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8 Railway Museums to Visit in Great Britain

Whether you’re a locomotive aficionado or looking for something fun and interesting to do with the family, your partner or friends, a trip to a railway museum is guaranteed to delight and surprise in equal measure

The good news is that there are plenty of railway museums to experience in Great Britain, and we’ve rounded up 8 to get you started.

Remember, if you’re travelling by train, be sure to book your tickets with a Railcard –  you can save 1/3 on adult fares and up to 60% off for kids. That extra cash will come in handy when you’re there! 

 

1. National Railway Museum, York 

The biggest railway museum of them all, the National Railway Museum(external link, opens in a new tab) is home to an impressive collection of locomotives that document and celebrate “the past, present and future of innovation on the railways”.

Highlights include the Shinkansen bullet train, the Mallard – dubbed the world’s fastest steam train – and a virtual reality experience of the Flying Scotsman. If you have children under the age of 6, the interactive play area is a winner.

  • Entry is free but the museum recommends that you book in advance. 

 

2. East Anglian Railway Museum, Essex 

Head back in time to the Victorian era at the East Anglian Railway Museum(external link, opens in a new tab), where you can hop on board a steam train, drive a diesel-powered train – we’re not kidding – and watch important restoration work being carried out.

And that’s not all. There’s also a heritage centre packed with fascinating exhibits, a train-themed playground for children under the age of 12 and a gift shop. If you feel peckish, head to the Platform Two Cafe for a bite.

 

3. Stephenson Steam Railway, North Shields 

Steam locomotives, diesel locomotives, electric locomotives. Oil tank wagons, coal hopper wagons. A steam engine simulator and an exhibition telling the story of Billy,  “the third oldest surviving locomotive in the world”. A whole host of railway wonders awaits at the Stephenson Steam Railway(external link, opens in a new tab) museum.

You can also hop on board a heritage train, which is made all the more memorable for the fact that it follows the route that the old coal trains used to take way back in the day. When you’re done, enjoy a bite at the Waggonway Tea Room.

  • Tickets are required for adults to get into the museum. It’s free for children aged 4 and under. 

 

4. Penrhyn Castle Railway Museum, Bangor 

Now, arguably the last place that you’d expect to find a railway-themed museum would be on castle grounds, but Penrhyn Castle likes to defy expectations – and cue just that: Penrhyn Castle Railway Museum(external link, opens in a new tab), housed in what used to be a stable block.

Here you’ll learn all about industrial-era locomotives and their historic connection to the nearby Penrhyn Quarry (such as the saloon coach that would ferry Lord Penrhyn to the quarry).

  • Tickets are required to enter the museum but they also include access to the castle and its garden. 

 

5. Ribble Steam Railway and Museum, Preston 

The extremely charming Ribble Steam Railway and Museum(external link, opens in a new tab) makes for a lovely day out for families. Start with a potter around the museum where you can see locomotives from as far back as the 1860s to as recent as the early noughties – and then get cosy in a 1960s-era coach as you’re taken over the dock swing-bridge.

If your children are still full of energy after all that fun, let them use it all up in the outdoor playground and follow that up with a relaxing brew at Mrs Ribble’s Tearoom.

  • Tickets are required for adults and children over the age of 4. Anyone 3 and under gets in for free. 

 

6. Rail Heritage Centre, Doncaster

Opened in 2021 and located within the Danum Gallery, Library and Museum, Doncaster’s Rail Heritage Centre houses some of the fascinating objects from the Doncaster Grammar School Railway Collection.

There are also 2 locomotives that were built in the city on display, the No.251 ‘Atlantic’ locomotive and the Green Arrow.

  • Entry is free.

7. Narrow Gauge Railway Museum, Tywyn 

One of the things that makes the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum(external link, opens in a new tab) such a winning destination is its attention to detail, from its fascinating collection of tickets and headboards to its well-curated collection of narrow gauge wagons.

But it is perhaps the replica study of Wilbert Awdry, the children’s author who famously introduced the world to the adventures of Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends, that is one of the standout attractions at the museum.

  • Entry is free but donations are welcome. 

8. STEAM: Museum of the Great Western Railway

Housed in a restored Grade II railway building that was part of Swindon railway works, STEAM is a vibrant museum(external link, opens in a new tab) that tells the story of the people who made the Great Western Railway, and its visionary engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

See history come to life with GWR locomotives, hands-on exhibits, interactive displays and more. And keep an eye out for exhibitions and special events running throughout the year.

National Railway Museum image credit: © Eleanor Bentall

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