The Appeal of the Train

By | Category: Travel destinations

National Railway Museum, York

National Railway Museum, York


During my childhood, the age of the train altered dramatically. Being brought up near a huge rail junction called Pontypool Road in South Wales it seemed to me that steam typified travel. Just a few years later diesel took over and then Dr Beeching scythed whole railway lines out of existence. Within about fifteen years I had lived through different ages from where the train could take you nearly anywhere to a state where only major places seemed to be connected.
This year sees the 175th anniversary of the Great Western Railway, God’s wonderful railway as it was nicknamed so there are celebrations at Swindon as mentioned previously in CD-Traveller. Don’t forget though the National Railway Museum in York which chronicles all rail not only in our countries but some abroad as well. The NRM, a free museum, is just behind and signposted from the mainline station in York. It’s the biggest railway museum in the world and 800,000 people a year visit it. It has some of the most famous engines that fathers told their children about such as Mallard, The Flying Scotsman or a Bullet train from Japan as well as having replicas of Stephenson’s Rocket.
But there is more to the museum than just seeing the trains. In a large hall called The Warehouse, off the main area, is what at first looks like a junk room. It is piled high with shelving and here sit a strange array of lamps, signals, models and furniture. You can see George Stephenson’s desk, the actual one he worked at. Or a lock of his son, Robert’s hair! It’s a bit unsettling when you realise that you have been a part of history as you remember you sat on train seats like that or weighed yourself on a machine like that. But it brings the past alive. When you talk to your children you are the link between their generation and the past.
The trains themselves are the stars of the museum. There are about 100 of them as well as coaches and wagons. Some like the Duchess of Hamilton and Mallard are almost art deco works of art. As are the railway posters of the times between the wars. Today they can sell in thousands of pounds.
So if you are in York for a day out then the NRM is a place that both adults and children will enjoy. And best of all, it’s free.

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