National Railway Museum

It must be about 30 years since I last visited The National Railway Museum in York…..not surprisingly it’s changed a lot since then.

First opened in 1975 the collection now includes over 100 locomotives and nearly 200 other items of rolling stock dating from the early 19th century to the present day. These include a replica of Robert Stephenson’s world-famous “Rocket” built-in 1829 and the “Mallard”, holder of the official world speed record for steam locomotives of 125 mph which it achieved on 3 July 1938. The museum is also in the process of refurbishing possibly the most famous steam engine of them all – “The Flying Scotsman”.

It also contains thousands upon thousands of other smaller objects and memorabilia related to the railways – many of which they don’t have room to exhibit properly.

One section of the museum that we found particularly interesting is the exhibition of railway posters and original artwork specially commissioned to advertise tourist destinations mainly in the UK, easily accessible by rail. Some of these were beautiful, but unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take photos of these.

If you’re ever in York then I highly recommend a visit – it’s free, fascinating, great for kids and even Lizzy enjoyed it…..;0).

From a photography point of view however, it was very challenging. The majority of the collection is held indoors in vast warehouses under harsh and largely inadequate artificial lights. This meant that in order to get shutter-speeds that were even remotely hand-holdable I was having to increase the ISO and shoot with wide-open apertures…..and even then I was relying on the excellent Canon image stabilisation on my 15-85mm walk-about zoom to get me out of trouble.

The main difficulty though was trying to handle the contrast between extreme shadows and highlights. The combination of yellow tungsten, blue flourescent and grey window light bouncing off highly reflective, but mainly dark coloured paint and metal work, was a real headache. I guess the answer would have been to have the camera locked off on a tripod, take multiple exposures of each subject and then process using HDR software. Had I been visiting on my own with the whole day to spare then I would have done that, but on this occasion that wasn’t really practical. Also taking a tripod to a popular museum with kids running around would have made for an interesting photo-shoot….;0).

Copyright: © The Photography of Mark Simms (2012). All rights reserved.

6 Responses to “National Railway Museum”

  1. ckponderings

    Some great images, summing up a great museum – like you, it’s about thirty years since I last visited! :S


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