The National Rail Museum in York – A Train Lovers Paradise

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

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.

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.


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.

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

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.

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.

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!

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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