition was the stripped down boiler of a Fowler compound traction engine, our visit was complete.
The National Railway Museum is definitely worth a visit and when you go allow a full day otherwise you won’t see it all, it does not matter if you are a railway enthusiast or not, you will enjoy it.