One of our favourite free days out in Yorkshire, especially over autumn/winter, is a visit to the National Railway Museum in York. It’s a great place to visit for a few hours. As vast as the buildings are it’s always nice and warm inside.
The museum is located on the outskirts of the main centre of York very close to the actual train station. There is even an outside area where you can stand and watch the trains coming and going. The museum is part of the British Science Museum Group of National museums and it tells the story of rail transport in Britain and its impact on society.
National Railway Museum York Things To Do Review
The main thing to note is to try to avoid parking in their car park. This is a shocking £10! This does go to the upkeep of the museum but even so, it’s very expensive. Your best bet is to arrive by train or find somewhere else to park nearby.
Although the museum is free they do ask for donations but that’s up to you and not something you are forced to do. Some of the park and ride buses also stop at the train station so that’s something to look into.
The museum has two main halls. The largest is the first hall you come to and some of it can be seen in the photo above and the photo below.
As you can see they have a great number of locomotives and carriages some of which you can go inside. During the day they have a demonstration to show how the trains are turned on their turntable. This turntable has been essential to getting many of the engines inside the great hall.
A few of the trains have steps up to the engines so that you can peer inside. One engine even has a tunnel going underneath it so that you can see what the undercarriage of a train engine looks like.
You can even go inside the main ‘cab’ of the Mallard. This is the fastest steam engine in the world and it is huge!
One of our favourite train carriages to look inside is the ambulance train. They have sounds to match the displays in the carriages.
Also in the great hall, there are many information boards to read plus there is a small under 5s play area with soft blocks, a train track and a few other toys. For £3 per person, you can also have a go in their Mallard Experience simulator ride. The ride lasts for 5 minutes and height/age restrictions apply.
Off the great hall is the north shed where you can see workshops, the Flying Scotsman story, collections and artefacts and more.
If you head outside and walk past the afternoon tea carriage you will come to the other entrance for the museum and their shop. This then leads to the Station hall. This is set up exactly as you expect a busy station to be. There are many platforms with train engines and carriages. There is a train from the 1970s, a royal mail carriage and posh royal coaches from days gone by. It has all been set out really well.
Outside there is a small play area plus a miniature railway. This ride costs £3 per person which I feel is a little overpriced but the kids will love it. All under 12’s must be accompanied by an adult and under 2s are free. Prebooking in advance is also recommended as the train rides can sell out.
You can also take a 10 minutes steam train ride at selected weekends and during school holidays. This costs £4 per person and children under 2 are free. Please note the steam train rides are yet to reopen. There is also a road train that runs between York Minster and the museum. This operates daily and children are £2 each way, adults £3.
Sound Tracks is the museum’s new audio trail. The trail is accessible for free via your smartphone and it guides you around ten of the museum’s locations and tells the history of the site. The museum is also seeing a lot of investment right now with some major plans set to be completed by 2025. We are very excited about this and will aim to visit as soon as the revamp is complete.
The museum does allow picnics and you can even eat them indoors. They do have a couple of on-site cafes plus there is the Countess of York tea room. This is a restored railway carriage where you can enjoy an afternoon tea. The cafe in the main hall is more for snacks and drinks with the cafe in the second hall having the better options for a meal.
National Railway Museum FAQ & Further Information
Address: Leeman Rd, York YO26 4XJ, North Yorkshire
Category – Museum – Mostly Indoors – Suitable for all ages.
What are the ticket prices?
FREE. The museum is free to visit and tickets must be prebooked. A few of the activities have an additional charge but these activities are optional.
What are the main facilities and things to do?
Two large halls packed full of train engines and carriages some of which you can look inside, there are exhibitions, play areas and a miniature railway. There are toilets and places to purchase food and drinks.
When are they open?
They are currently open Wednesday – Sunday. For up-to-date opening times please visit their website.
Is there food available?
There are places you can purchase hot and cold food and drinks. You are welcome to bring a picnic.
Is there parking?
There is parking at a cost of £10 per car.
Are they dog friendly?
Only assistance dogs are permitted.