I’m not a train nut, but I admit that I do appreciate the unique and endearing qualities of old train carriages. As my partner lives in a 1920s red rattler, he’s always keen to visit train museums. This is why during a brief overnight stay in York, we find ourselves at the National Railway Museum. After a week of dishing out for entrance fees to many London attractions, we are relieved to find a worthy fee-free attraction. The cashiers lining the entrance ways can be alarming and have you instinctively reaching for your wallet, but grab a map instead and drop a few coins into the donation box, because this museum – whether you’re bonkers for trains or not – is sensational! The three monstrous halls, which was a former motive power depot, house over 100 locomotives starting with the wagonway vehicles from the early 1800s as well as the “Palaces on Wheels” exhibit. This collection of Royal Train saloons were used by Queen Victoria and up until the 1970s, Queen Elizabeth II. A 2007 Japanese Shinkansen has floor space, and one shed has so much train paraphenalia that it is virtually piled on top of each other. A ‘men’s shed’ workshop is in full view so voyeurs can watch men tinker on future exhibits, and trainspotters can sit on the outdoor balcony, peering over the train lines that feed into York station. A place this size needs a few waterholes. Scones can be had at Mallards Cafe and the Countess of York train carriage offers a more upmarket menu, serving High Teas. We settle for the Dining Car Cafe that’s adjacent to the Royal Carriages, purely because I like the dim intimacy of this huge hall with its huge Union Jack flags suspended from the ceiling. Also the open style cafe has a series of booths as well as the usual dining furniture – I’m a sucker for booths. The self-serve food is tastfully presented with the well-proportioned fruit scones piled high in a cane picnic basket. My only gripe is the particularly small portions of jam in lidded plastic capsules, and the tubs of Rodda’s clotted cream sitting out on the bench. The cream at room temperature, is runny from lack of refrigeration, so there’s nothing clotted about it.
Tea: A standard selection of quality Harrogate loose-leaf teas served in a good-sized pot.
Overall: Train nuts will go wild. Where else can you sit amongst carriages used by British monarchs?
Location: National Railway Museum, Leeman Rd, York YO26 4XJ Ph: +44 844 815 3139 nrm.org.uk
Reviewed in October, 2015