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Summer 2023 issue 184

The NRM Review is of course one of the benefits of being a member of the Friends of the NRM and is published in January, April, July and October.

There is plenty to report in this summer 2023 issue, bringing news of Station Hall and Wonderlab in York and New Hall in Shildon.  Although Vision 2025 (V2025), the huge investment in both museums, seems to have been in progress for years (with planning applications, objections to be heard, selection of architects, etc.), it’s now all started to actually happen.  In Shildon, the construction of New Hall is making great progress and Anthony Coulls describes what will be going on in this massive new building.  At York, Wonderlab (opening date 27 July) is the first tangible part of V2025 and the first ‘deliverable’ to museum visitors.  As mentioned in previous Reviews, Michael Wallace, Secretary of the Friends for over twenty years, left a substantial legacy to the FNRM and much of this has funded the Briefing Area of Wonderlab and all visitors will enter through this as they begin their Wonderlab ‘experience’.  Michael was Deputy Head Master of Ripon Grammar School for many years, so it is most apposite that his legacy has been used for the educational aspect of Wonderlab.  Many school groups will pass through the Wallace Learning Space and hopefully go on to learn about STEM with particular reference to railways.  Although the acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) is often used, should we include the A for ‘and’ and make it STEAM!?  

   Alongside V2025 developments, Station Hall has emerged from its scaffolding and gift-wrapping to reveal a beautifully restored façade, however, work on its roof continues and it will remain closed until early 2024.  The results of the restoration are shown in the Director’s Report.  We, the FNRM, gave £300,000, plus a supplementary donation to cover inflation, for the renovation and refurbishment of the Station Hall exhibits (nb. roof work is financed by Science Museum Group) and the six-monthly update on progress is described by Karen Baker.  All this excitement has not been restricted to the museums; the FNRM are now well into our sales and publicity activities aboard most Flying Scotsman excursions and the South of England Group have been doing brisk trade on-board and at stations where the locomotive has called.  Fridge magnets, drivers’ caps, T-shirts, and of course our latest publication Flying Scotsman – The Locomotive Centenary Edition  have been generating much-needed funds after having to curtail many outreach events during Covid.  The York-based volunteers are now engaged on Scotsman excursions starting with a very profitable five-day excursion to Scotland.  We are always looking for FNRM members to volunteer for this most exciting and rewarding activity – but your feet will ache at the end of the day!

   In this issue we continue commemorating the 1923 Grouping, with the formation of the LNER; the fourth and final instalment covering the Southern will appear in the autumn issue.  We return to Graeme Miller’s exploits having started in 1944 as a Steam Engine Fitter in Polmadie, and Mike Peart covers life in a TOAD in his ‘Man at the Back’ article.  In another article, Mike describes a feature of steam days only seen by intrepid enthusiasts well away from stations and level crossings – the spectacle of a locomotive collecting water from troughs between the rails.  Sadly, water troughs cannot be replicated, or have not so far, on any heritage lines.   

   It is always interesting when something in NRM Review unearths further research.  A short article in a previous Review about a Doncaster gravestone now used as a paving slab in a churchyard has unearthed a fascinating but rather gruesome story.  Fellow editor, John Cowles, wondered who this person was as he often walked through the churchyard on his way to the station, “Thomas Howe, 1854…. GNR engine driver…cut down like a flower…his family deplore his loss”.  Well, Ken Woods too was intrigued, and the whole story is told in this issue.  Today we’d say “too much detail”, but the local paper didn’t pull its punches describing the event. 

   Although school summer holidays are just starting, David Thomas has already booked an excellent range of speakers for the 2023/4 York evening talks programme, open to all members through ZOOM; so even if you’re far from York or unable to travel, we encourage members to take advantage of this eclectic range of railway presentations listed in detail in this issue. 

   So another NRM Review, packed with news about York and Shildon, a very varied range of articles, plenty of new books have been reviewed and we encourage readers to write in (email preferred) with feedback on the issue or ideas for other articles.  And Chris Nettleton has had too many correct replies recently to Where, What, When?, so he says this one is really hard!      

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On the front cover: Take me by the Flying Scotsman' by A R Thomson.  This poster featured in the LNER’s 1932 advertising campaign and, at bottom right. takes a slightly cheeky swipe at the Southern Railway’s poster ‘I'm Taking an Early Holiday cos I know Summer Comes Soonest in the South’. Both these posters and many others established a distinctive railway poster style between the wars. This one uses art deco styling to create a sense of size and power, the epitome of the Flying Scotsman ‘brand’, even today. Compared to the SR’s poster this is more edgy and controversial and was less well liked by the public. For the LNER, however, it was just what the company wanted. A R (Alfred) Thomson RA (1894 – 1979) was a successful commercial artist who is best known as an official war artist for the RAF during World War II.

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