by Paula Griswold
The British Rail Museum (BRM) in York, England, sits behind the York Railway and Bus Station, just outside the medieval city walls. The wealth of its exhibits is staggering. Over 100 locomotives, including a 15 by 93 foot long Chinese locomotive and the bright blue Mallard (the world’s fastest steam engine, clocked at 126 mph!), are parked inside the Great Hall.
At the adjacent Works and Warehouse, you can watch behind-the-scenes railway operations and study the displays representing railway history from its humble 18th century beginnings. Flying Scotsman, British Rail and Traveling By Train exhibits are enhanced by period music, newsreel movies and glass cases displaying dog-eared tickets, Pullman menus, and uniforms. In Palaces on Wheels, you get to see inside the elegant saloons, dining rooms and bedrooms that the nobility traveled in—including a silver plated bathroom! A wax Queen Victoria sits in her private state car and black and white newsreels show Queen Elizabeth and her sister boarding the train to Balmoral Castle.
In the Platform 4 Theatre, you can watch one-man shows and children’s plays, like the beloved classic The Railway Children (http://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/). Kids love the model railway and daily-running miniature railway, and there is even a railway-themed playground for children 3-8 years old.
There are two on-site eateries: the Café-Restaurant and the Signal Box Café. NRM is free but make sure you purchase tickets at the entrance for the Yorkshire Wheel. This observation wheel takes you up 60 meters inside your enclosed pod for bird’s eye views of York. (Adults, $13; Children 4-12, $9; Children under 4, free. NRM is open every day except Christmas and the Wheel runs Mon.-Sun., 10-6 pm; http://www.nrm.org.uk)
England is also home to the 129-year-old North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR), based in Pickering, which was an engineering marvel of its time. It crosses wild moor country dotted with forest parks, old iron forges and ancient stone monuments, and stops at three stations before speeding through a tunnel to its final stop at Grosmont. Goathland Station is better known to most kids as “Hogsmeade” wizardry school in Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone. The beautifully-restored train with its lustrous wood-lined coaches has been featured in A & E’s Poirot and Sherlock Holmes.
Family days, Tommy the Train Day, and other special events are scheduled on the weekends and families can enjoy delicious roast beef Sunday Lunch in Pullman Diner Service cars ($82 adults, $68 children). You can buy food at three stations to take on the train, and there is limited concession service on board. Day Rover tickets let you break off your journey as many times as you wish. Family tickets (2 adults and up to 4 children) are $64; $95 for summer service to Whitby; http://www.nymr.co.uk/).
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