The National Railway Museum’s largest ever family-focused visitor experience named Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery is set to open on Saturday 22 July in time for the summer holidays.
The first tickets are now available via the museum website and, to celebrate, residents of York can upgrade their day ticket to an annual visitor pass for no extra charge*.
The museum is also moving to permanent seven-day opening for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic—reflecting a significant return in visitor numbers at one of the region’s busiest attractions.
Over the two-week Easter holiday, the National Railway Museum received more than 52,000 visitors—boosted by the visit of Flying Scotsman—achieving more footfall than in the same period in 2019, prior to the pandemic.
To coincide with the tickets going on sale, new artist’s impressions and a video flythrough have been released to provide a glimpse inside the gallery.
Built inside the 1,500m2 former locomotive workshop building next to Great Hall, Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery is equivalent in size to an Olympic swimming pool. Designed by De Matos Ryan, the space will feature 18 interactive exhibits with an engineering, science and railway theme that have been sensitively installed around several original workshop features.
Main contractors Elmwood Projects spent the past 12 months constructing the gallery onsite and specialist exhibit developers, including Unusual Projects based in Elvington, are now finishing the last of the installations in time for the opening weekend.
Rose Mockford, Lead Interactive Gallery Curator at the National Railway Museum, said: “Wonderlab will celebrate the inventiveness and wonder of engineering, science and the railways and it will enable thousands of young visitors to take the first steps on their journeys of creativity, experimentation and finding solutions to the challenges of the future.”
Judith McNicol, Director of the National Railway Museum, said: “We are expecting Wonderlab to be very popular, especially over the summer holidays and after more than five years in development, I can’t wait to open the doors and welcome our first visitors.”
The exhibits focus on different elements of the railways and engineering and encourage people to think like engineers and develop skills as they design, build and test to produce different outcomes.
Highlights include ‘Feel the Force’ where visitors can enter a human-sized wind tunnel to learn about streamlining and design, and ‘Sandscapes’ which uses bold digital projections to create an interactive railway landscape out of sand.
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.
As well as interactive exhibits, the gallery will also include two unique interactive art installations created by renowned artists Pippa Hale and Steve Messam. There will be the Weston Showspace, supported by the Garfield Weston Foundation, and a Demo Bar where the museum’s Explainer team will host a changing programme of spectacular live shows and activities for schools and general visitors.
Every visitor to the gallery will have the chance to see a show and demonstration as part of their admission ticket.
Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery will be aimed at family visitors and children aged 7–14 and will also host visiting school groups. The Wonderlab concept of interactive science galleries was introduced at the Science Museum in London (opened 2016) and at Bradford’s National Science and Media Museum (2017). These galleries have been visited by more than two million people since opening.
The gallery’s major funding partner is the Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation who pledged £2.5m towards the creation in March 2022.
Wonderlab has also received funding from 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.
Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery will be the first of the museum’s Vision 2025 masterplan projects to be completed. Work to refurbish Station Hall (currently closed to the public) is expected to be finished by the end of 2024 and the museum’s new Central Hall building and Railway Futures: The Porterbrook Gallery will open in 2025 - in time for the museum’s 50th birthday.
As part of Vision 2025, the museum’s maintenance facilities for operational locomotives, including the museum’s prep bay, are also being renovated to ensure rail tours can still stop at the museum.
The National Railway Museum’s opening hours have now changed to be open seven days a week, 10.00–17.00.
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Notes to Editors
*Residents ticket offer subject to terms and conditions – see website for details.
About the National Railway Museum
The National Railway Museum in York has the largest collection of railway objects in the world and prior to the pandemic, attracted more than 750,000 visitors per year.
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, National Collections Centre , and Blythe House.
Admission to the National Railway Museum is free, although visitors are encouraged to book in advance, visit: www.railwaymuseum.org.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.