Anthony Coulls, Senior Curator of the National Rail Museum at York
This was the first “national” Museum outside London and there were questions in Parliament about the location. The British Transport collection in Clapham was split into its component parts (rail, bus, aircraft, cars …) in 1975 and is still in transition. Rail is mainly in York and Shildon, near Darlington, but some “large lumpy things” in Anthony’s charge are in Swindon, Doncaster, Tyseley, Didcot, Bressingham … . Engines and wagons and carriages are moved about – with difficulty.
Anthony’s philosophy is that the NRM is a museum for everyone, not just train spotters and rail enthusiasts. We are all affected by the railways. The aim is to preserve not only the rare and beautiful: Puffing Billy and the Flying Scotsman, (seen above on the turntable at York) but also the modern and commonplace: commuter carriages, freight wagons. Some of these have given 40 years of long service and travelled millions of miles, but when the model is superseded, they are consigned to scrap. The museum undertakes to repair and conserve and repaint at least one example of each type for future generations to enjoy.
There are three stars in railway history: Trevithick, Stephenson and Wickens – and very few have heard of him. He was a professor in the aerospace industry, called in by British Rail to design the jet-propelled Advance Passenger Train, father of the Pendolino and other high speed trains. According to Anthony, they do not run or roll but fly!
There was material here for several lectures. Our national heritage is in the best hands. His parents and teachers were there to enjoy it too.