FAMILIES and rail enthusiasts can be among the first in the country to visit the National Railway Museum this year, as free tickets are released online from today.

The museum in York which houses more than 100 carriages and locomotives, temporarily closed as part of the national lockdown on December 31, but as restrictions ease, the museum plans to reopen from Wednesday, May 19.

As well as familiar stars of the museum’s collection such as Mallard, Rocket and the Royal carriages, visitors will be able to see the latest exhibition called Railway Heroes.

Launching at the National Railway Museum and Locomotion in Shildon, the photographic exhibition celebrates railway key workers and their role in the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Featuring in the exhibition are 16 people from different parts of the rail industry and visitors can find out more about their contributions, whether it was keeping the country moving in their day job or by sewing PPE in their spare time or organising letter-writing campaigns to help people stay in touch.

Stephanie Hart, who works in IT Services at Network Rail and whose story is part of the exhibition, said: “The railways have so many people with different skill sets – it was amazing to see people making items for the NHS, putting up hospital beds, delivering food parcels and medication and giving up their time to volunteer to help others.

“ I really feel we’ve been able to add so much more value than simply running a railway.”

The exhibition first launched online in February this year and since then, it has had more than 10,000 views. This will be the first-time people can see the physical exhibition with every profile on display together in the Great Hall.

From May 19, visitors will also be able to enjoy a new audio trail which has been created to give people the chance to delve a bit deeper into the history of the museum.

Accessible for free via smartphone, the tour takes listeners back to a time when the museum’s Great Hall was a busy engine shed and Station Hall was a working goods depot.

The trail features ten locations which explore York’s railway history, including the Baedecker bombing raids of 1942 which badly damaged parts of the city - there is a plaque in Great Hall today marking the spot where bombs fell.

To visit the museum, people are being asked to observe social distancing, wear a facemask (unless exempt) and book online in advance.

Ticket numbers will be limited to timed slots to help keep people safe and entry will remain free of charge.

Judith McNicol, Director of the National Railway Museum, said: “As we reopen it is important to state that the safety of our visitors and our colleagues comes first, and we have made sure that a trip to the museum remains an enjoyable and safe experience for everyone.

“We have introduced a range of measures to reassure people, with additional cleaning, hand sanitisers and signage, as well as reduced capacity to help with social distancing and ventilation.

“It is my hope that this will be our last “reopening” as the Covid risk continues to ease and we can continue to welcome back our visitors to enjoy Railway Heroes, our audio trail and everything else the museum has to offer.”

The National Railway Museum will be open 10am – to 5pm, Wednesday to Sunday (Monday to Sunday over school holidays).

The Great Hall café, shop and indoor and outdoor play areas as well as South Yard, will reopen from May 19, although passenger rides, the miniature railway, Open Store and visitor talks will resume later in the year.

The popular road train that runs between the museum and Duncombe Place next to York Minster, will also be running a regular service from May 19.

During May half term, family visitors can take part in free, pop-science activities and demonstrations.

The museum’s Search Engine archive and library will reopen from Thursday, May 20 for booked appointments. Free tickets to access Search Engine can be booked from April 26, visit: www.railwaymuseum.org.uk/research-and-archive/plan-research-visit

Although delayed as a result of coronavirus, the National Railway Museum’s major new exhibition Trans-Siberian: The World’s Longest Railway will open from June 24. Tickets for the free exhibition will be available from May 26.

To book tickets for the National Railway Museum, visit: www.railwaymuseum.org.uk/visit