I am pretty sure I have said this countless times, but I think the secret to successful travel with kids (whether you are talking about a trip, a day out or a full on expedition) is to involve everyone with the decision-making process. Whether that’s giving them a say in where we stay, what we do and see, and where/what we eat (within reason), we have always tried to let our lot be a part of it all – if only to be able to tell them one day that they weren’t dragged around everywhere by us, they chose to go to a lot of those places themselves!!
Admittedly, we have visited some pretty weird and wonderful places that way, but there are also times when we will contemplate a destination and I think to myself “oh that will definitely be put on the list then” before somewhere is even spoken about, and the National Railway Museum in York turned out to be one of those places.
With a husband with an engineering background, one son with a fascination with wheeled objects generally, and a toddler who would watch Thomas the Tank Engine on repeat (for an entire year without a break if he could), there was absolutely no way we could have spent any time in York and not visited. It was pretty handy location wise in any event, Queen Street is literally just a few hundred yards away.
Built in and around an original steam engine “shed” (complete with huge working turntable), this museum now features several vast halls and outbuildings, as well as track, cafes, restaurants and shops.
Just pipped to the post by a French Museum for the title of largest Railway Museum in the world, this place settles for the biggest of its kind in the UK instead, and as well as containing hundreds of different engines and carriages, there are thousands of further exhibits and artefacts illustrating the effect railways and rail travel have/has had across the UK and beyond…
Every trip to the National Railway Museum starts in the Great Hall with plenty of impressive locomotive specimens, old and new.
My favourites had to include the section of Japanese Bullet train, even if it didn’t come with an authentic train guard who bowed each time you so much as moved, and sadly there was no sight of the best part of Shinkansen Travel – the intricate bento boxes.
This particular carriage did however come with a slightly eccentric family, who had settled themselves in for the long haul. Two of them were engrossed in books, and one was fast asleep. I hope they were dreaming of Japan at least, it definitely made me fondly reminisce over our travels there!
Other favourite locomotives included the glorious Flying Scotsman that still makes it out for a day trip or two, and the stunning Blue Mallard – the fastest steam train in the world (in fact a lot of these trains still get wheeled out from time to time!)… Long term readers will know how I love a bit of “industrial photography” and this great blue train is just beautiful.
Incidentally the best point for a photograph is at the top of the steps before you go through to the workshop section, there you can take in the whole of the Great Hall and imagine yourself in some strange historic station hall from years and years ago. It’s easy to imagine stepping back in time in plenty of the museum’s sections, and the main cafe by the post train is designed to make you feel like you could be waiting for a train in a station from days gone by…
There are trains here that helped life run better, with a great section on the National Post Train. To think that the majority of our post was flung from trains at one point, caught by guards wielding giant fishing nets is mind-boggling. Obviously there was a lot less post back then, but I bet most of it still made it to its destination.
Then there are the trains that saved lives with the current very humbling exhibit of the ambulance trains that served as moving hospitals and transported the wounded during World War 1…
Then there are the trains for people with other lives – old Royal Trains, and lengthy carriages straight out of an Agatha Christie film. I wonder what the people on those and many of the other trains here would make of the rail system in this country today, I bet many of the trains ghosts would argue that we seem to be currently travelling backwards at times rather than forwards sadly…
Coincidentally, our visit here was given a nice personal touch as the Toddler’s Godfather took the beautiful photographs of the Museum’s star attractions (we saw him the day before we visited and he happened to mention he had taken a few “snaps” for them, or else we wouldn’t have known they were his!)…
We had a really good few hours here (you should probably allow a whole day if you want to take part in any workshops and/or watch any demonstrations – there’s also a working steam train out the back as well as a smaller child sized version!). I would tell you to absolutely put it on your list (or accept it on any child created “must see list”) even if you don’t really like trains as this Museum is so much more besides. Ultimately it contains a huge chunk of English history, and gives a glimpse of what life was like when we were an industrial nation to be reckoned with. It’s well worth a chunk of any time spent in York…
Open every day from 10-18.00 in the summer (10-17.00) in the winter (closed 24-26 December). Entrance is free but if you can you should make a donation… Leeman Road, York YO26 4XJ.
PS. This place is not quite on a Venice with a pushchair level , but it could involve a little bit of lugging up and downstairs if you aren’t a naturally patient person and there are queues for the smallish lifts…
Megan - Truly Madly Kids says
My grandparents lived in York and I visited this place a lot when I was a child, and always loved it. My kids are big transport fans so I know they would love this place! #culturedkids
Such a great place! My Dad used to visit a lot too when he was younger! :) x
I would so love to visit this museum. It’s gone to the top of my list. thank you so much sharing this.
Thanks for commenting Usha! :)
Catherine’s Cultural Wednesdays says
I love the Railway Museum, the Bullet Train is new since my last visit ….. time to go again! #CulturedKids
Let me know if those people are still asleep on there! :D x
Scarlett Roitman says
I want to visit York with my youngest, and must remember to put the museum on my list. What a fun day out! #culturedkids
It really is a great museum. Thanks Scarlett! :)
Nancy | MapandFamily says
My boys would have loved this during our Thomas the Tank Engine years. And I’d love it now. That cafe looks very Brief Encounter and I’d be interested to know if our current dear postal service is any more efficient than the Post train! Fabulous photos too.
I wondered that myself! Thanks so much Nancy! (: x
What a lovely place to visit. I am sure little man would love it as he really likes trains. Seems like you all had a great time!
We did, thank you L! :) x
Sally Akins says
My eldest son was mad about trains as a little boy, and I think he would have loved this. Actually, I’d still quite like to go – it looks like a fab place to visit!
I really enjoyed it too! Thanks Sally! (:
Cathy (Mummytravels) says
I have very fond memories of visiting this museum as a child – it’s a long time since I was last there though and quite a few new additions. Would definitely be on my list along with Jorvik when we go again… thanks for linking up with #citytripping
Thanks Cathy! (: Jorvik next time for us too!
I have heard such great things about the Railway Museum – I’d definitely want to head there if going up to York sometime. I can spend hours in interactive museums.
I think you would approve of this place Charli! Thanks! :)
What a fun place to visit with family! I love museums like this!
Thanks Sandra! (:
Rebecca | AAUBlog says
I am from up there (live in the south now, though) and my mum actually works at the train museum – she loves it there :)
Oh wow! Tell her about the people asleep on the Shinkansen!! :D
This looks very interesting and a really good day out too
Thanks Hannah! :)
La French Connection says
This is paradise for anyone into trains! That must be very cool to see especially if you can visit the wagons.
Thanks Mika! (:
Looks fascinating for the boys but you didn’t mention what R thought of it! x
She really enjoyed it too. Anywhere with a good cafe! :D x
Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles) says
This looks absolutely fantastic! We were on a steam train on our recent visit to the Cotswolds and really enjoyed seeing the Hogwarts Express at the Harry Potter Studio Tour. One of my boys was train mad when he was younger and I’m sure it wouldn’t take more than a few moments here for him to relive that. #citytripping
Thanks Clare! The Harry Potter Studio is on our list! :) x
Your son would have totally loved this Emma. I remember when my son was into Thomas the Tank….that was 15 years ago now :(
Great place to visit. X
He had a ball! Thanks Lorelle! (: x
I’ve never been to the railway museum in York, I think my boyfriend would absolutely love it. Great post!
Thanks Katie, I saw lots of great cakes in the cafe too which is always a bonus in my books! :D
Wow, I have heard of this museum and wanted to visit when I was last in York but time ran away from us. Now I see what I missed out on, I would spend an entire day here just absorbing it all
It’s a great place. Thanks Anosa! (: