National railway museum York – a great free family day out

The national railway museum is located in the heart of York not far from the York railway station itself. Entrance to the museum is free. I have to say that this is the best free museum that I have ever been in. It is vast. Donations are welcome. You can also purchase a sticker book or handbook, for the kids, as part of your donation.

Review of the National Railway Museum York

There are 3 cafes on site, plus a railway carriage restaurant to enjoy afternoon tea in. The museum is open from 10am-6pm every day. It shuts on the 24th, 25th and 26th of December.

National railway museum York - a great free family day out

The main thing that you notice when you enter the first and main hall is just how small you feel. These trains are huge. Of course, when they are parked in a station you don’t really notice or understand the true height of a train. You certainly do walking around here.

There is a large turntable with a steam engine on in the centre of the hall. This is obviously how they have managed to get all these trains in here. The ‘wow’ word may well have come out of Jamie’s mouth a fair few times. He was in his element. He has always been interested in trains so this was incredibly exciting for him. But I challenge anyone not to love these huge masters of engineering.

National railway museum York - a great free family day out

The displays are all easy to read and most of the trains are positioned in a circle. But there are others to be found away from the main engines. The hospital carriage was particularly interesting. Some of the trains you can go up platforms to peer in, some you can even go into and there’s one that you can walk under. They have thought of everything here. There’s even a bullet train from Japan, a Euro star train and various trains from different ages. There are so many things to see and do at the National Railway museum.

It is astounding just what they have fitted into this hall. There’s also a signal section, an ornate railway bridge to walk over, which gives you a great view of the café in there, plus all the trains. There’s a model railway over on one side with an under 5’s play area nearby. Plus so much more. We wandered around a few times and again later, just to make sure we hadn’t missed anything. Plus it was so interesting we just wanted to keep looking.

There’s also a couple of smaller areas right next to the main hall. One has cabinets and cabinets of ‘treasures’ (it’s like an Aladdin’s cave), plus model trains and even larger trains. Then up top, there’s a display hall where you can look over the work yard, press buttons to hear various noises and walk around the back to the viewing platform for the actual main York railway line. Plus much more. There’s also a library full of books about, yes you’ve guessed it, trains. Including children’s books. For a cost of £4 for an adult and £3 for a child, you can have a ride on the Mallard experience simulator.

Before we left the area of the great hall we stopped at the Mallard café for drinks and some lunch. I tried their pizza slice with a sausage roll. The sausage roll was one of the best I have ever tasted and I highly recommend you try one. I tried the one with stuffing. Jamie had a kids lunch box which was fairly priced (5 items for £4.75) and Mum tried a sandwich which she enjoyed. The food here is that of a light lunch and everything, including drinks, is fairly priced. For example, you can get a bacon sandwich for £3.75.

After lunch we had promised Jamie a ride on their miniature steam train. So after purchasing a magnet (family tradition) in their vast shop we headed on over to the outside south yard area. A ride on the miniature steam train is £3 pp. For a free museum, we did not mind paying this and we all enjoyed the ride. There is a playground for the kids too but Jamie didn’t want to go on it. It was pretty busy and he isn’t overly keen on crowds so we didn’t push it.

On our hurry to the miniature train ride we didn’t get to see in the other large hall properly. Station hall is next to the outdoor area so we headed there next to look at the trains. These trains are more the ‘luxury’ and travel type. It is set out like a train station with a series of long platforms and suitcases waiting by the trains. It actually used to be York’s main goods station.

There are many luxurious saloon carriages to peer in. Jamie was a little frustrated as he wasn’t quite tall enough to see in most of them. A slightly higher step ledge next to some of the more important carriages could be a good idea for kids here. Plus there are trains you can look in, sit in and also at various times of the day there’s a carriage for the kids to be read a story in. You can also go on a guided tour of the carriages.

We also spent a lot of time sat in various places in this hall. We were really tiring now from our epic 30 hour visit to York. It was time to end our visit and head on over to the ‘working’ train station for our super fast train back home. I wouldn’t hesitate to come here again, in fact, I feel nostalgic just writing this post right now.

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If you enjoyed my review please comment or like or share over on social media. Why not pin my post for later? Simply click on the image below to take you over to Pinterest. For more day out ideas in York why not check out – 30 hours in York – Just how much can you do with kids.

National railway museum York - a great free family day out


  1. This looks like a fabulous day put. I’m not usually one to be looking at trains but I think if I was ever in York I would have to visit. I like how you included prices of extras too, it’s good to know how much things are before you get there isn’t it!

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