ASK most people to name their favourite thing in York’s brilliant Railway Museum and they would name a train.

The ‘bullet train’, perhaps, that races across Japan at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, the sleek Mallard which set a world speed record for a steam railway locomotive at 125 mph, or one of the royal trains with sumptuously decorated carriages.

But for me, the highlight is Laddie, a stuffed Airedale Terrier in a large glass case. With a box strapped to his back, the woolly dog collected money for the Southern Railway Servants Orphanage, working at Waterloo and Wimbledon stations in the 1940s. After his death in around 1960 he was stuffed and returned to Wimbledon station, where passengers could still donate money into slots at the base of his case. He holds a special place in my heart as I used to live in Wimbledon and used to regularly stand beside him as I waited for trains. To my delight, he was the first exhibit I saw as I entered the popular museum with my husband.

For rail enthusiasts and anyone who simply likes trains, the free entry attraction - regularly named as one of the UK’s top museums - delivers in spades. There is so much to see.

We began with the royal trains: from Queen Victoria’s lavish ‘palace on wheels’ to King Edward VII’s well-furnished smoking saloon, the museum has the most extensive collection of royal carriages in the world. They really are palaces, stylishly furnished with plush sofas, writing bureaus, lamps, even gramophones.

I love all the old railway signs. Anti-trespass and other warnings from locations all over the country make for interesting reading. I liked ‘Men employed by farmers must not cross the main lines to fetch milk cans’.

The museum has more than 9,000 railway posters dotted throughout the attraction. One railway ‘Keep Your Station Tidy’ poster features Abba, wearing ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ T-shorts and clutching sweeping brushes.

And it has a vast, fascinating section devoted to miscellaneous items such as waiting room furniture, railway crockery, lamps, clocks and stained glass windows.

This is a marvellous museum for children, who can climb into carriages and engines, enjoy rides on a model railway and a ride behind a steam locomotive.

I remember how fascinated my daughters were when we ‘travelled’ on the bullet train not long after it arrived at the museum in 2001. A film of the train’s journey in Japan plays as you sit inside. I couldn’t resist another trip.

Nearby, a more recent exhibit reveals a section of a Eurostar train, plus a replica cut-away cross-section of the Channel Tunnel with the train nosing through. I wondered what Robert Stephenson, designer of the famous Rocket, back in 1829, would make of it. Entering a competition for a steam locomotive to pull the first inter-city passenger service, he made a full-size prototype that became the template for most steam engines in the following 150 years.

The famous loco was preserved and displayed in the Science Museum in London until 2018 and only arrived in York in September. It will remain at the railway museum for at least ten years.

My favourite train has to be the boringly-named KF,7, a massive Chinese locomotive and the largest in the museum’s collection. Built in 1935 in Lancashire, the awe-inspiring giant - which had to be powerful to cope with steep hills and weak bridges - is also one of the biggest ever built in Britain.

At the time it was built, Britain’s railways had global influence and British railways vehicles were imported across the world. It was presented by the Chinese Government to the National Railway Museum in 1981.

The famous Mallard stands proud, its sleek blue body surrounded by admirers taking pictures. I remember taking photos of this beautiful locomotive when she ran between York and Scarborough in the 1980s.

An interesting display of photographs surrounds an ambulance train, which treated the wounded and dying in the First World War. A nurse, Kate Luard, is quoted: ‘Imagine a hospital as big as King’s College all packed into a train.’

There’s a great cafe among the Royal carriages, another in the Great Hall, and a special place for afternoon tea - a beautifully restored rail carriage, the Countess of York.

To get to the museum we used York’s Park and Ride at Rawcliffe, north of York, which drops off close to the museum. On the way there it was great, but coming back, we stood with other museum visitors at the bus stop on the opposite side of the road, puzzled as to the lack of a Park and Ride sign. Thank goodness a museum worker passed and told us that the P&R service ran on a loop, and we needed the same stop we embarked from. He told us he tells people all the time. What’s needed is a sign on the bus stop to say so.

*National Railway Museum, Leeman Road, York YO26 4XJ. Visit:

Entry is free, with charges for optional activities inside.