Yesterday Kat and I visited the National Railway Museum at York. It was great! Every time I visit a national museum (science / V&A) I truly value that access is free. OK technically I'm paying for it through taxes and over priced coffee whilst there. However, I am happy to do so, it is a very good thing that anyone can go see some really great stuff. Walking around all the old trains was interesting, but mostly it re-awakened a fascination I have with steam engines. They are at once fantastically complicated and yet tantalisingly in reach of being understood. I have a great desire to make a working model, as it seems like it would be do-able. Not like a modern internal combustion engine, which is just a few steps more complex. I found that I was hoping to see a good model of how it all hangs together. Eventually we came to the great hall where one of the many steam engines, off from the huge turntable, had been carefully cut open to reveal the inner workings.
This was very cool, not least because this particular engine had started its life in my home town of Eastleigh!
The cut away sections reveal the complex plumbing, and little numbered labels refer you to a list of parts. Even with this I struggled to get it clear in my head how it all works. I was slightly disappointed that there would normally be a moving run-through done in the afternoon, but that the demo was not working. I think it would have helped to solidify my understanding of the workings.
I was also fascinated to walk over the 'works' area, where during the week people are actually working on restoration of the Flying Scotsman. The engine is currently mostly not there, it's basically being rebuilt from scratch. The workshop was surprisingly untidy, I figured that train restoration types would be meticulous and neat and thorough. But there were tools left all over the place and it generally looked like I work there. Some great bits of big milling and turning equipment were evident. Unfortunately no one working on Saturday so nothing interesting to watch being done.
Altogether it was a great visit, though there were some things that could have been better. Including the gift shop. I had hoped for a selection of science based toys demonstrating principals of some train mechanics. However it was alll just standard gift-shop tat. Oh well...I'll just have to go looking on line for interesting projects to try :-)