The National Rail Museum in York

Doesn’t everyone love a steam train – we certainly do, and when an opportunity arose to visit the National Rail Museum in York, we were thrilled!  The museum is located behind York’s railway station, just cross the footbridge over all the platforms and you will see the museum on leaving the station.  A large car park is available for those travelling by car.

It’s free to visit the museum and it’s open from 10.00 am until 6.00 pm.  We started our tour in the Great Hall, a former Engine Shed and one of nine in York.  Built in 1872, the shed was used for working engines until 1967 and to store out of use steam locomotives from 1968 when diesel and electric locomotives were introduced.  The Hall came into use again when the National Rail Museum opened in 1975 housing its collection of locomotives.

Mallard Steam Locomotive, National Rail Museum York
Mallard Steam Locomotive, National Rail Museum York

We recognised Mallard and went over to admire the famous locomotive which was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley.  In 1938 Mallard broke the world speed record for steam locomotives – a record that has never been beaten.  There’s even a Mallard Experience simulator ride where you can experience the sounds, motions and smells of the world’s fastest steam locomotive.  We didn’t take a ride on this but if you are interested to do so it costs £4 for adults and £3 for children.

National Rail Museum York
Locomotives on the giant turntable

At the centre of the Great Hall is a genuine turntable surrounded by a splendid collection of steam locomotives from the past 150 years.

National Rail Museum York
Gladstone Locomotive

After admiring many of the steam engines we moved into the Station Hall to explore a century of station life.  The Station Hall was once home to York’s main goods station, built in the 1870’s it was a working railway building until the 1960’s.  Looking round today we were able to experience the sight and sounds of railway life from bygone days.

The first engine to catch our attention was Gladstone, an express locomotive built between 1882 and 1891.  The locomotive has a very impressive emblem on the front.

National Rail Museum York
Gladstone locomotive

Moving to recent times, we spotted a Eurostar power car which demonstrates the historic role this train has served in connecting the United Kingdom with mainland Europe.  I’ve travelled on Eurostar three times, twice to Brussels and once to Paris and each time marvelled at the feat of engineering to build the tunnel below the English Channel.  Visitors can also find out about high speed trains such as the Japanese Bullet Train by climbing on board the only one outside Japan.  Going back in time, the Station Hall houses the finest collection of Royal carriages including Queen Victoria’s saloon which became known as a palace on wheels.

National Rail Museum York
National Rail Museum, York

I’ve just showcased a few of the many photos I took in the museum and as well as the engines I liked looking at the old station signs such as these below.

National Rail Museum York
Old station signs, National Rail Museum, York

The Art Deco rail posters below are also favourites of mine, I wish we could have poster displays like these today as I’m sure they would be very popular.  On my kitchen wall I’ve got a large Art Deco calendar I bought when I was in New York and I intend to keep the pictures from it when the calendar is no longer in use.

National Rail Museum York
Art-Deco rail posters

Across the station yard we wandered into the Warehouse, packed with over 750,000 objects covering every aspect of railway history from station signs to dinner services used on Royal trains.  I just loved glancing at some of the exhibits in here and wishing we could be served in such style on our rail network today, instead of drinking out of paper cups and eating sandwiches from cardboard packaging!

National Rail Museum York
Railway cafe, National Rail Museum

Before returning home on a modern train we enjoyed refreshments in one of the museum cafes laid out as if we were travelling in one of the historic rail carriages.

If you are visiting York do try and make time for a visit to the National Rail Museum, it’s really interesting even if you’re not a railway enthusiast or train spotter!

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74 thoughts on “The National Rail Museum in York

  1. Great post Marion. We took our grown boys here in 2008 and we all enjoyed it. My eldest was about to head off for his Masters in City Planning at UC Berkeley, so this was right up his alley. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. Barrie @ railwayblogger

    Thanks for your post. I’m always amazed that the NRM is free of charge. There is so much to see and do there and it’s always a full day out with new things to discover. I particularly enjoy the old railway films they show. One of them digging a steam loco out of incredibly deep snow sticks in my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Absolutely gorgeous place for a visit. I love trains and many times, we take night train to Lapland. In Finland, we have two train museums. I have not yet made posts about them. Thank You for this inspiring post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Conversations in Ubers

    This is so charming!! At first glance I thought this was a museum in New York City (my hometown) and was shocked that I hadn’t heard of it. Our train system has been an important component of the city’s growth and it’s so, so old, so would love for us to get one, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d really like to set off on some long rail journeys, too. I’m yet to experience a sleeper car. Indian trains definitely appeal but many other rail journeys too – hopefully something to look forward to one day! Freezing fog widespread across the country this morning. M

      Liked by 1 person

  9. The Railway Museum is great – and it’s even better because it is completely free. Two of my favourite memories of visiting the Railway Museum were for a university ball and to see a production of The Railway Children. Both were fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Lovely post & pictures!! As a train lover, I too love the York rail museum but it does quickly point out the fall from grace of the British railway system. Atleast we do have Virgin Trains (East & West Coast) that have some semblance of a decent service!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m not a train buff but I just loved this museum when we visited a couple of years ago – so much to see and do we were there for a whole day and could have spent longer. I loved the royal trains in particular but there’s definitely something for everyone here.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Great post and photos. I don’t think you need to be “into trains” to appreciate and love a museum like this. Sometimes we miss the glaringly obvious under our own noses as we seek out The Louvre or The Prado. I recently started to search around my own home, 20 mile radius, and discovered Steam, the museum of Great Western Railway which also includes workers cottages! Wrote about it here, take a look

    Liked by 2 people

      1. travelrat

        I love trains, but try not to get too nerdy about them! 😀 Do you ever see any of Michael Portillo’s railway programmes? I’d love some jackets like that, but my wife says they’re a bit too … too … !!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, I do like watching Michael Portillo’s rail journeys because as well as the rail travel they provide insight into unexplored parts of the country and overs as I might like to visit. His jackets and trousers are certainly very bright – you wouldn’t get the men in my family wearing them but they seem right for Portillo!


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