The National Railway Museum (NRM) is a museum in York forming part of the British Science Museum Group of National Museums and telling the story of rail transport in Britain and its impact on society. There are approximately 280 rail vehicles in the National Collection, with around 100 being at York at any one time and the remainder divided between Locomotion at Shildon and other museums and heritage railways. The earliest are wagonway vehicles of about 1815. The permanent display includes "Palaces on Wheels", a collection of Royal Train saloons from Queen Victoria's early trains through to those used by Queen Elizabeth II up to the 1970s, among them some of the first rail vehicles to be set aside for preservation. Other key exhibits normally to be seen at York include the 1846 Furness Railway No. 3 "Coppernob" locomotive, and the more modern express passenger steam locomotives London and North Eastern Railway Class A3 No. 4472 Flying Scotsman (added to the collection in 2004), its streamlined sister Class A4 No. 4468 Mallard and London, Midland and Scottish Railway Princess Coronation Class No. 6229 Duchess of Hamilton. Flying Scotsman is among the exhibits intended for operation on the National Rail network from time to time. The museum has imported several major vehicles for display: the Chinese Class KF7 4–8–4 locomotive donated in 1981 was built in Britain and the Wagons-Lits sleeping car donated in 1980 had been used on the Paris-London Night Ferry service. The single exception to the rule of exhibits associated with Britain is the Japanese 0 Series Shinkansen leading vehicle which was donated to the museum by the West Japan Railway Company in 2001 and which now forms part of an award-winning display, and is the only Shinkansen vehicle on exhibit outside Japan.
Although there had been amateur attempts to establish a national railway museum from the late 19th century, the National Collection today results from the fusion of two long-running official initiatives. One was led by the State museums sector, evidencing pioneering technology, and the other by the railway industry, in which the key contribution came from the North Eastern Railway as successors to the historic Stockton and Darlington Railway. What became the Science Museum collection was begun in the 1860s by the Patent Office, whose museum included such early relics as Puffing Billy, Stephenson’s Rocket and Agenoria (sister locomotive to Stourbridge Lion), which was outhoused to York at an early date. Preservation of redundant equipment by the railway companies themselves was a matter of chance. Sometimes relics were stored in company workshops and offices and some were destroyed as circumstances changed. Where put on public display at all the equipment was usually mounted on railway stations in a case or on a plinth. Coppernob at Barrow-in-Furness, Derwent and Locomotion at Darlington and Tiny at Newton Abbot were long-lived examples of this form of display. The first railway museums were opened at Hamar in Norway (1896) and Nuremberg in Germany (1899). These inspired talk of doing the same in Britain, both in the 1890s and again in 1908, but this came to nothing at that time. Indeed, two of the Great Western Railway’s earliest broad-gauge locomotives, North Star and Lord of the Isles, which had been set aside at Swindon Works, were cut up in 1906 for lack of space and several other relics were similarly lost in subsequent years. From 1880, J. B. Harper of the North Eastern had been collecting material much of which was exhibited on the occasion of the S.& D.R. centenary in 1925; and which then formed the basis of a museum opened at York by the London and North Eastern Railway in 1928 under the curatorship of E. M. Bywell. The smaller exhibits were housed in the old station buildings and the rolling stock and other large exhibits in the former locomotive erecting and repair shops of the old York and North Midland Railway (demolished after the museum closed). Despite this however, the locomotives were displayed on short lengths of track acting as plinths, very much in traditional museum style. It was only when the NRM was formed that Britain acquired a rail-served railway museum where large exhibits could come and go with ease.
There are events all year pertaing to the Flying Scotsman. Wheelchairs are available free of charge at both entrances and they have wheelchair accessible toilets. The entire site is fully wheelchair accessible. They welcome mobility scooters but if you would like to hire one (£5 per scooter together with a form of identification) then they recommend you book in advance by calling 0844 8153 139 to avoid disappointment. Support dogs are also welcome. If you require a large print map on arrival, please ask at the admissions desk. The audio guides are currently unavailable. Remember this is a large site.
Location : Fossgate, York YO1 9XD
Transport: York (National Rail) 5 minutes. Bus routes : Rawcliffe Park & Ride, 2, 10, 10A, 19, 29, 30, 30X, 31, 31 and 200 stop outside.
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 18:00.
Tickets : Free. Some exhibitions may charge.
Tel: 0844 815 3139