Family days out at the National Railway Museum

April 13th, 2011

How do you get hundreds of children to visit the National Railway Museum in York? Well by giving them rides on the Hogwarts Express, the magical train from Harry Potter of course!

We were delighted to learn on a recent visit to York with my nine year old niece that the National Railway Museum was running a ‘Wizard Week’ (to coincide with the February school holidays). You might think that a ride on the Hogwarts Castle would be the highlight of the day, but in fact it was just one of a whole host of child friendly activities organised by the museum. There was a magic show with a pair of wizards who looked suspiciously like Dumbledore and Harry himself as well as owls on display.

National Railway Museum York

You can imagine my delight then when I learned, with another school holiday coming up, that the NRM has done it again with another family friendly themed event. The time the event is a Japan Festival which was planned to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the arrival of a Japanese bullet train (or Shinkansen) at the museum. The theme was planned before the tragic Japanese tsunami and a book of condolence will be available next to the bullet train so that visitors can leave their messages of support for the victims.

The event features all sorts of fun classes for kids including how to wear a kimono and demonstrations of martial arts. Different martial arts will be featured on different days including karate, kendo (fighting with big sticks), jiu-jitsu and aikido. The timetable is available on the NRM website.   Kids will also get a chance to watch demonstrations of traditional Japanese drumming and make their own origami bullet train!

This is a fantastic way to keep kids entertained for the day and as the museum and most of the activities are free it’s also easy on the wallet. Paid activities include steam train rides which go down well with kids of any age and cost just £2 for adults and £1 for children.

The Japan Festival is more proof, if it was needed, that the National Railway Museum is not just for train spotters. The railways have had a huge influence on the world. When the steam train was first invented the Duke of Wellington expressed his concern that it would “allow the lower orders to move about.” He was quite right of course and soon Thomas Cook was organising the first package holidays, travelling to the seaside by train. In fact, Thomas Cook still publishes the definitive European Rail Timetable to this day.

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