National Railway Museum upgrade to include £5m Wonderlab

The National Railway Museum in York has revealed more details about its planned £50m ($70m), seven-year upgrade.

The renovations would allow the National Railway Museum to re-display over 12,000 objects and bring 1,000 more into public display for the first time in a reimagined Open Store.

Some £5m of the budget would go to creating the Wonderlab, a purpose-built gallery aimed at inspiring young people to get hands-on and invent their own solutions to engineering challenges.

Wonderlab would allow young people to build, test and learn through activities like pulling a locomotive or exploring how fast things travel and how they move. The National Railway Museum describes it as a “unique ‘tinkering’ workshop space” that will feature live demonstrations, live shows and experiments.

A rendering of Wonderlab at the National Railway Museum in York.

Its concept is based on the interactive galleries created by the Science Museum Group at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford and the National Science Museum in London.

Other aspects of the upgrade include a renovation of the Great Hall – the museum’s largest exhibition space. The story of railways will be brought to life through new multimedia displays featuring sound, audio and light.

Visitors will also enjoy improved access to locomotives and will benefit from views over the Prep Bay where they will see visiting engines being maintained and fuelled.

The National Railway Museum wants to complete the work by 2025 – its 50th anniversary. The full transformation would see a new Central Gallery built where Leeman Road currently cuts across the museum site.

Outside the front, a new Museum Square would be created hosting events and providing new café facilities.

Judith McNicol, director of the museum, said: “Our vision can help to plug this gap through inspiring and challenging young minds. Wonderlab offers a unique experience where young people will design and create their own solutions – just like real engineers.

“It will also open up our fantastic collections to many thousands more people and enable them to discover the vital impact that railways have had upon all our lives.”

Image: c. National Railway Museum.