It’s the first day of the February half term holidays, its freezing cold so do you
- Turn the alarm clock off, snuggle back under the duvet muttering wake me up when it’s June?
- Leap out of bed, yelling ‘get up boys, we’ll miss the Hogwarts Express?
Ok, slight exaggeration, we didn’t exactly leap out of bed, but we did get to yell ‘wake up, we’re going on the Hogwarts Express” which got even Tall blonde out of bed and into the car, all shivering and bleary eyed but all excited as we were going to the opening day of the National Railway Museum Wizard Week. Small, Curly, Mr J and I had thoroughly enjoyed a trip there in November to visit Father Christmas and we’d gone about it so much Tall had decided to join us.
It is impossible to describe the assault on the senses when you first get into the Great Hall. These trains are so beautiful, suddenly I always understand why the lady who volunteers to polishes the brass on the Flying Scotsman does it. It smells just right. Not smoky or grubby, just ‘industrial’. Within seconds the cameras were out, Curly blonde headed straight back to the Bullet Train, Small blonde photographed everything he saw, and Tall blonde forgot he was supposed to be tolerating his parents by coming and was quickly snapping away until he spotted broomstick flying! Using the magic of the green screen, we were able to clamber onto broomsticks, smile before being amazed at the very clever people from www.fullframevents.co.uk who turned this family of muggles into wizards with a click of the mouse.
Curly then decided it was time to ride the simulator which hadn’t been working last time we came. I was very impressed that there is a choice of four very different rides. After a quick debate, they chose ‘Time Traveller’ and clambered aboard for a very rocky, bumpy ride though time.
I took the chance to pop all our coats into a locker (love the fact that you can store all your ‘stuff’ for £1) while they enjoyed themselves before emerging chatting about the dinosaurs, pyramids and much more. The museum was beginning to get busy so we decided to head straight outside to see Olton Hall, the steam train from all the Harry Potter films. Just as we stepped outside the train arrived back on the platform, the distinctive engine number emerging from the smoke, boys were dumbfounded and silent for once!
We boarded our carriage, shut the doors in case of attack by dementors and thoroughly enjoyed a short journey down the track, looking for Chocolate Frogs and hoping the Tea Trolley Witch might arrive with hot chocolate (if only!). On arrival back, there was more than enough time for those special photos next to the train – pure magic.
Small blonde then requested a ride on the miniature railway which he’d seen from the train. It was freezing cold but fun as it wound its way through the very snowy gardens, at one stage ‘racing’ the Hogwarts Express!
We had lunch in the Brief Encounter Restaurant which warmed us up a treat. Mr J and I had ‘posh’ sausage and mash, Curly loved his sausage and potato wedges, while Tall enjoyed his pasta salad. As everywhere it was harder finding gluten free food for Small but the restaurant staff couldn’t have been more helpful , even asking the chef which foods were safe for him and reassuring me it was alright for him to eat his gluten free bread sandwiches which we had bought with us in the restaurant.
Refreshed, Tall disappeared to the Art Gallery and Workshops while the rest of us went to the interactive science show ‘Bubbles’. This was full of audience participation and even though the bubble mixture was playing up, it was enjoyable for all of us. Boys enjoyed seeing huge bubbles while Mr J and I enjoyed the patter of the presenter who is just like a young, blonde Peter Kay!
By now, we were beginning to flag but Small and Curly spotted on the daily diary ‘Wizard Duelling’ was next! We joined the crowds and watched Merlin battle the evil Gerard amidst much ‘he’s behind you’ and magic tricks – great theatre and a fantastic end to our trip.
What else did we do? We saw Birds of Prey, including a very sweet ‘Hedwig’. We watched ‘real’ trains going in and out of York Station. We made a wizard ID badge. We photographed lots and lots of trains. We saw small children loving Derek the Dragon – how does that work? We sat underneath an engine. We ‘rode’ the Japanese bullet train. We searched the Warehouse for lavatories decorated with flowers and ran through onto Platform 9 ¾.
On the drive home we all agreed that we had all thoroughly enjoyed our day out, no mean achievement for a museum given the very different ages in our family and it was a great start to the Half Term holidays.
Here are our favourite bits
Mr J Riding the Hogwarts Express
Me Standing underneath an engine
Tall Blonde Seeing Hogwarts Express
Curly Blonde Seeing Hogwarts Express
Small Blonde Playing the games in the Warehouse
Grown Up Facts & Figures
Admission to the National Railway Museum is free and the following events are all free to watch : Wizard Duels, Owl Displays, Derek the Dragon, Magic Hatter and Science Shows
Making a Wizard ID Badge £1.50 per child
Simulator Ride £3.00 per passenger
Minature Railway – Donation of 50p per person suggested
Ride on the Hogwarts Express £2.00 per person but you can see it come in and out of the station for free
Lockers – £1.00
Broomstick Riding Picture. £5 for a 7×5, £7 for a 9×6
We were lucky enough to invited to visit the National Railway Musuem and our invite included a ride for us all on the Hogwarts Express, a photograph by www.fullframeevents.co.uk , lunch, Wizard ID badge activity, Simulator Ride and a ride on the Minature Railway. All opinions expressed in this blog are our own however.