The National Railway Museum is a very impressive place. I have visited it many times over the years, its the perfect place to go on a rainy day. The largest rail museum in the world, it is home to over 100 locomotives and nearly 200 other items of rolling stock. It tells the story of the railways from the early 19th Century to the present day. It houses a very diverse collection from a Japanese bullet train, a replica of Stephenson’s Rocket, Mallard the worlds’ fastest steam engine, and a carriage used by Queen Victoria.
The museum straddles Leeman Road. The Great Hall and the North Shed sit on one side and Station Hall and the South Yard the other side. A tunnel connects the 2 sides of the museum.
Visiting the Railway Museum
You’ll find the museum on Leeman Road (YO26 4XJ), it has its own car park. It is about 500 yards away from York Railway Station. There are plenty of signposts all over the city centre to help find the museum. During busy times a road train operates from York Minster to the museum. The museum is free to enter and it’s open most days. There is a request though for a voluntary donation to the museum’s upkeep.
NRM – Great Hall & North Shed
The Great Hall used to be an engine shed and it still has the original turntable. There is a turntable demonstration every day. As a small boy I used to be an avid trainspotter and on a couple of occasions managed to sneak into the shed when it was full of working steam engines – if only I’d had my camera then! It’s home now to the Mallard, a Japanese Bullet Train, as well as lots of steam engines clustered around the old turntable.
The best thing about this museum is it’s possible to get right up close to the exhibits. Many of the engines have open cabs that you can climb inside. One of the trains even has a pit underneath that you can walkthrough.
The North Shed houses an amazing collection of railway objects from around the world. A kind of random collection of glass cases houses the collection. There is a viewing gallery over the railway lines to York Station if you fancy watching some working trains for a bit. The museum’s workshop is located here as well. It’s fascinating to watch the engineers working to conserve some of the collection. Don’t miss the story of the most famous locomotive of all, The Flying Scotsman, before you leave.
Station Hall and the South Yard
As its name suggests Station Hall is laid out like an old station with locomotives, carriages and freight wagons. Walk outside and you’ll find the Depot which is used as an engine shed for operational vehicles. There is also a miniature railway and somedays a steam engine operating.
The museum has hosted a couple of these railway festivals, the last one in 2012. There doesn’t seem to be another one planned at the moment. The nine-day festival gave visitors the chance to get up close to over 30 exhibits in the South Yard. Some of the most famous locomotives in the world were assembled for the festival including the fastest steam locomotive, Mallard, the newest mainline steam locomotive, Tornado, and the first locomotive to reach 100mph, the legendary Flying Scotsman. I managed to time my visit when the weather was reasonable. As I remember, most days of the festival it rained.