About our collection
The National Railway Museum collection has been built up over the past 80 years. It has over 100 locomotives and nearly 200 other items of rolling stock, telling the story of the railway from the early 19th century to today.
You can go behind the scenes and see the work being done on our Collections at the National Railway Museum blog.
How we look after the collection
One of our main aims is to care for the collection and make it accessible. The objects come in all shapes and sizes, and range from delicate china tea services to working steam locomotives, from watercolours to a railway bridge.
For most objects the first task is to store or display them in the right conditions, where they are free from pests or accidental damage and where the temperature and relative humidity are kept stable. The Search Engine stores, for instance, meet high standards for the care of archives, photographic and art collections.
Displaying and repairing
Sometimes we have to conserve objects to ensure that they can stand up to the rigours of display or use. For example, our conservators often carry out repairs, reinforce weakened areas, apply protective surface coatings, or remove hazardous materials.
Display can bring its own problems, as objects fade when exposed to light and suffer wear and tear from contact with visitors. So we have to carry out regular monitoring and repairs, and have an ongoing conservation programme for items on display. We also digitise vulnerable items, such as glass plate negatives, so we can reduce having to handle the originals.
Working objects, like steam locomotives, need different standards of care. Sometimes we have to replace worn components to meet the strict standards for operating on the mainline network, but we always keep the originals.
When we carry out conservation, we work to ethical standards and wherever possible try to make any treatments reversible. We learn from the experiences of other museums and conservation specialists, and carry out our own research and experiments. We also keep records so that people in the future will know what work we have undertaken.
Leicester railway museum
We're always talking to potential partners about 'opening up' the National Collection to new audiences across the UK, making sure that it's properly cared for and accessible to you. We're currently supporting the Great Central Railway and Leicester City Council's plans to create a new railway museum in Leicester, which will be ideally situated in the heart of the country and let us share our collection with a wider audience in an appropriate and safe environment. For more information, contact Lili Tabiner at the Great Central Railway on 07939 484 516.
For information about our disposal procedures and a current list of available items please visit this Science Museum page.