It’s an interesting reflection on British culture that, in addition to a National Gallery and a National Portrait Gallery, we have a National Collection of railway vehicles – 280 locomotives and items of rolling stock, most of them distributed between the Science Museum in London, the Locomotion museum at Shildon, Co Durham, and the National Railway Museum in York [http://www.nrm.org.uk/OurCollection/LocomotivesAndRollingStock.aspx?pageNo=1&cat=All&comp=All&ipp=96].
The York museum has something for everyone. I once took a school group there, and discovered the kids enthusiastically tracking the lavatory outlets on the Royal Train carriages.
NRM York, as it’s now called, started in a small way, built around the core collection of historic artefacts that came from the Stockton & Darlington Railway and its successors, the North Eastern and London & North Eastern Railways. Gradually, the other three of the pre-war “Big Four” railways added items which ultimately found a home on the site of the York North locomotive depot, literally across the line from the city’s passenger station.
This location has been repeatedly transformed, in 1975 when the Museum opened celebrating the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, in 1990-2 when the main building was re-roofed to create the Great Hall and in 1999 when the site was extended to create The Works.
There is so much potential in this vast collection of transport memorabilia. I’d particularly like to see the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway’s signalman training model displayed with sufficient space to appreciate fully its scale and complexity.
And the miracle of the NRM and the other great national museums and galleries is that they continue to offer free admission.
For that we should be grateful – and as generous as possible in support.