On 27 September 1975, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh formally opened the National Railway Museum in the modified York Motive Power Depot - the first national museum outside London. It was an immediate success and during the first ten years of operation attracted over eight million visitors.

Unfortunately in the late 1980s, building structural problems emerged and for safety reasons the Great Hall had to be closed. This unexpected problem created huge challenges - what to do with the locomotives and rolling stock and how to retain visitors throughout the extensive rebuilding work.

The solution The Great Railway Show 1990 was ambitious, developed to a very short timescale on a shoestring budget.

The adjacent freight warehouse was bought from National Carriers Ltd and transformed into Station Hall. Using a wide variety of vehicles and artefacts a series of thematic displays illustrated a range of day to day historic railway activities. The concept was to increase hands on experiences, develop more story telling activities and encourage visitor involvement.