Saturday, 5 January 2013

A Great Central new outstation for Leicester

Something looking more positive which the February dated Railway Magazine covers is the development of a plan for another outstation like Shildon but at Leicester. This is headlined as a £10 million development covering up to 50 new jobs and handling 200,000 visitors a year. Paul Kirkman current museum director has given his blessing to the development of the scheme's funding package. As with Shildon, this will be a partnership. In this case with the Great Central Railway at Leicester North station and with Leicester City Council. Being of a certain age I remember a previous attempt perhaps 40 years ago when National Collection items spent some years in store in Wigston Roundhouse pending a museum development then. I think what actually happened was that Leicester developed the Abbey Pumping Station project and at least some of the items in store wound up at the Midland Railway Centre?

It is worth bearing in mind that if this happened, the NRM would have substantial on the ground presence at York, Shildon, Swindon and Leicester. In the round it would certainly assuage those who worry about the "northocentric" nature of the NRM, I don't. At some point however, you wonder when collecting mania on large objects will encounter a brick wall. Despite Shildon a sizeable chunk of NRM collection is at places like Kineton in secure store. The Leicester development should be an exciting and positive scheme if it assists in getting all the NRM collection into public areas. But will we in 10 years be seeing yet another outstation? My own take for some time is that increasingly the need is for the NRM to be a backstop in preservation management. Apart from the icons let the private sector take the load and intervene by the state only when a single figure survivor is threatened.

Seeing the financial details of a Shildon would be interesting for instance. How much does it cost the NRM each year? How much does Durham County pay and how secure is that? £11.3 million was the capital cost at Shildon in 2004. Shildon welcomed a million free visitors in its first six years. Some parallels are evident. That is fine, doing something twice is no bad move. Leicester's visitor catchment should be a better one than Shildon.

The new Steam Railway has a feature "Is it time for a national register of Locomotives?". Yes, I say. There is such for British maritime heritage. 20 years ago my father was working with the World Ship Trust on the International Register of Historic Ships. About that time I tried to persuade Neil Cossons at the Science Museum of the need for a register and grading system in railway preservation. I was rebuffed. Yet since then the concept has gained in momentum. The work has been done on carriages by the Vintage Carriage Trust based at Ingrow.

(A PS to this story, a rival's view!)


  1. For a while, there was a small museum at Stoneygate, in a small former tram depot on the south side of Leicester. As I recollect, it held the Midland Spinner and 158a, the NER electric and the Robinson O4, plus a selection of exhibits relating to the railways of the area, including a number of items relating to the Newton Collection of photographs of the construction of the GCR.

    (I passed the site a few weeks before Christmas and the depot building was still there, looking much smaller than I remember it in 1969, and also rather more forlorn as the immediate surroundings have been redeveloped as it is adjacent to the end of the Leicester South by-pass.)

    The Spinner was loaned to Butterley in the middle 1980s I think, when it was put back into running order. It's now back at York. 158a (a Kirtley 2-4-0) was also loaned to Butterley at the same time, but it was never put into running order and remains there as a static exhibit.

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