Plans to build a National Railway Museum started in the late 1960s, and in 1971, the Paymaster General Lord Eccles confirmed that 500,000 pounds would be given to help fund the project. Lord Eccles announced that the Science Museum would fund the project and that the existing British Railway Museum at Clapham was full, and thus was unsuitable given that expansion was necessary.
The National Railway Museum opened on September 27th 1975, in a formal ceremony in the presence of the Duke of Edinburgh. The museum was built on the site of a former train depot, and it merged the Clapham collections with that of York Railway Museum. This allowed the Clapham site to be sold by the government. The original York Railway Museum, which was based elsewhere in York, had opened in 1928 and was the first of its kind to open in the country, run by London and North East Railway.
The total cost to open the museum was 980,000 pounds, and John Coiley was appointed as the museum’s first head. He had had a long interest in trains and the railway network, and had previously worked as an assistant at the Science Museum. The cost of opening was paid for by British Railways, and the museum started off with 70 staff.
When the museum opened it had 20 locomotives, but the collection now numbers 280, with around 100 at display in York. More of the museum’s contents can be seen at Shildon Locomotive Museum in County Durham, opened in 2004 at a total cost of 11.3 million pounds.
Admission to the National Railway Museum is free of charge, and the museum’s web-site is at http://www.nrm.org.uk/.