Newest Review: ... to see and you could see an engine stripped back ready to be worked on. The various exhibits are all well signed to tell you about ... more
A great place to Loco on down too
Locomotion: National Railway Museum (Shildon)
Member Name: jillycat
Locomotion: National Railway Museum (Shildon)
Advantages: Great fun to visit family friendly exhibits well described train trip
Disadvantages: No map given hard to find some of the exhibits
Having visited the National Railway Museum in York several times with our train mad son we thought we would take him to the off shoot of this called Locomotion in Shildon on a recent trip to my mum's. What I do have to say is we went on a wild windy day and actually missed a few bits that were not in the main area as we didn't realise they were there. This included some junctions, a workshop and a few others out buildings I didn't pick up a map of the place as I couldn't see one and we were not handed one but in future I will ask to ensure we see the bits we missed. We spent the majority of our time in the main collections area and on a steam train trip and in the children's play area. This was certainly enough to keep us entertained for about 4 hours.
Where is it
The museum is well serviced by public transport in that there is a train station at Shildon and various buses from Darlington the nearest town run to here. We travelled by road you take the A68 and the A6072 to Shildon. Locomotion is 1/4 mile southeast of Shildon town centre there are plenty of brown heritage signs. To follow and what I would say is if you are taking the car park to the collections centre make sure you go fully up the hill as there is a confusing sign that takes you to some derelict land which I did by mistake. Once into the car park there is plenty of space at the top of the hill for parking and at the bottom of the hill close to the collections building there is disabled parking. It is a matter of a few minutes to walk to the collections entrance from the car park and it has the added bonus that you don't have to pay for parking.
Main collections building
This is the main area with a lot of train engines and carriages for you to see into. These are mainly taken from the glory days of steam when the carriages were something to sit in comfortably and a waiter would serve you a table rather than the modern day cramped conditions on trains. Some of the engines you can climb into the front section to see what the drivers would have had to do to drive the train and the coal tender to the rear. In the main collections building there is also a conservation workshop were you can watch people repair a train. They were not working the day we were there but the workshop was still available to see and you could see an engine stripped back ready to be worked on. The various exhibits are all well signed to tell you about them and there are a lot of interactive exhibits for children to learn more about the railways there too. One of the most popular was an interactive button pressing game to match the signals as quickly as a train driver would have had too and this seemed to cause a lot of sibling rivalry to see who could get the best score. Whilst we visiting there was an art exhibit being shown too and for you to vote on the best train picture for the Guild of railway Artists annual competition. The collection was also starting to put together the exhibit for the Deltic fiftieth exhibit in an October 2011 to celebrate 50 years of these trains on the north east line. The train that we saw was this huge blue train that my son thought was Chatsworth from Chugginton and you can certainly see why with its blue and yellow lines.
For the price of £2 per adult and child free on the weekend we visited (I am not sure how much it is other times but imagine it would be a similar price to the adults) you can take a shuttle steam train ride. The train runs between the collections building and one of the groups of out buildings with further exhibits in. This is where we made our mistake and should have jumped off the train to have a look around here before taking the train back. Unfortunately we all thought it was just a station there and nothing to see so we remained on the train like a lot of other passengers. The train was the highlight of the visit for my son I think as he loved riding the train and looking out of the carriage as we went. The train it self was an old steam train that is run by a group of steam enthusiast. The trains are rotated around so you may find it is a different on to the one illustrated on the web site. The carriage is a very old style carriage with a redundant coal heater in it and benches on either side. These are not the most comfortable to sit on but most people were stood up in the open sections at the front and back of the carriage to watch the scenery go by and see the steam from the engines. If you are over 18 and love trains you can actually by a special ticket which allows you to travel on the footplate which I believe is behind the steam engine and this I think would make a great present for any steam enthusiast.
There is the number 7 café in the main collections building this is a buffet style café for you to queue up and take your pick of drinks, sandwiches or hot food. As we had already had a Sunday roast before arriving it was just drinks and biscuits for us which was served by friendly staff. The hot food on offer such as lasagne looked lovely and fresh and we would have been tempted by it on another occasion. My only grumble was there was no Hot Chocolate on offer which is what I really fancied after being windswept. There was plenty on nice clean high chairs on offer to use if you had little ones and the chairs were not fixed to the ground unlike some places so it would be easy to get the amount you need around a table for your party.
The museum is very child friendly I think there are lots of interactive exhibits which kept our three year old and other children entertained as they tried to fill up correctly train trailers for loading, or feel what lost property had been left by passengers. These are all at a nice height for a child too meaning you don't have to strain your back to lift them up to the exhibits. There is also an outdoor play park for children that is well designed and provide a lot of fun for my son. If you are taking a picnic to the museum there is also indoor and outdoor tables for you to use. On the indoor tables when went some of them had art and craft items for children to do such as to colour in a train or to make something to take home such as a paper train. As we had gone on the bank holiday the museum had laid on over the weekend a children magician who was performing tricks and making balloon animals which also seemed to entertain my son but not as much I have to admit as the train ride. It is worth checking the events calendar on the web as there are lots of child activities being run at the museum
The shop is any train mad youngest versions of heaven as there are simply loads of different trains to buy including the Bigs Jigs and Thomas the tank engine merchandise. They have lain out a small train table for youngsters to play with too and this captured the attention very well. It is situated just by the entrance so you can't miss it really and if I am being cynical it is placed there so your child will drag you in with full on pester power. For the train aficionado there are also some serious books about train's history and other memorabilia too.
The main collections building is wheelchair friendly with it being on a level and some ramps to some of the exhibits but some of the trains you won't be able to get into as it is steps only up to them. There are paths to some of the out buildings but these are outside and may take a while to negotiate. There is a also a shuttle bus to some of the out buildings for the disabled visitor but your are advised to ring before hand to check it is running.
There is a wide range of events running through the year from the festival of steam in late September to Father Christmas visiting some of these do carry an additional charge. I think we will probably visit again during the festival of steam as I think my son would like a trip on the miniature steam engines too. The website lists these all in detail with the charges applied. http://www.nrm.org.uk/PlanaVisit/VisitShildon/What sOn.aspx
I would definitely recommend this as trip out the museum whilst smaller than the National Railway museum in York and having fewer trains to see is still worth a visit. The museum is family friendly with lots of activities aimed at the younger visitor there is also plenty for grown up steam and train enthusiasts to see. I would like a better laid out map to let you know where everything is and think this is something that should be included in your visit so you don't miss parts of the exhibit as we did. We will certainly be returning and for this museum I am giving it 4 stars as I am deducting one star for how we were unable and unaware of how to find everything there.
Opening Times and Prices
* Daily 10:00 to 17:00 (Summer: 4 Apr - 2 Oct).
* Daily 10:00 to 16:00 (Winter: 3 Oct - 3 Apr). During Winter, building 8 (Collections) is open daily; buildings 1 to 4 are open Wed - Sun. See map
* Closed 22 Dec - 3 Jan
The main exhibits are free of charge
Locomotion: The National Railway Museum at Shildon
Co Durham, DL4 1PQ
Telephone: 01388 777999
Fax: 01388 771448
Summary: A great train museum to visit in the North East
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