York - unmissable engines

Our curators have picked some 'must-sees' on your visit to the National Railway Museum, York.

Loco collection highlights in the Great Hall, York

Highlights from the Great Hall:


Designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, in 1938 Mallard broke the world speed record for steam locomotives, a record that has never been beaten. Built in 1938, she hauled express passenger trains on the east coast mainline until 1963.

Replica Rocket

Almost everyone has heard of Stephenson's Rocket. George Stephenson and his son Robert, were amongst the very first locomotive engineers. They believed passionately about steam and used a pioneering boiler design to build this famous locomotive.

Rocket established the basic architecture for the steam locomotive. The main features were: a multi-tubular boiler, to improve the heat transfer from the firebox gases into the boiler water; the 'blast pipe' which used the steam exhaust to improve the air draught through the firebox; and direct coupling, by connecting rods, from the pistons to the driving wheels.


Japan's high-speedrailway revolution resulted in the remarkable bullet train - the forerunner of high-speed trains everywhere. The speedy  bullet train would whisk passengers along at speeds of just over 130mph.

The 'Series 0' Shin-kansen (which translates as 'new line') was built in 1974. When the Shin-kansen opened in 1964 it was a radical re-imagining of the passenger railway. The Shin-kansen or 'Bullet Train' ran on a specially built, passenger only line, and with in-cab signalling. Within seven years these trains tripled the traffic on the lines on which they ran. This is the only Shin-Kansen outside of Japan.

Duchess of Hamilton

The streamlined Duchess is a stunning piece of 1938-built Art Deco opulence that wowed design critics on both sides of the Atlantic. It was a modern machine for a modern age. The Duchess was saved from the scrapyard by Billy Butlin in his efforts to secure it as a playground exhibit at his holiday camps.

Class 31

Designed to replace steam as part of the British Railways Modernisation Plan of 1955 examples of this type of diesel locomotive are still in service for Network Rail. The locomotive's diesel engine was developed from engines used in ships.

SECR 'D' class No.737

The elaborate livery on this locomotive (built in 1901) was created to help give the newly formed South Eastern and Chatham Railway a positive image. Wainwright's 'D' class was designed for express trains, but was later used on branch lines in the South East of England until it was withdrawn in 1956.

Electric locomotive 26020

26060 was built to haul coal trains from South Yorkshire to power stations near Manchester using the Woodhead route. This was Britain's first electrified mainline railway with overhead line equipment (1500v DC). 88 electric locomotives replaced 181 steam locomotives and crews greatly benefited by no longer having to work steam locomotives on heavy trains through the choking Woodhead tunnel. The Woodhead line closed in 1981 and is now a cycle track.


The power car - donated by Eurostar - is the centre of a new exhibition that acknowledges the historic role the train has served in connecting the UK with the rest of mainland Europe. A marvel of modern engineering, the power car has average operating speeds of 186 mph (300 kph), and is part of the same series as the train that holds the current UK rail speed record of over 208mph (334.7kph).

The 'Chinese Engine'

The Chinese locomotive is the largest single locomotive in the museum - over 15 foot tall and more than 93 feet long. These locos were the largest single-unit locomotives ever built in the UK. It was presented to the museum by the Chinese Government in 1981.

Southern Railway Q1

The Q1 was built in 1942 to a design by the innovative OVS Bulleid for the Southern Railway to help deal with the huge increase in rail traffic caused by the Second World War. Under wartime 'austerity' materials were in short supply, hence the locomotive does not have a 'running board' above the wheels. 

Evening Star

Evening Star was the last steam locomotive to be built for British Railways. It was one of a total of 999 'standard' locomotives designed for a wide variety of uses, from tank engines for local passenger trains to large freight engines like Evening Star. The 'Standards' were planned to keep the railways running until widespread electrification.


Bauxite is a rare survivor, a tank engine only ever in industrial use, preserved over 60 years ago and left largely as it was when it ceased working at a chemical plant at Hebburn near the Tyne. It was built in 1875 by Black Hawthorn in Gateshead.

Driving Wheels

These 8ft 10" (2.69m) wheels are from a Bristol and Exeter tank engine built in 1873 from a class of locomotive that has the largest wheels ever successfully used. The wheels were retained by the GWR as a curiosity after the broad gauge was converted to 'standard gauge' in 1892. They now sit outside of our Car Park entrance.

Also of interest

Background: BR Warflat