Little Play Station for under 5s is now open!

Today’s post is written by our Learning Content Developer, Rozy Macaulay.

At the National Railway Museum we have been busy developing a new and exciting space for our youngest visitors to discover the world of railways and our collection through play.  We are visited by lots of families with young children, many of whom come back time and time again.

Several years ago we started running play sessions for children under 5.  Every afternoon an area in the museum was taken over by toy trains, railways, building blocks, stories, dressing up and shouts of ‘Choo Choo’. It was wonderful to see so many young children enjoying playing surrounded by our locomotives.  It seemed only right that we built on the popularity of these sessions and provided a dedicated space for families with young children.

The play area in Great Hall before the redesign.

The play area in Great Hall before the redesign.

The new ‘Little Play Station’ contains four zones; Explore, Build, Move and Pretend.

Explore is especially for our very youngest visitors; 0-2 years old.  It contains a soft pod where little ones can look, touch, move, push, pull, turn, and explore with toys and an interactive wall panel in the shape of a train.

In the Build zone children can dress up in hard hats and hi-visibility jackets and build their own version of Stephenson’s Rocket.

Children can play with and create their own wooden railway layouts in the Move area.  This includes a new low table layout and a wall-mounted track.

The track table and 'build a rocket' feature

The track table and ‘build a rocket’ feature

The play pod in use. Little Playstation sits very near some of our Great Hall locos

The play pod in use. Little Play Station sits very near some of our Great Hall locos

Children can Pretend to be drivers or passengers in our final zone; our very own Railway Station for children to dress up, sell tickets, make announcements and imagine journeys.

Not only is all of this lots of fun but the activities have been carefully chosen and designed encourage children’s development.  They provide opportunities for children to play in different ways encouraging social, physical and language development in particular.  We also hope that the area will inspire families to explore the rest of the museum and our collection.

The Little Play Station is now open every day so please drop in and play!

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Bringing Churchill’s Final Journey to life

Today’s post comes from Jamie Taylor, our Interpretation Developer who project managed our current exhibition of Churchill’s Final Journey.

This year is the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s death. To mark this occasion, we are displaying a recreation of the funeral train which carried the former Prime Minister’s coffin from his state funeral in London to his private burial at Bladon on 30 January 1965.

As a member of the Exhibitions and Design team, it was my job to tell the story of this historic day. I began my research by looking through photos of the funeral train from our archives. Many of these photos include scores of people standing by the trackside to see the funeral train as it passed.

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Lizzie the Elephant’s War Work

This blog is written by Harriet Steers, one of our archive volunteers who is researching railways and the First World War. 

We recently started a project to enhance the NRM’s list of 20, 000 railwaymen who died in the First World War. (We regularly update this list with new information, so keep checking our website and this blog for details.)

The project started by looking at Great Central Railway (GCR) journals printed during the period of the conflict. The 1915-1916 volume, which is available on the open shelves of Search Engine, contains a surprising Yorkshire based story reported by the railway company to their readers.

1916-05-01 GCRJ p263 'Lizzie'

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The many guises of Flying Scotsman

Today’s post is written by Andrew McLean, our Head Curator.

Of all the locomotives in the National Collection Flying Scotsman excites the most comment. For many she is the “most famous locomotive in the World” and should be resplendent in London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) apple green paint with the iconic number 4472. The question of what colour to present her in and what number she should carry is, therefore, a deeply emotive one and the National Railway Museum’s recent announcement that the locomotive will return in her final British Railways guise (as far as practicable) has prompted much debate.

For all of Flying Scotsman’s fame and celebrity there seems to be an equal amount of misunderstanding and myth. Some of the fame of the locomotive is due partly to it being confused with the famous London-Edinburgh Flying Scotsman train from which the engine took its name its name. By the 1920s the LNER were marketing the Flying Scotsman service as “The Most Famous Train in the World” and it may not be entirely co-incidental that the locomotive of the same name came to be known as “The Most Famous Locomotive in the World” in the 1960s, for the line between locomotive and train has often been blurred.

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International Women’s Day and the Railway Women’s Guild

Today’s post is written by Hannah Reeves, a PHD student undertaking a AHRD Doctoral Award, for International Women’s Day.

Today is ‘International Women’s Day’ – a day that has been celebrated annually since 1911 to mark the “economic, social and political achievements of women”. This post tells the story of a group of women who, although they have remained hidden within railway archives for many years, had a profound influence on the development of railway history and the lives of women across the country.

The Railway Women’s Guild was officially founded in 1900. The aim of the Guild was to provide:
“social intercourse amongst the wives and daughters of railway workers of the district; to render such assistance to any members as may be necessary; to co-operate with the local branch of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (ASRS) in any worthy object they may undertake.”

Women workers washing a railway carriage at the Great Northern Railway's Doncaster carriage works, about 1916. Copyright National Railway Museum (img ref: 03_2495_60_99)

Women workers washing a railway carriage at the Great Northern Railway’s Doncaster carriage works, about 1916. Copyright National Railway Museum (img ref: 03_2495_60_99)

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Armoured trains in the First World War

Fearing invasion in 1914, the government of the United Kingdom sought ways in which to protect our shores.  One of the measures mooted was the use of an armoured train based somewhere on the East Coast. The idea was that an armoured train would be able to reach a possible invasion point with speed, be armed and sufficiently manned to deploy an infantry force with artillery support, and capable of slowing down the enemy advance until some further support arrived.

In December 1914, Great Northern Railway 0-6-2 tank engine (1587) was purchased and two 30 ton boiler-trolleys were acquired from the Caledonian Railway, along with two 40 ton coal wagons from the Great Western Railway. These vehicles were sent to the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) works at Crewe to be made into the armoured train.

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Six degrees of separation and the ‘Chinese Engine’

Today Bob Gwynne (our Associate Curator of Railway Vehicles) celebrates Chinese New Year with a look at how we came to acquire the mighty KF-7 locomotive.

When looking at an object in a museum I like to ask ‘why is this here?’ How did this particular object end up here, as opposed to some village in Sumatra or buried in a field? The ‘why’ of some objects may seem obvious –  you might expect Brunel’s walking stick to have ended up at the National Railway Museum, and the same for railway posters. Presumably at some stage in the past these were given to the museum, or acquired because the museum had (in the past) direct links with the state railway?

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