The National Railway Museum

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After the Minster, the National Railway Museum in York is probably the second most popular visitor attraction in the city. It’s part of the British National Museum of Science and Industry and, along with the Museum of Science and industry in Manchester and the National Media Museum in Bradford, has been threatened with closure – although I think that’s probably a ploy to introduce entrance charges.

The Museum is housed in two large buildings  a short walk from York Railway Station. One is a disused station and the other a  former locomotive shed with a large turntable.

I’m not exactly a railway fanatic, but am interested in industrial heritage and engineering. I also remember travelling on a steam train to Blackpool when I was a young boy, not long before steam locomotives was phased out by British Rail. I still can recall the image of this big black machine puffing steam drawing into the station.

The main exhibits in the former station were trains used by various monarchs and their hangers on from Queen Victoria onwards. Plush carriages which reflected the standards of luxury of their time.

This engine, which had been used to pull a Royal train

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had been built at Horwich Loco Works (closed in the 1980’s, and not far from where I live)

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The other building, the Great Hall, accessed via a tunnel under the road, is a former engine shed. There was a large collection of engines on display,

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from very early locomotives (pre-Rainhill trials)

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and the exhibits included a life size reconstruction of Stephenson’s Rocket.

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This locomotive, the Evening Star was appropriately named as it was the last steam engine built for British Rail

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This locomotive, built for the LMS railway, looks very much like the engine I can remember seeing as a boy. As it was one of the workhorses of the LMS railway which were used right up to the end of steam, it’s quite possible that was the case.

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They had one of the Japanese Shinkansen “Bullet trains” .

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We were able to go inside and sit down and watch a video about these early high speed trains.

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one of the Museum’s star exhibits is the Mallard a London and North Eastern Railway Class A4 4-6-2 Pacific steam locomotive built at Doncaster in 1938, which still holds the world speed record for steam locomotives. It’s a beautiful piece of machinery, with an elegant streamlined shape very much of the era of Art Deco.

This year is the 75th anniversary of Mallard’s achievement and the museum has celebrated this with a series of commemorative events. Included displaying the Mallard together with the only other 5 remaining Class A4 Engines (in the Great Hall from 26 October until the 8 November and then at the Museum;s other site at Shildon in County Durham from 15-23 February 2014). During our visit the Mallard wasn’t there – it was out on it’s travels and on display somewhere else – but there were three other A4’s, the Bittern the Dwight D. Eisenhower, brought over from America, and the Dominion of Canada from Canada

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