The Great Railway Show

Sarah Jane Evans visits the National Railway Museum, York, with its emphasis on social history, science and technology and interactive exhibition.

One wall of the bookshop at the National Railway Museum is devoted to those bibles of the railway spotter, the publications of David & Charles. These radiographies of the great days of steam are sought out by the train buffers, a sober set of men (have you ever seen a female train spotter?). Opposite sweatshirts, posters and colourful knick-knacks abound, the trivia of heritage worldwide.

The dislocation in the shop is mirrored in the new exhibition. Essential work on the roof of the museum led to the relocation of an entirely new display in a goods yard over the road. Farewell to the permanent exhibition (at least until summer 1991); welcome to The Great Railway Show. The dedicated train spotter still gets his trains, but they can now be admired from platform height. There's still any amount of engineering, but the overall emphasis is on social history not bogies.

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