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National Railway Museum at York
Nrm.org.uk featured at Zyra.org.uk - Review by Zyra
A museum of steam locomotives, steam engines, railway paraphernalia, an other intriguing items, stored for posterity and for tourists to marvel at:
The National Railway Museum in York is a marvellous place to visit. Here is a set of photographs which I took when I visited York Railway Museum in 2003. It's had to appreciate, from photos alone, the scale of the place. It is a vast museum for a good reason, and that's because of the nature of the exhibits on show: Steam locomotives and other railway items. These are large.
There's a pleasant air of freedom about the place, as the exhibition items do not fit into glass cases, and seldom are there any fussy signs that say "do not touch". You can see why, as although the objects on show are priceless artifacts from the past, they are not exactly fragile.
Another thing about York Railway Museum is the amazing amount of loving care which has gone into restoring and polishing these old steam engines. Some of them are so shiny and reflective that they are difficult to photograph. They are as shiny as showroom new cars, and yet they are historically old. This gives the place a feeling as if it is other-worldly, as if it were something teleported out of time and preserved for all time. You see railway platforms, with trains waiting, but these are no longer on their way from place to place; they are on their way from the past to the future, very slowly, and in luxury.
The British National Railway Museum in York has a museum shop which is present online, so you can order interesting railway-related stuff and have it delivered to wherever you are. See National Railway Museum Shop. Well worth a look! (The railway memorabilia you can get, should fit in the post).
Exhibits on show include the Mallard (4468) which has a place in history for being an aerodynamically streamlined locomotive and for achieving the steam train speed record of 126 MPH. Even as a static exhibit in the museum it's still an impressive sight. Plus even if all the visitors stroke it, it's not going to wear away any time soon.
Stephenson's Rocket is also on show, and I'm sure railway enthusiasts will be keen to tell me whether it is the original or a very good faithful copy of the original! (Railway enthusiasts are known for their attention to detail).
Here's an interesting fact: Not all railways are the Standard Gauge of 4 foot 8½ inches. Isambard Kingdom Brunel considered it would be far better if railway lines were a broad gauge of 7 foot and ¼ inch apart instead. So, when you look around the museum, you may see some of the equipment is of that broad gauge. (From an engineering perspective 7 foot and ¼ inch makes much more sense than 4 foot 8½ inches anyway).
Another thought is: Why is Britain's National Railway Museum in York, rather than in London? Well, in a way it needs putting the other way round: Why is so much in London when it could be in other parts of the UK?! London is too overcrowded anyway, and space there is at a premium. Plus, the Railway Museum takes up a lot of space. Another consideration is that York is a place famous for railways anyway. I've even heard that York used to have the old railway marshaling yard, and it is that which has become the Railway Museum. This would also help to explain why York Railway Museum has a railway turntable. Railways turntables are very rare in the full scale, although they feature much more commonly in model train sets!
It is an industrial scene, where heavy engineering is repaired and maintained. Locomotives can be rolled over maintenance pits like those in car garages only bigger. There is heavy lifting gear as the spare parts are quite big. Everything is on a grand scale.
This isn't the same as it being a grand day out, although it certainly is a grand day out! York is a good place to visit, anyway. There's something uplifting about the place. York Railway Museum, well that's like having cream on top of the cake as well!
I always knew that these photos would be of wider interest some day, but what has inspired me to turn the photos into a page is the fact that the National Railway Museum Shop now has an affiliate program, which is cheerful news. So, like the Science Museum, it ends up with a feature online at this site!
The treasures which you see in the National Railway Museum in York are now rare examples from a bygone age, and yet there was a time when they were hardware that was part of the everyday world. I wonder how much of the current age that's commonplace will, in the future, be rare. Will enthusiasts save things of the present age so that there are examples preserved to be seen in museums?
Some of the things you are are historical, and some are historic. For example, there's a Japanese Bullet Train. You might expect to see such things swishing along at 250MPH in the land of Nippon, but it may seem odd to see one in York. The story goes that the first Japanese Bullet Trains were made in Britain and then exported to Japan! To export them from the factory, they had to go by road and by sea, and not by rail, even though the wheels under the Bullet Train are of the standard gauge 4ft 8½in and would fit on British railway track. People often ask "Why can't we have trains like that in the UK?". The answer is more complex than it might at first seem. Trains have to fit the infrastructure, not just the track. The train would fit on the track but would not fit through the tunnels, and would not fit the platforms, etc. The UK has lots of platforms, tunnels, bridges, and railway infrastructure which would not be compatible. In contrast, Japan was devoid of much infrastructure after the Second World War, and so it was possible to start again.
Remember to visit the National Railway Museum Shop. Now here are some more pictures taken in the National Railway Museum...
The National Railway Museum photographic collection is managed by the Science and Society Picture Library, although the photos here are part of Zyra's website!
Well Done to BING for having a decent search algorithm which is good for helpful websites like this!