Skip to main content

We're open seven days a week. Book your free admission ticket now to visit the museum. 

Schools and groups can book free tickets here.

Station Hall and other parts of our museum are closed, please check the Visit page for the latest info about closures.

National Railway Museum Opens Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery

National Railway Museum’s largest new gallery in a decade opens 27 July.

The National Railway Museum’s largest new gallery in more than a decade has opened to the public today after five years in development.

Named Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery, it features 18 exciting hands-on interactive exhibits which aim to inspire and spark curiosity in visitors around the themes of railways and engineering.

Aimed at families with children aged 7-14 and school groups, the gallery is housed in the museum’s 1,500m2 former locomotive workshop building next to Great Hall.  

Alongside the interactives, visitors will also be able to see live science shows and demonstrations inside the Weston Showspace and at a demonstration bar.  

Judith McNicol, Director of the National Railway Museum, said: “Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery represents the first area of the museum to undergo significant changes as part of our Vision 2025 masterplan and the result is a fantastic new interactive gallery that is a real asset for visitors and the city.

“The gallery was developed in partnership with the rail industry and other experts and we have listened to visitor feedback about the need for more interactive, hands-on experiences. We want to ensure that children have great fun while developing a spark of interest in engineering that will contribute towards tackling the UK’s shortage in STEM skills*.”  

The opening day will also see the unveiling of a dramatic new permanent artwork by Steve Messam. Called ‘Mass’ the brightly coloured inflatable sculpture dominates the centre of the gallery at 12 metres high and 16 metres wide. Like a hot air balloon, the structure uses air under pressure to support itself. 

Commenting on his latest artwork for Wonderlab, Steve Messam said: “Mass came about because I wanted something that had a strong visual impact that would command the large museum space and create a visual focal point. The artwork is very bold and stands taller than a house and I want people to have an emotional reaction when they experience it for the first time.  

“Art is about experimenting and pushing the boundaries and engineering is all about finding solutions, so it feels appropriate that it is to be part of Wonderlab.”  

Visitors will also be able to build and design large scale structures like bridges and towers in Pippa Hale’s ‘Play Revolution’. This colourful interactive artwork comprises large foam shapes that can be moved around the space encouraging visitors of all ages to think like engineers. ‘Play Revolution’ is inspired by the museum’s archives and collections with input from children and young people from The Snappy Trust. 

Visitors will be able to see a live science show as part of the general entry ticket to Wonderlab. Fire Powered, an explosive and dramatic show will demonstrate how (safe) explosions can be created and controlled to make an engine work. 

Visitors can also get up close to exciting and unusual explainer-led experiments at the Demo Bar that explore railway engineering. 

Wonderlab has been designed by architects De Matos Ryan who previously worked on the newly reopened Young V&A in London.  

Jose Esteves De Matos, Director of De Matos Ryan, said: "Inspired by its unique and rich railway surrounding and the gallery’s previous life as an engineering locomotive workshop, our design explores the different forms of motion evoked by railway engineering, particularly the perception of relative motion in relation to static volumes, surfaces, textures and light.  

“We are absolutely delighted to see this interactive gallery come to life with the help and collaboration of the community that surrounds it. We hope it will inspire the imagination, creativity and problem-solving skills of future generations in a fun and engaging manner.” 

The launch of Wonderlab will create a significant new attraction for families visiting York and for family residents of the city. The museum has seen an increase in visitor numbers following the Covid-19 pandemic with 572,577 visits in 2022, making it the most-visited free attraction in the region (Visit Britain**). 

The 18 exhibits focus on different elements of railways and engineering and encourage people to think like engineers and develop skills as they design, build and test to produce different outcomes.  

Among highlights are ‘Feel the Force’ where visitors can enter a giant wind tunnel to learn about streamlining and ‘The Great Machine’ which encourages people to solve problems and create their own transport network to move balls through a sequence of connecting tubes. (***for a full list of exhibits see link below).  

The process of testing and prototyping to create the exhibits has involved more than 1,300 people with input from experts in the rail industry, education, local community groups and members of the public.

The gallery’s major funding partner is the Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation who have supported with a gift of £2.5m towards its creation in March 2022. 

Wonderlab has also received funding from Garfield Weston Foundation, Eversholt Rail, Friends of the National Railway Museum, the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, The Holbeck Charitable Trust, the Kirby Laing Foundation, and the Charles and Elsie Sykes Trust. 

