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The Ultimate Guide to Railway Attractions in York and Beyond

York’s pioneering railway heritage dates back to 1839 when the first train left York station. In 1840 the first train ran direct from York to London and by the 1850s there were 13 trains a day between the two cities. Within a couple of years of the first train arriving into York, thousands of visitors were travelling every year from Manchester, Nottingham and London to visit the city. One of England’s finest and most beautiful historic cities, York is home to leading rail companies and is building on a legacy to make York the railway city of the future.

Centrally located on the UK rail network, York has been an important railway city well known for its rich railway industry heritage and has played a key role in laying the foundations of today’s modern rail network. This ancient city boasts 2000 years of history and as you explore York you will see that every aspect of York’s modern life is linked with its past. With more attractions per square mile than any other UK city, there’s something for everyone.

Railway Attractions NRM National Railway Museum

Image credit: National Railway Museum

Escape the day to day and immerse yourself in the home of iconic locomotives, the National Railway Museum is the largest museum of its kind in the world. The perfect platform for a great day out, dive into the past, present and future of the railways. Come face to face with world changing inventions like the Rocket which kickstarted the golden era of innovation, the museum offers 3 giant halls packed full of incredible vehicles spanning a century of railway history. Enjoy a picnic, climb aboard the miniature railway and discover the Mallard, the world’s fastest steam locomotive with its record breaking 126mph in 1938, which has not been beaten by another steam train since. Be transported by the story of a train that shaped the future of high-speed travel as you climb aboard a 1960’s Shinkansen, the Japanese bullet train. Uncover a fascinating array of incredible collections and memorabilia, discover working model railways and see how the turntable works. A great place to explore, the National Railway Museum also have an exciting programme of events and exhibitions running throughout the year.

Discover the historic journey of the legendary locomotive, the Flying Scotsman, and learn about its record-breaking history and from the comfort of their beautifully restored train carriage, enjoy a quintessentially British treat and one of York’s finest afternoon tea experiences at the Countess of York. Admire the splendour of royal travel with the world’s finest collection of royal carriages, before digging deeper into the museum’s historic site in the new audio trail “Sound Tracks”. You don’t have to be a railway enthusiast to enjoy a trip to the museum and it is a great day out for the whole family. The National Railway Museum is free to enter and if you are heading into the city after visiting the museum, hop aboard the road train which runs between the museum and York Minster. It leaves the museum every 30 minutes from 11am until 4pm.

Railway Attractions NRM Flying Scotsman

The Flying Scotsman at King's Cross station in 1963

Sit back, relax and enjoy an unforgettable dining experience through the stunning North York Moors National Park. A fantastic choice for heritage rail lovers and foodies alike, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s Pullman service offers premium style dining combined with the highest level of service and seasonal menus featuring the best locally sourced produce. Diners are seated in 1960’s style carriages and can experience a delicious four course menu. From a traditional roast dinner to flavourful Asian cuisine, enjoy beautiful scenery and first-class dining whilst on board. On day trips, passengers can indulge in a delicious two course lunch as you travel through amazing scenic landscapes of the North York Moors. In addition to the seasonal offering, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway also hosts a variety of fantastic experiences for its visitors, which include popular photography workshops and if you’ve ever wanted to find out what goes on behind the scenes, the Grosmont Engine Shed Tours offers a guided tour of the site and locomotive sheds in Grosmont.

Railway Attractions NYMR Charlotte Graham

Image credit: Charlotte Graham

If you’re a lover of trains, take a tour of the city to uncover more of York’s railway heritage. Within its ancient city walls, this beautifully preserved medieval city is packed with unique and wonderful attractions and has an incredible array of things to see and do. There are so many railway and transport attractions to choose from, set sail on a cruise down the river Ouse and enjoy an open top bus tour of all of the main sights and find out about York’s history from a different perspective. York offers a unique shopping experience and is the perfect place to visit if you are in need of some retail therapy or looking for the perfect gift. Situated next to the city gate of the same name, you will find the family and independently owned Monk Bar Model Shop, a quintessentially model railway shop who stock a large selection of model railways, diecast planes and vehicles, the ultimate destination for model railway enthusiasts.

City Cruises York River Prince Blue 1

For a fun family day out, Whistlestop Valley is a popular tourist attraction where you can enjoy a ride in a beautiful hand painted carriage behind one of their steam trains through the glorious countryside and ancient woodlands and through the longest tunnel on any 15-inch Railway in Britain. With outdoor play areas, miniature railway rides, there is plenty for the young rail enthusiasts to let off some steam.

Staying in York

All aboard for a first class stay in an original Pullman converted carriage at The Sidings Hotel. Lovingly restored charming carriages have been converted into accommodation to create the ultimate railway experience. Overlooking the East Coast train line, travel back in time at one of the most uniquely themed hotels in the UK. Experience not only the wonders of the 20th century rail travel but also today’s action on Yorkshire’s East Coast Main Line from the comfort of your room.

Stay a while longer in the city and enjoy a five-star night of luxury at The Grand, York. Offering indulgence for all, The Grand was originally built in 1906 as a “Palace of Business” and was once the headquarters of the North Eastern Railway. Filled with the rich history of one of the most powerful railway companies in England, the beautiful Edwardian building is still bursting with original features and architecture providing the perfect backdrop for your stay. 

A charmer of a boutique hotel, No.1 Guesthouse stands proudly in Clifton and is only a 10 minute walk from the Minster. You'll find a railway themed bar with a selection of delicious drinks and great restaurant food.  

The city of York offers a wide range of lovely places to stay, from luxury hotels to a great variety of bed and breakfasts, self-catering accommodation, campsites and caravan parks. Find the perfect place to stay and get out on your next adventure.

Railway Attractions In York No1 Guesthouse

Places to Stay in York

Travelling to York

Arrive by train and see one of the most stunning stations in the UK. York Station was built in 1877, when it first opened it was the largest station in the world and is one of the finest examples of civil engineering to be built during the Victorian era. Regularly regarded as one of the best railway stations in Britain, its iconic glass roof is widely admired and provides the perfect backdrop for a selfie. In the first Harry Potter film, the bridge that Harry and Hagrid walk over at Kings Cross is actually in York Station. As soon as you step off the train, you will discover York’s medieval cobbled pathways, beautifully preserved buildings and stunning architecture and if you are walking into the city centre from the station you will see a statue of George Leeman. Standing near the first arch of the city walls, George Leeman was a lawyer, politician and a railwayman and the deputy chairman the Northern Eastern Railway which went on to be one of the wealthiest railways in the country.

Getting to York couldn’t be easier, centrally located on the UK rail network York is ideally positioned in the heart of the country with direct trains from London, Edinburgh and Manchester getting you into the city in around 2 hours. York’s nearest airport is Leeds/Bradford with Manchester and Newcastle airports in easy reach. York is easily accessible from most destinations across Britain and has excellent public transport connections for when you arrive too.

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