A £2.5M plan to transform a North railway museum into a Victorian-style tourist attraction befitting the region’s rail heritage has been unveiled.
Museums chiefs want to make the Stephenson Railway Museum, in North Tyneside, the best railway heritage day out in the North-East, worthy of the pioneering father and son after whom it is named.
Already it has 30,000 visits a year and is the only site in the UK where historic steam, electric and diesel locomotives can regularly be seen in action together, with the popular train rides run by the North Tyneside Steam Railway Association.
But Tyne and Wear Museums (TWM) and North Tyneside Council want to create a new Victorian Station building, recreating the sights and sounds of the steam age as visitors arrive.
Outside the main site could be a new adventure playground designed on the Stephenson theme, with a miniature railway featuring a mini version of George Stephenson’s Rocket, passing over the famous bridges designed by his son Robert.
They want to replace the old station platform at Percy Main and build a new direct link with the nearby Metro station, featuring a railway trail to guide visitors between the two areas.
And instead of opening only from April 1 to October 28, the museum would open all-year-round, like the other Tyne and Wear Museums attractions.
In a report to today’s meeting of North Tyneside’s cabinet, Paul Gowans, North Tyneside’s head of cultural services, says short-term priorities are to maintain the rolling stock at the museum, replacing the facilities for volunteer staff, improving the tracks, increasing security and promoting the museum better.
One idea is to develop more themed days at the museum, which opened in 1986 in Middle Engine Lane, North Shields.
Mr Gowans has recommended that the council’s cabinet approve the draft masterplan for the museum, which would then trigger a feasibility study.