To find out more about Vision 2025 and to book tickets for Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery, visit: www.railwaymuseum.org.uk/2025/wonderlab-the-bramall-gallery   

Ends 

For more information please contact:  

Notes to Editors  

* (IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) estimates there to be a national shortfall of 173,000 workers) link 

**VisitBritain Visitor Attraction Trends in England 2022 link  

***Full list of Wonderlab interactive exhibits link (link)  

About the National Railway Museum   

The National Railway Museum in York has the largest collection of railway objects in the world and is the most visited free attraction in the region, receiving more than 572,577 visitors in 2022.  

The collection includes including more than 260 locomotives and rolling stock, thousands of railway objects, and over 1.75 million documents, photographs and artwork in its archives. 

The National Railway Museum forms part of the Science Museum Group, along with the Science Museum in London, the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, Locomotion in Shildon, and the National Collections Centre in Wiltshire.  

Admission to the National Railway Museum is free, although visitors are encouraged to book in advance, visit: www.railwaymuseum.org.uk    

De Matos Ryan 

De Matos Ryan is an award-winning, London-based architectural practice known for creating simple but imaginative contemporary environments and interventions often within historically or culturally sensitive settings.  

The practice combines expertise in architecture, landscape, interiors and product design to create well-detailed modern environments. The team works across numerous sectors, encompassing all aspects of design, which keeps ideas fresh and ensures that clients benefit from research into both community-led projects and commercially effective hospitality/retail spaces, including hotels, cafés and bars as well as theatres and museums.  

De Matos Ryan believes in the social and public role that architecture plays in motivating a community and works hard to ensure that projects are accessible and engaging for all. Current projects include Young V&A (Bethnal Green), Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery at the National Railway Museum (York), ArtsEd (Chiswick), BFI (Southbank London), Oriel Myrddin Gallery (Carmarthen), Borough Theatre (Abergavenny), Ucheldre Arts Centre (Holyhead) and Tullie House Museum (Carlisle). www.dematosryan.co.uk   

About Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery supporters

Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation - www.bramallfoundation.org   

Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation supports, through awarding grants; charitable organisations which promote arts and promote the advance of education for the public benefit; promote Christian faith in accordance with the beliefs of the Church of England; promote urban or rural regeneration in areas of social/economic deprivation for the benefit of the public.  

Garfield Weston Foundation - www.garfieldweston.org 

Established in 1958, the Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded grant-maker that gives money to support a wide variety of charities across the UK. The Foundation’s funding comes from an endowment of shares in the Weston family business – a successful model that still exists today. The Weston family have a consistent aim. The more successful the family businesses, the more money the Foundation can donate. 

Each year the Foundation gives away its income and donations have continued to grow. Since it was established, it has donated over £1.4 billion, of which over half has been given away in the past 10 years. In the most recent financial year the Foundation gave away nearly £90 million to over 1,980 charities across the UK. 

Eversholt Rail - www.eversholtrail.co.uk  

Eversholt Rail owns UK passenger and freight rolling stock and has more than 25 years’ experience in the rail industry. Eversholt Rail has invested more than £3bn in new trains since privatisation and continually invests in existing fleets to maintain quality and reliability to deliver a better passenger experience. Eversholt Rail has a proud history of innovation and plays an integral role in the growth and modernisation of the UK rail sector by introducing new products and technologies into the market.  

Friends of the National Railway Museum - www.nrmfriends.org.uk  

The Friends of the National Railway Museum was formed in 1977 to support the National Railway Museum. An independent member based charity, FNRM help to fund the restoration of exhibits in the National Collection, the acquisition of new artefacts, and other projects that would otherwise not be possible.  

The charity also undertakes and supports research and educational projects relating to the history and development of railways.  

 Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 - www.royalcommission1851.org 

The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 was established to organise the Great Exhibition. The Exhibition made a significant surplus which the Commission, under the guidance of Prince Albert, used to purchase an estate in South Kensington. This estate has developed to become a unique centre of scientific, cultural and educational excellence which now houses the Natural History, Science and V&A museums; Imperial College London; the Royal Colleges of Art and Music; and the Royal Albert Hall, all of which the Commission continues to support in their work in education, research, science and the arts.  

Today, it is focussed predominantly on awarding postgraduate Fellowships and Scholarships, for advanced study and research in science, engineering, the built environment and design. It also awards grants to support projects consistent with its overall aims, many of which are focused on raising the awareness of the young to the opportunities presented by science and engineering. 

The Holbeck Charitable Trust - www.holbecktrust.com

The Holbeck Charitable Trust is a grant making charity which makes grants to charitable organisations to support a wide variety of charitable aims for the benefit of the public. 

Since we were established in 2006 we have supported hundreds of charities and projects undertaken by community and voluntary organisations.