Blog of Justin Cheuk, home to writing on London, Hong Kong, Studying Abroad, Trains and Travels.

National Railway Museum, York

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Justin Cheuk: When HK Meets UK

My cousin came across about twelve time zones to visit this Christmas: tis time to document a little about our travels!

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YORK- The beautiful cathedral city in Northern England is consistently one of the most popular tourist destination in the UK. Only an hour’s train ride away from Durham, it naturally became a place to visit.

A day-trip is probably not enough to do the whole city justice, but no matter: since there was ever only one attraction that’s on our list: the National Railway Museum.

OH THE CHILDHOOD DREAMS (I’ve mentioned I like trains right? Right?)

Since I AM a big railway person, of course, I’ve already been to this museum at York a few times before. But the NRM is basically the complete reenactment of childhood daydreams, I honest doubt I’ll ever get tired or bored of this place. This is, after all, the largest railway museum in the world!

Britain was the first country to adopt to the ‘Iron Horse’: as early as 1825, there had already been steam locomotives traversing the distance of the country. (Incidentally, the first line ran between STOCKTON and Darlington: Stockton’s claim to fame, I suppose). Railways have been instrumental in British history that it has truly become a microcosm of the country’s industrial and thus economic development. HISTORY.

The museum is situated right next to York railway station, at what was an old engine shed (which technically still forms a part of the station?) I went in the days preceding Christmas; it was surprisingly empty. I had expected hordes of crowds packing the place, however, there were only a few schoolchildren crowding the wooden railway toys, and it was quiet enough for me to spend time going through the exhibits in comfort.

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There are MANY, MANY exhibits: thousands of them ranging from locomotives to various pieces of railroad memorabilia. As Britain was a land of steam, the majority of the locomotives on exhibit are steam engines that spent much of their working lives trawling through the country, or exported abroad to various countries.

Trains in museums tend to be of two types: they either work or don’t. As it is cultural heritage, the latter constituted the overwhelming majority. We had locomotives from the 1830s to Queen Victoria’s Royal Coach, to the Mallard!

The Mallard is truly an iconic train, as it (still) hold the record as the fastest steam engine ever with a speed of 126mph/202kmh. And this was achieved before the second world war in 1938! 

The museum created a simulator named The Mallard Experience to celebrate it: unfortunately it was fairly ordinary and really wasn’t worth the money… maybe the children would enjoy it more.

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Stephenson Rocket; 1830: with a top speed of 30mph/45kmh, it was then universally terrifying and seen as a health hazard. This one runs between Manchester and Liverpool, in what was the world’s first railway dedicated to passenger traffic.

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My cousin and I went through much of Japan on the Shinkansen bullet train during my middle and upper school days, so it was a pleasant surprise to see the Shinkansen 0 Series! The first reaction: it smells like Japan.

(Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to eat on them, that would have been the complete fulfilment of the trip…)

We stayed for pretty much the whole day and left it until to almost closing before we left. Hope I’ll be back soon!

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