I don’t think it’s boastful for the NRM to claim that it is “the greatest railway museum in the world”. Set across nearly twenty acres, the National Railway Museum has a vast collection of trains, rolling stock, and railway related items.
Not only is it the best free thing to do when you visit the city, it might be one of the best things to do in York full stop – even if you’re not a train enthusiast!
National Railway Museum Collection
The NRM has some very famous pieces of locomotive history in its collection. The museum has two replicas of Robert Stephenson’s Rocket as well as the Flying Scotsman and Mallard, both of which broke world speed records (the Mallard still holds the record for being the fastest steam locomotive).
Aside from the 300 locomotives and assorted rolling stock, it has nearly five thousand other pieces – including uniforms, equipment, artwork and photographs. In the Station Hall these items have been brought together to recreate different periods of train travel through the ages. Although probably of little interest to republicans, the NRM also has a large collection of royal carriages and train used by monarchs from Queen Victoria to Elizabeth II.
One of the National Railway Museum’s star attractions is the Shinkansen – the only bullet train outside of Japan. Japanese engineers ushered in a new era of high speed travel in the 1960s with a train that could reach speeds of up to 160 mph plus (although as a passenger service it only ran at 130 mph). You can hear daily talks about the Shinkansen during term time (although you’ll need to check the times when you arrive).
Visiting the NRM
This is a big museum, in fact it’s the biggest in Britain. Getting round to see everything can take a couple of hours. However there are plenty of places to rest your weary legs and numerous cafes where you can grab a bite to eat. If you want to bring your own food there is a picnic area (and play area) to the rear.
Accessibility is good, the wide flat spaces between exhibits are the perfect surface for pushchairs and wheelchairs. Due to its being both free (and about trains) the NRM is very popular with families – especially so during the school holidays.
The museum is located just beyond York station. You can either walk past the main Post Office depot through the Leeman Road tunnel or alternatively go through the station itself – crossing the main walkway. Occasionally on a Saturday there will be people checking rail tickets at the station, but if you politely explain you want to get through to the NRM they’ll let you through.
If you’re arriving by car, the museum has a car park opposite which costs £9 per day. The Rawcliffe Park and Ride stops outside if you wanted to park outside the city and get the bus in.
Opening time are 10am till 5pm daily, and aside from the permanent exhibits they also have seasonal and temporary exhibits. You can find out more about what’s on at the moment here.