The National Railway Museum in York


The National Railway Museum was one of the highlights of our day in York. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many happy little boys running around! I don’t know what it is about trains, but little kids can’t seem to get enough of them. Mind you, there were plenty of big kids who enjoy them as well (see above!)

The Railway Museum has two huge buildings with lots of trains inside. This is an actual Japanese bullet train, formally called the Shinkansen. You might remember that Alex blogged about riding this train from Tokyo to Osaka back in July. This is an older model, but it was still interesting for me to see, and for Alex to compare it to the shiny new ones that are currently in use. You can even climb the stairs and take a seat inside the train.  This train is quite special, because it is the only Shinkansen train carriage outside of Japan. Unless you’re willing to buy a ticket to ride, this is the only way you’ll see one.

Next to the Shinkansen is this full-scale exhibit of the Eurostar train and tunnel. I think it’s quite interesting to see the train in relationship to the tunnel — it’s much larger than I expected! On this train, the back end of the engine was open so you could see in to the driver’s seat.

This was one of the most unusual exhibits I’ve ever seen, and I think it’s a great example of the modern museum movement of trying to make everything experiential rather than simply informational. This is a smelling station! It lets you experience what the 1930s Flying Scotsman train would have smelled like. I didn’t get too much from the carriage, but the dining car and platform were quite strong.

One train had a walkway underneath, so you could go down and look up at the undercarriage. I’m sure for an engineer it would have been quite impressive — to me it just looked oily!

The Railway Museum doesn’t just have trains. They also have lots of other STUFF. This is an example of the official porcelain pattern of the National Railway. They had several sets of different patterns from different years and train services. The warehouse section of the museum also has old signs, benches, ticket machines, crossing guards, etc.etc.etc. Basically anything that is anyway connected to the trains, they have.  It’s quite an impressive collection!

This train is the Duchess, an example of the streamlining style that was super popular in the 1920s. The car is there for a comparison. Apparently everyone thought that the streamlining would make the train go faster, but tests showed that the weight actually slowed it down, so the outer shell was removed. After many years of service the engine was retired, and only recently renovated back into this pretty shape.

I couldn’t resist snapping this picture (below), because it is the official font that was designed for National Rail in 1965. It is used exclusively by them on all signage, and is supposed to be very legible. I don’t think it’s any better than Helvetica, but then I’m a bit of a font snob!

We probably spent about 3 hours at the musem total, although it’s definitely the kind of place you can get lost in for days! Kids especially loved it, and there was a carousel and huge slide in the courtyard area for them to run around and play. The museum has many really cool and special trains, including the official Hogwart’s Express (from the Harry Potter movies) and several of the Royal Trains from Queen Victoria all the way up to Queen Elizabeth II.  (They were quite posh!)

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Posted on 09/09/2010, in Exploring the UK and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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