Thinking about it for a second, I don’t think that I’ve been to the National Railway Museum since I was at University. As you all know, I’m a bit of a geek, and as much as I like trains, I would never consider myself to be an expert. I’ve lived with train spotters, and even someone who had his own model railway. I know how little I know.
Rather than using the bridge to the museum directly from York train station, I decided to go outside and walk the long way round to the main entrance. Over the last few years, a number of museums have spent a small fortune creating new and improved entrances. The National Railway Museum isn’t one of them. Unsurprisingly, it looks like the entrance to a railway station built in the late 70s early 80s.
What is lacking on the outside is certainly made up for in the inside with two large sheds filled with trains and carriages, with a third containing assorted train memorabilia. There’s even a room with a model railway setup, but I think that it is there mainly to keep the children happy.
As it was the fiftieth (in 2013) anniversary of the Beeching Report on the future of the railways they had a special highlighting the changes which happened to the railways afterwards. There was even a video talking the closure of a line in the Borders of Scotland. Comparing the railway maps of today with the 1950s it is astonishing to see how many lines they closed (You think it was bad in England, look at the railway map of Northern Ireland and it is quite a bit worse).
When you go into Hall C you will see all sorts of bits and pieces to do with the railway. There is a wall with crests of the old railway companies, and even signs from old stations. I even saw one for platform 9 3/4 , where did that come from again?
Wondering around the halls, you begin to realise how big engines were. Even intercity engines today, aren’t much larger than passenger carriages, compare that to the size of steam engines. When you realise that some of the wheels were over five foot, you realise how beastly they were.
Like most museums today, they have a hall where you can watch restoration works being carried out. There wasn’t really much work going on the day that I was there which I was told was normal for a Tuesday, as it is generally the museum’s quietest day.
But do you know what the best thing about the National Railway Museum? It’s free. So, it is certainly value for money, especially as everyone seems to have their hands out recently. If you do happen to be in York on a visit I would certainly give it a quick look, especially if you are going by train.