National Railway Museum

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Family including children under 16

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I was taken to York by Grandson for Mallard 75. It was busy and very hot in the Great Hall where the A 4s were gathered. We headed to Station Hall which was quieter and also cooler. We hadn’t spent much time here on our previous visit, so this is intended to add more information to that review.
There were no children’s activities set out today. Since we last visited, there have been a couple of changes worth flagging up.

The Travelling Post Office coach is now back on display and you can go inside. I remember posting letters in the letterbox on the side of the train at Newcastle Station back in the 1960s. They needed an extra 1d stamp. Inside there is a long rack of pigeon holes so the letters could be sorted and then put into sacks ready to be dropped off along the line. The net on the side of the coach could pick up bags of letters to be sorted from the trackside without the train having to stop. This is now part of railway history as the last train ran nearly ten years ago.

There is no information but the 1936 documentary film “The Night Mail” was being shown inside the coach. This runs for just over 20minutes, the quality isn’t very good and there is nowhere to sit to watch it…

The film is interesting but very long. Younger children will need someone to explain it.
The video can be found on google but is broken into three parts. The links are:

As there is no information provided about the Travelling Post Offices at the museum, those wanting more information may find this “website”: useful.

The restaurant car was open to give visitors a chance to look in the kitchens. Until the mid 1970s, the restaurant car was one of the joys of travelling by train. Journey times were longer so there was chance to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner on most routes. Food was prepared from scratch in the tiny kitchen. Apparently ex navy personnel were favoured for the jobs as they were used to working in confined conditions in bumpy conditions. (It was jointed track then – remember how the wheels went clickety-clack?)

We used to travel regularly from Doncaster to London on a Friday night and dinner on the train was a treat. Meals were excellent with plenty of choice and served to your table. Silver Service was the order of the day. Breakfasts on the cross country routes were leisurely and generous with a huge fry and a seemingly unending supply of toast with Cooper’s Oxford marmalade.

A notice on the side of the coach explains if the chefs ran out of food, they would hollow out a potato and write a list which was taped inside it. This would be thrown out of the window as they went past a signal box. The signal man would send a message to the next stop who would have the ingredients waiting for them.

There was a small sink with a raised rim to stop water slopping onto the floor. There were two huge gas fired ovens with large hot plates above. One had a huge saucepan which must have been 18” diameter. You could cook a lot of sausage on this. Next to it was an equally large saucepan. Cookware was heavy to stop it being knocked over if the train jolted or stopped suddenly.

The rest of the dining car with it’s beautifully laid tables had to be admired though the windows.

There was a museum attendant in the coach who was excellent. He knew his stuff and was also good at interacting with the youngsters. This is important as the younger you ‘catch’ them the more chance you have of sparking a life long interest. Grandson was given the chef’s hat and was allowed to play.

Apart from staff in the buffet, he was the only member of museum staff in Station Hall. It was a pity there wasn’t someone like him on the Traveling Post Office, or around the other exhibits to talk to visitors and answer questions.

For the unware, there is a narrow lip on the platform surface just in front of the exhibits which is a trip hazard. Apart from this, the Station Hall has full disabled access with ramps to the platforms.

The bag came with us. There was no way I’d manage a picture of the bag with the A4s, so we had to make do with Gladstone, the loco used to pull Queen Victoria’s royal train.

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