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Tuesday 17 November 2009

In A Museum

When British Rail, as it was then, made the decision to site the National Rail Museum over 180 miles out of London in York, there was an allegedly national outcry. I say allegedly, as much of the grumbling came from London based newspapers and those who found getting to Clapham (Remember that museum? Not very large, and not very cheap) easier and quicker.

The Portuguese approach was also to establish their national collection out of the capital. The museum has opened in the railway town of Entroncamento, which is the country’s equivalent of Crewe, Derby and York in one: the national network, even at its zenith, was far smaller than that in the UK. Whether the assembled hacks based in cities like Lisbon and Porto were outraged I don’t know, but in both cases, the trip to the museum can be easily made by rail – which is supposed to be the point.

Unlike the UK, a charge is levied, but two Euro is hardly an onerous amount. There is a modern roundhouse display – the original one that stood on the site was demolished many years ago – and many photos and models of trains past and present. Sadly, not many takers visited today: it’s no surprise, therefore, that opening hours extend only from 1400 to 1730 hours. Also, be warned that it’s closed on Mondays.

One promising prospect is that there are plans to extend the museum into an adjacent and much larger building, which might give it the “must visit” factor and thereby bring in the punters. It’s certainly worth the effort, and the staff are very helpful. From Lisbon there is a more or less hourly Regional service that serves Entroncamento, and at a return fare of 13.5 Euro it’s not expensive.

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