The accredited Museum of Rail Travel is an independent charity museum run mostly by volunteers and a small team of staff. Owned by the Vintage Carriages Trust, the collection is primarily 9 vintage wooden-bodied railway carriages, 3 industrial locomotives and a railbus, as well as a huge collection of historical railway posters, signage, photographs, maps and significant railway artefacts.
The building itself is based at Ingrow station on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway line (West Yorkshire, UK). It is located right at the bottom of the yard, so there are quite a lot of visitors who say “I didn’t know this existed!”
Once inside, the first area you come to is the reception/shop area. In the shop there is a nice selection of confectionery and souvenirs, but there’s also a huge section of pre-loved railway books, DVD’s, railwayana and other items. These are all donated to the trust, to raise money for the upkeep of the museum and the restoration of the vintage carriages in their care. Further down the museum is a magazine room, which contains thousands of back issues of pre-loved railway magazines, which are also used to raise funds.
Once inside the museum area, it is quite cold, so it’s best to wrap up warm! If there was heating the wooden carriages might warp and lose shape, so it is best to keep them in good condition. Each wall of the museum is decorated in historical railway artefacts such as plaques, posters and luggage, which really gives the place a nostalgic feel. There are plans for these to have more interpretation in the future, so that visitors can have a better idea of the history behind these items. At the bottom end of the museum visitors can see into the workshop, where a dedicated team are working on the restoration projects of some of the vehicles.
Up the centre of the museum there is a walkway, which allows visitors to go inside some of the carriages and sit down in 1st, 2nd or 3rd class compartments. Some of the carriages have sound systems which explain a bit about what type of person would have typically sat in that compartment. On each of the carriage windows there are stickers which show what films or television programmes the carriages have been in – they are quite the film stars!
Down one side of the museum are cases that contain themed social history artefacts such as railway catering, railway civil engineering and railways in the war, which all build a better picture of what railways were important for other than the journey itself. At the front of the museum is a children’s area, which contains a BigJigs wooden railway set to play with, and a small locomotive ride. There are also some steps leading up to the footplate of the small ‘Lord Mayor’ engine, so that visitors can go and pretend to be a driver or fireman by playing around with the various levers, valves, pipes or other such things.
The museum appeals to a whole range of visitors – particularly the enthusiast, but families and casual visitors all love it too. There are plans to continue developing and modernising the museum to be more engaging for the all visitor types.
The museum is open every day 11am-4pm (apart from December 25th)! There is a small admission charge.
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Alexandra is a 24 year old heritage and arts enthusiast from West Yorkshire, UK. She currently works full time for the independent Museum of Rail Travel in Keighley, working in various departments including front of house, admin, collections, marketing and events. On a part-time casual basis she also works various events at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford. Initially she graduated and worked in film production, but later has gone on to do a masters degree in Museum Studies with the University of Leicester.