Railway museums are historical railway-related buildings and culture that have been preserved or restored as an important part of a local community’s heritage. They often contain a wide range of items that tell a story about a particular time and place in history, including artifacts, photographs, documents, objects, and information technology.
A railway museum may be free-standing or attached to a railway operation, such as a tourist railroad. The latter usually have their own collection of historic equipment, and may also include locomotives.
The National Railway Museum in York, England houses a large collection of railway-related artifacts. The museum is located in the former York North locomotive depot and has received a number of major donations from the National Rail Museum at Shildon, County Durham, since 2004.
There are about 280 railway vehicles in the National Collection, of which around 100 are normally displayed at York and a further 150 are housed in Locomotion at Shildon. In addition to the main display of rail vehicles, the museum has a number of other exhibitions and events in its programme.
‘Palaces on Wheels’, a permanent display of passenger saloons from Queen Victoria’s early trains up to the 1970s, is one of the most popular displays at the National Museum. It has been described as “one of the most visually arresting displays in Britain”.
The museum is a registered charity and a member of the Association of Railway Museums. It is open from March to October and staffed by volunteers.
A railway museum aims to preserve and promote the history of railways and its associated industries and culture, and to encourage interest in rail transport as a means of social and economic development. Many of them have special collections of books, paintings, and sculptures.
They also have a wide selection of railway-related tools and machines, and often have an extensive library of railway literature. Some of these items are also available for hire to private groups.
Trains are a key component of the museum’s collection and the re-enactment of railway operations is one of its core activities. Visitors can ride a miniature train in the Museum’s Steam Train Station, or use an interactive train simulator to experience the thrill of riding a real steam locomotive.
There are also a variety of railway-related exhibits on the museum’s premises, including the stationmaster’s room and a freight yard. The museum also has a small, outdoor railway display area with locomotives and logging equipment that have been used in the local forests for centuries.
ESRM, the all-volunteer, non-profit organization that runs the railway museum, has been collecting railway equipment for years and has a long history of restoration work. ESRM’s volunteer staff have worked hard to restore the train station and re-create the train shed and depot areas in their original configuration, and to preserve and protect the railway artifacts stored there.
In addition to railway artifacts, ESRM also has a large library of books on railway topics and a railway-related video collection that contains thousands of historic films.