National Railway Museum York Review (2023)

The National Railway Museum York is an attraction that has been on my visit list for a while now. It’s the largest railway museum in…


The National Railway Museum York is an attraction that has been on my visit list for a while now. It’s the largest railway museum in the world and is home to a stunning collection of trains, locomotives, and railway-related art, posters, and memorabilia. It’s an absolute paradise for train lovers and a lot of fun for children.

So here’s my review of the National Railway Museum in York. Hopefully, it will cover everything you need to know before visiting this family-friendly museum in York, from its historical railway exhibits to the unique experiences it offers visitors.

Replica, part sectioned, of Stephenson's 'Rocket' locomotive, 1935 at The National Railway Musuem York
Replica, part sectioned, of Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’ locomotive, 1935
Text says 'the national railway museum york'

About The National Railway Museum York

York has long been a city with a rich railway heritage, and the National Railway Museum York is testament to this. The museum is part of the Science Museum Group and is home to Britain’s most extensive collection of rail vehicles, including some of the world’s most famous locomotives. Whether you’re a railway enthusiast or simply looking for a fun day out with the family, the National Railway Museum York offers a fascinating insight into the history of trains and locomotives in York and beyond.

Historical Railway Exhibits in York: The Great Hall

The Great Hall is the heart of the National Railway Museum York, housing a remarkable collection of trains and locomotives from various eras. Some of the highlights include the Mallard, holder of the world speed record for a steam engine at 126 mph, and a replica of the prototype steam engine, the Rocket. Additionally, you can witness the largest steam train ever built for the Chinese and many other notable engines all under one roof.

Royal Carriages and Queen Victoria’s Train

The museum also showcases an impressive collection of royal carriages and trains used by the British monarchy, including those of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. These carriages offer a glimpse into the luxurious travel experiences of the past and illustrate the evolution of royal train travel over the years. This part of the museum is in the Station Hall section and is closed until late 2024 as part of a £10 million refurb. So sadly, the royal trains are not on public display right now.

The Warehouse: A Treasure Trove of Railway Memorabilia

The Warehouse is another must-visit section of the museum, featuring rows upon rows of railway and train memorabilia. This beautiful space offers a unique insight into the history of railways and is often described as a train spotter’s paradise.

This place was amazing. There are so many things here to look at. The stained glass windows had such beautiful detail on them. All the signs were painted with so much care. The clocks and furniture from the trains were beautiful. It really hits home how much work and craftsmanship went into things. Now everything is basic and made in factories.

O-gauge model railway at the train museum York
O-gauge model railway
The Japanese Bullet Train at the National Railway Museum York
The Japanese Bullet Train

The Japanese Bullet Train

The National Railway Museum York is home to the only Japanese bullet train to be seen outside Japan. This high-speed train, which currently holds the world speed record, is a testament to the ongoing race for faster rail travel and offers visitors a chance to see cutting-edge railway technology up close. You can walk through this train and take a look inside.

The Flying Scotsman VR Experience

Experience the remarkable journey of the Flying Scotsman VR as it transports you through a century of locomotive history. Travel back in time and across the globe, reliving iconic moments like the British Empire Exhibition and record-breaking runs. Immerse yourself in the world of steam power and engineering excellence, with a captivating multisensory adventure that combines historic figures and cutting-edge technology. Get ready to witness the extraordinary stories of the Flying Scotsman come to life before your eyes. Suitable for ages 8+.

Play Area

There is a small play area with a large wooden railway table where children can play and create their own train tracks, we well as a wooden train to sit on and some other games and activities to enjoy.

The world’s oldest working model railway

Dating back to 1912, this model train set served as a valuable training tool for railway workers to learn about the intricacies of railway signalling until 1995. After being restored by a dedicated team of volunteers in 2003, it continues its original purpose of teaching people the art of train signalling.

The journey began in 1910 when the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway established a ‘School of Signalling’ at Manchester Victoria Station, where 100 students dedicated their own time to master absolute block signalling, a tradition that carries on to this day. It is now a world record holder! The train is used every so often, mostly on a Saturday at the York Train Museum. There’s a sign up saying the dates it will be up and running if you wish to see it for yourself.

Planning Your Visit to the National Railway Museum York


The National Railway Museum York is located near York railway station, approximately a 20-minute walk from the city centre. If you’re planning to visit multiple attractions in one day, be sure to factor in the walking distance.

York Railway Museum Parking

Alternatively, there is a car park close to the museum, available for £10 a day.

When you park, you have to pay inside one of the desks in the museum. They then give you a ticket with a 4-digit pin code to lift the barrier and exit the car park.

The Road Train: Saving Little Legs

A convenient way to reach the museum is the Road Train, which runs between the town centre and the railway museum. Although it costs £2 each way, it’s an excellent option for families with young children, as it saves their energy for exploring the museum. The Road Train leaves the museum every 30 minutes from 11:15 am to 4:00 pm, dropping passengers near York Minster in Duncombe Place.

