Thursday, 5 August 2010

National Railway Museum, York, Part I: The Great Hall...

Hello everyone. Now, firstly, I make no apologies for the prospective lengths of the following FOUR post's on this blog. All four posts will document my fantastic visit to the fabulous National Railway Museum in York, undertaken today. This is Post No1, documenting the goings-on in the museum's jewel; The Great Hall. So, without further delay, here we go! After leaving home at around 7am we made it to the NRM, following a full english breakfast, just before opening time at 10am. Already there were a few other visitors waiting outside and so, naturally, we joined the queue. The NRM was opened in 1975 by Prince Philip; the Duke of Edinburgh. Since then, the collection has continued to grow and the 20-acre museum site is crammed with all kinds of railway relics, ranging from huge locomotive's right down to cutlery which was used on BR's Dining Trains! Admission to the museum is FREE, "Yes, you heard me right!"; FREE. In my opinion, it is by far the best museum of its kind that I have ever visited and is well worth a few hours of anybody's time! The museum, now one of Yorkshire's No1 attractions, hosts thousands of happy visitors per year, whether these are enthusiasts or general member's of the public. The museum is truly fantastic and I would recommend it to anybody at all. At 10am, right on time, the museum opened and we entered. Though the museum is free, they do like you to 'register' at Reception, therefore allowing them to know how many people visit the museum each day. Once past Reception, visitors descend a short flight of stairs before entering The Great Hall. Immediately, huge locomotives are within touching distance and even the tallest visitors are substantially dwarfed by the many prized pieces inside the Hall! The Turntable is in the centre of the Hall and many locomotives stand around it. Further away from the turntable, locomotive's face out into the light and towards the City of York. Below, we see the beautiful SECR 4-4-0 No737, standing on one of the sidings...
Wainwright D Class No737 is currently part of an exhibition known as "737 & Topaz". "Topaz", which is coupled up behind 737, is a beautifully restored Pullman Car, used on Britain's rails right up until the early 1960s. 737 claims fame in the 1981 film "Chariot's of Fire" and is beautifully kept. Though, like many NRM loco's, she may never run again, her preserved condition and security inside the Great Hall is admirable to say the least. 737 is filling a 'huge gap' in the Great Hall in my opinion; she stands where A4 No4468 "Mallard" once stood, with 4468 now having moved to the NRM's 2nd museum at Shildon (a bad move for the world's fastest steam locomotive in my opinion but, what can you say!). Below, we take a look inside the cab of 737. As you can see, the silver is burnished, the brass is polished, the backhead is painted and the cab is spotless; the NRM really know how to keep their engines...
Moving away from "Topaz" and 737, we moved around the sidings which run off the turntable and discovered the locomotive which the whole day had been about finding; streamlined Princess Coronation Pacific No6229 "Duchess of Hamilton". The Duchess is a striking locomotive, one of Stanier's masterpieces, much like smaller Princess Royal No6201 "Princess Elizabeth". 6229 was built at Crewe in 1938, forming the 10th member of the Princess Coronation Class. She was built as a "Bathtub" (a streamlined Duchess) and did many miles on LMS rails. In 1944, 6229 was repainted into LMS Wartime Black, a stark contrast from the "Days of Red & Gold" that had gone before. In 1947, due to maintainence, the streamlined casing was removed and the Duchess reappeared in rebuilt form; as did her classmates. In 1948, BR took over and 6229 became 46229. In 1950, the Duchess wore BR blue but this was repainted by 1952 into Brunswick Green. Finally, in 1958, she was painted maroon. Withdrawn in the 1960s, Billy Butlin bought the engine as a 'climbing frame' for his Minehead holiday park (a bit of a shame don't you think?!). In 1987, after running for the NRM on loan from Butlin's between 1980 and 1985, the NRM purchased the loco. In 1989, she returned to work on the main line as one of the NRM's flagship loco's; of course in rebuilt form still. In 1996, the loco's 7-year boiler ticket expired and she hasn't ran since. In late 2005, it was announced that 46229 would be restreamlined at Tyseley and, sure enough, in May 2009, she returned to the NRM looking like this...
"Wow"...
The beautiful "Duchess of Hamilton" takes pride of place in her own exhibition area in the Great Hall named; "Streamlined". There are many opinions surrounding the restreamlining but I feel it looks great. After all, she was built like that; it isn't a mock up! Well done Mr Stanier, you did a great job! There is talk of 6229 being steamed again in a year or two and returning to the Main Line in Streamlined form. I'd pay to see that; let's hope it happens! From this LMS giant we moved across to an even bigger monster; the Chinese locomotive. I make no excuses for not knowing what class of engine this is; I mainly know of British types! This huge 8-legged steam locomotive is a Chinese monster and was used on Freight trains. To put the following picture into perspective, she holds 25,000 gallons of water in the tender ("Mayflower" only holds 5000) and, I am 6ft 1" and, if I stand next to the loco, my head doesn't even reach the top of the cylinder! On top of this, she isn't even one of the biggest engines(!) on Chinese rails, she's just a simple freight engine. However, she's so big that she has an Automatic Stoker and Steam Operated Firehole Door's. You can also visit the footplate of this engine. It's always nice to do things like that on engines you are not familiar with. Looking at the size of it, I bet you'd get 80mph out of this easily! Below, the Chinese engine dwarfs the little Southern Q1 parked next to her...
