Having a rare free day together as a family we decided on a trip to the railway museum at Shildon in County Durham. It’s a sister museum to the huge railway museum at York. The museum entry is completely free but donations are welcome.
Parking is easy to access and close to the museum, it’s also completely free and there are no time restrictions for visiting.
Having never visited before I was quite surprised by the sheer size of the building and amount of things to see and do. The museum is housed in a large industrial type unit with glass front which is easily accessible for both wheelchair users and pushchairs.
The museum itself filled with an array of over 1,000 items from the last 300 years of railway history including actual locomotives, art work and railway memorabilia. You can climb up to some of the trains to have a peek inside and wander through looking at and touching some of the items. There’s plenty of information and interesting facts to read and helpful volunteers dotted around who are happy to help and share their knowledge.
There’s the Platform 7 Cafe (which is closed at the moment due to refurbishment), toilets with baby changing facilities, vending machines with hot and cold drinks, confectionery and a gift shop selling a range of items items from Thomas the Tank children’s toys to railway prints and pictures. There’s also a little area for children to play with wooden blocks and more toy trains which the little man would happily have played with all day.
The little man loved being able to play with the little trains and tracks in the gift shop and I think it’s a nice touch that they have one out on display which children can play with and try out. I also think we may have found his Christmas present!
During our visit to the railway museum there was a Meccano exhibition being held in the main building. It was free to enter and there were various display tables dotted round the muesums giving us the opportunity to see some fabulous models, speak to the makers and even buy some of the kits. The little man thoroughly enjoyed watching all the models in action, and we ended up buying him a vintage junior Meccano kit because it was made up in the shape of a digger and he kept shout ‘Digga’.
Once we’d gone round the building, looked at all of the trains and the Meccano models we headed outside to see what else there was.
We hadn’t realised when we first got there, but you can actually have a ride on the train. The journey is very short but we decided to give it a go. Where ever we go we seem to find steam trains. It cost Hubby and I £2.90 each for a return journey which took about 15 minutes there and back. It was free for the little man but I do think it would work out expensive if you had a large family.
The journey was short and but sweet. We were able to stand outside on the train so the little man could watch the smoke and the drivers.
We really enjoyed the Railway museum at Shildon and we’ll definitely be returning. There’s quite a lot of family friendly events on over the summer months which you can see here including toy fairs and a visit from Dora the Explora.
We spent around two and a half hours at the museum and if the weather had been a bit warmer, we’d probably have stayed longer and gone for a walk along the edge of the lines. I think you could easily spend a half day on site without getting bored, particularly if you have younger children.
When we return we’ll be taking our own food though. I’m unsure how much food is in the cafe as it was closed during our visit. We did check out the small coffee van outside that sells hot drinks and sandwiches. The prices are extremely high at £2 for a cup of tea and £4 for a sandwich made with two slices of plain bread! If you eat on site your cheap day out could become very expensive, very quickly.