Inside the Mallard

York Railway Museum Tickets

Admission to the National Railway Museum York is free, but you need to book a ticket and time slot on their website due to its popularity. It’s recommended to book your tickets well in advance to secure your preferred date and time. When booking, you can also add the Flying Scotsman VR experience for an additional cost of £7 per person.

Facilities: Lockers and Accessibility

On arrival, you can store your belongings in lockers located behind the information desk for £3. The lockers are non-refundable and require a £2 coin and a £1 coin.

The museum is wheelchair accessible, with ramps and lifts available throughout the venue, ensuring all visitors can enjoy the exhibits. It’s big and open with plenty of space for Wheelchairs and prams. Some of the trains have steps you can climb to look inside, and there’s also one train you can go under to look which also requires steps and is not accessible to wheelchair users.

underneath an old steam locomotive in the National Railway Museum, York
Underneath an old steam locomotive in the National Railway Museum

Dining Options at the National Railway Museum York

The Great Hall Café

The Great Hall Café offers hot and cold food at reasonable prices, making it a convenient option for lunch during your visit. They offer various meal deals, sandwiches, and picnic boxes for children. An added bonus is the opportunity to sit in rail carriage seats while enjoying your meal.

Cafe at The National Railway Museum
The Cafe

Countess of York Afternoon Tea

For a more refined dining experience, you can book afternoon tea in the Countess of York, a beautifully restored railway carriage. This unique setting offers a delightful way to indulge in a quintessentially British tradition while exploring the museum. This is closed currently from February 2023 for around 18 months while renovations take place – but I absolutely want to go back and do this!

Family-Friendly Activities at the National Railway Museum York

In addition to the fascinating exhibits, the National Railway Museum York offers a range of family-friendly activities to keep children engaged and entertained. These include the following:

  • A small outdoor play area and mini train (weather permitting)
  • A miniature railways exhibit showcasing the working life of a station
  • The Flying Scotsman VR Experience
  • Interactive displays and opportunities to climb aboard selected trains
The Warehouse at the National Railway Museum York
The Warehouse

The National Railway Museum York Gift Shop

No museum visit would be complete without a stop at the gift shop. The National Railway Museum York’s gift shop offers many souvenirs, from pocket-money-friendly items to more expensive collectables, such as the Hogwarts train set. My mum bought my son a Thomas the Tank engine book and I bought my husband a bottle of Flying Scotsman beer.


Is The National Railway Museum suitable for toddlers?

My toddler enjoyed walking around the museum. It’s a big open space to explore with lots to see. He enjoyed walking up and down the steps and ramps to look inside the trains and the play area, which has a big wooden train set.

Can you just turn up at York Railway Museum?

Yes, but it’s better to book online to save disappointment as in busy times, your admission cannot be guaranteed.

How long does it take to walk around York Railway Museum?

Around 90 minutes, but could easily be longer if are a big train fan and want to take your time looking at everything.

What is the Mallard train famous for?

On 3 July 1938, the A4 class locomotive Mallard raced down Stoke Bank at 126mph to set a new steam locomotive world speed record.

How many trains are in the York Railway Museum?

The National Collection comprises about 280 rail vehicles, with approximately 100 of them on display in York at any given time. The rest are distributed among Locomotion in Shildon, as well as other museums and heritage railways.

Can you get afternoon tea York Railway Museum?

You can usually get an afternoon tea experience on one of The Countess of York at York Railway Museum, but this is currently closed during the refurb so is currently unavailable.

Toddler Exploring York's Railway History

Exploring York’s Railway History at the National Railway Museum York

The National Railway Museum York is a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in railway history or looking for a family-friendly day out in York. Its extensive collection of trains, locomotives, and railway memorabilia, coupled with engaging activities and unique experiences, make it an unforgettable destination. So, what are you waiting for? Book your tickets, pack your bags, and embark on a journey through railway history at the National Railway Museum York.

We’ll be back when Statoin Hall opens again. I can’t wait to see those royal trains!

If you want to see more of Yorks Museums, check out these:

Are you looking for more things to do with the kids in Yorkshire? See this post with lots of Yorkshire family fun!

Want a cheap day in York? Check out 20 Free Things To Do In York


  1. My partner and his Granddad went here a few years ago and they absolutely loved it, they’re both complete train nerds. I’ve been to plenty of museums, science museums, history museums, transport museums etc. I’m not sure I could cope with a whole day of trains if I’m honest but it’s obviously such a cool place to visit!

  2. Excellent post! We took the kids there when they were younger and had a great day. Loved the Bullet Train!
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. loved your review of the National Railway Museum in York. It was such a pleasure to read about your experience and feel like I was right there with you, exploring all those amazing locomotives and diving into the fascinating world of railways.

  4. What a fantastic review! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your experience at the National Railway Museum in York. It’s clear that you had an amazing time exploring the impressive collection of locomotives and diving into the rich history of railways. Thanks for sharing your detailed and engaging account!

  5. I’ve been here before, granted it was a little while ago now, maybe 10 years or so, but I really enjoyed it. I’m not a train nerd, but I remember it being actually quite interesting. We’ve been talking about visiting again with our two, although there’s something similar (but much smaller) not so far away. X

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