Though it isn't actually a Roundhouse, the NRM's Great Hall has the beautiful Turntable at it's centre. As well as allowing locomotive's to be easily displayed for the public, the turntable serves the purpose of turning engines as well as allowing them to be shunted to their various roads with ease. Below, we can see (from left), School's Class 4-4-0 "Cheltenham", 0-4-4 "Gladstone", 2-4-2 L & Y Tank, an unusual freight loco (don't know much about that oldie!), a Diesel Shunter and a Class 87 Electric. The height of the overall roof can be appreciated...
Across the turntable in a dark corner stood none other than the beautiful 4-6-0 Star Class "Lode Star". This is another engine that I wanted to see and is also one of my point's of "ranting"! "Lode Star" was built in 1907 and was part of a production run of 73 Star Class engines that were built by the GWR under Churchward. The Star's were powerful 4-cylinder 4-6-0s with the outside cylinders driving the centre axle and the inside cylinders driving onto the lead axle. Valve gear consisted of two set's of Walschaerts, contained between the frames, the outside cylinders being driven by Rocking Levers. They were the fore runners of the Castle Class and performed well on GWR metals with a Tractive effort of 27, 800lbs. No4003 is the sole surviving member of the Class and was withdrawn in the early BR days, leaving service in 1951. Upon her withdrawal, "Lode Star" had covered 2, 005, 898 miles! Can you believe that?! The Great Western Museum in Swindon has had the engine since 1962, the loco being moved to the NRM in 1992...
Now, here comes the ranting! No4003 is a static exhibit at the NRM yes. Well, throughout preservation, the Castle class survivors (which followed the Star's) have been restored one after the other. Recently in fact, No5043 "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe" returned to steam at Tyseley and now runs regularly on the main line. Also, all examples of the County Class, built by Hawksworth, were lost under the cutter's torch. However, a brand new County is being built at Didcot. On top of this, a brand new GWR Saint Class 4-6-0 is being built at Didcot. Finally, to top it all, a brand new Grange is being built at Llangollen by the 'Betton Grange' group. SO, with all this in consideration, I find it very hard to see why people would want to built brand new engines such as the Saint, the Grange and the County when, lurking in the background, beautiful ORIGINAL machines such as "Lode Star" stand unsteamed and forgotten. "Lode Star" is a beautiful piece of engineering and should be steamed in my opinion but, at the present, there are no plans to steam the beautiful Star. Below, the Star's perfectly kept cab can be seen...
"Come on NRM, Steam Lode Star!"; I'd pay to see her move under her own steam again! Behind "Lode Star" we saw just a small section of the NRM's huge collection of train Headboards. Spot any you know of in there?...It's not just oldies either; the NRM even cater's for modern trains. In front of the museum's 'section of the Channel Tunnel' stands "Shinkansen"; the Bullet Train. "Shinkansen" is a Japanese electric train used their High Speed Railway Network's. This car is one of the "0 Series", the oldest of the Shinkansen trains. The "0 Series" was introduced in 1964 and the last trains left service in 2008, being replaced by much newer and faster models. Some trains, such as Maglev, run at speeds of up to 364mph. The first Shinkansen trains only ran at 130mph, back in 1964, but modernisation of tracks and expansion of networks has resulted in higher speeds of up to 186mph, though test trains have reached 275mph on conventional tracks! "Wow"! At the NRM, you can sit inside their Shinkansen car and watch films of other Bullet Trains running in Japan. I must admit, it is very interesting, even for an electric train! To me, it bares a stark resemblence to the nose of an aircraft...
The newest addition to the Great Hall, though dirty from top to bottom, was the Harry Potter star; GWR 4-6-0 Hall No5972 "Hogwarts Castle" (really "Olton Hall") which is on a flying visit. 5972 was the first engine we saw upon entering the Great Hall but, to be honest, she was a right state! The engine had arrived at the NRM on the Monday and, for some reason, had still not been cleaned up. As admirers gathered and began to comment on the loco's state, all of a sudden, a gang of cleaners appeared, all clad in white boilersuits, carrying buckets, scrapers, rags and spray guns! Good show! However, they really were cleaning the engine non stop all day to little avail; she was filthy; a far cry from the NRM's beautiful locomotives. However, it is necessary to remember that this is a hard working engine that earns her keep regularly on the Main Line. Below, the cleaners attack 5972...
At least 5972's dummy nameplates look nice...
Regular readers will remember that we dined on the "Shakespeare Express", hauled by No5972, last July (see seperate post). Below, check out video footage from inside the NRM's Great Hall and Station Hall. In the video you will see many engines from the NRM collection, as well as 5972, and I hope you enjoy it. I tried to keep it as steady as possible. Simply click "Play" to view...

As well as locomotives of the full size type, there are miniature engines, narrow gauge engines, model engines, headboards, signals, benches, a footbridge, a signal gantry, many photographs and activities as well as a very nice automated Model Railway, all within the confines of the Great Hall. On top of this, you can walk under a huge steam locomotive (on our visit No6000 "King George V") in a large, lit Inspection Pit and see a huge "Cutaway" engine (Merchant Navy "Ellerman Lines"), allowing you to see just how a locomotive works, piece by piece. Next time, Post No2 will describe the Warehouse and The Works. Look out for Post TWO coming soon! I hope you have enjoyed this post folks (apologies for its lateness; I have been busy). Good Evening...

2 comments:

Madcaravanner said...

You comment that the main hall isn't actually a roundhouse - this is actually incorrect as the building used to be York Shed and actually has TWO turntables one of which is now hidden is in the area where Mallard resides

Sam Brandist said...

Sorry Sir, the only reason I said it wasn't a Roundhouse is that the NRM isn't a Roundhouse. The York Shed was there, you are correct, but allas it is no more. If the NRM had been built as a Roundhouse then I would have written it. Thank you :)