Architect for £10million National Railway Museum project at Leicester selected

Published: 28th November 2016

Wilkinson Eyre to design HLF-backed museum at Great Central Railway

A design by Wilkinson Eyre, one of the world’s leading architectural practices, has been picked from a shortlist of six candidates, for the new railway museum to be built at Great Central Railway’s Leicester North terminus.

The projected new NRM out-station at Great Central Railway’s Leicester North terminus, a partnership between The Great Central Railway, The National Railway Museum and Leicester City Council, passed ‘stage one’ of the Heritage Lottery Fund application process in spring 2015. The outline proposals were endorsed to the potential tune of £9.5million with £500,000 award made to assist preparation of the final application.

The project has taken another stride forwards with the announcement of the winning architects design. Wilkinson Eyre has a portfolio of national and international award winning projects, being twice winners of both the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize and the RIBA Lubekin Prize and has received over 300 design awards, shortlisting’s and commendations.

The design will see three two-storey exhibition halls constructed alongside Leicester North station with a glass wall allowing visitors arriving by Great Central Railway train to see into the museum and vice versa. The chosen design also allows GCR to retain its existing Leicester North station building and platform (an aspect volunteers had campaigned for) while allowing for future expansion. This also means the project budget - the estimated cost of the museum is £18million – can be concentrated on the exhibitions and their educational benefits, rather than remodelling GCR’s station area.

They said:

Andy Munro , Chief Executive of the Great Central Railway. “This will be a museum for the whole of the city and the county and it was vital we consulted as widely as possible before choosing the winning design. There were several key factors to consider; would the new building be the right environment for the intended displays, was it iconic enough considering where it will sit on the city skyline and of course, does it fit with the projects budget? The museum team were set a hard task by such a high standard of shortlisted schemes, but we’re confident we have chosen the right one.”

“We are looking forward to working with Wilkinson Eyre and our partners to help realise our vision for the museum. This is an important project for the Great Central Railway and represents a new chapter in the 50-year life of the railway. It will help us to further the preservation of the heritage of the GCR whilst at the same time create a new tourist attraction in Leicester, contributing to the on-going regeneration of the City. It is also a tribute to the Heritage Lottery Fund who have worked with us and helped us get to this significant milestone.”

Paul Kirkman , Director of the National Railway Museum. “We have a number of irreplaceable locomotives which will go on display within the museum. Famous names like ‘Green Arrow’ and ‘Butler Henderson’ deserve to be shown off in a building that is just as iconic, but crucially has to be able to protect the exhibits too. The Wilkinson Eyre design provides the optimum conditions to display these important items from the National Collection within a building of stunning visual presence.”

Chris Wilkinson of Wilkinson Eyre. “We are delighted to have won this project in such a strong competition and we are looking forward to progressing the design which will be a great asset for Leicester.”

NRM in the East Midlands

The NRM’s York museum houses the core of the national railway collection but there are far more items, including locomotives and rolling stock, than can be displayed at York.

Locomotion: The National Railway Museum at Shildon was opened in 2004 as an NRM out-station. Funded from sources outside the NRM’s own budget provision, Locomotion enables more items to be displayed to the public and at a different geographical location in a specially constructed display building. The total site incorporates the older Timothy Hackworth Museum, a standard gauge railway line over which a steam locomotive provides brake van rides on high days and holidays to link the two locations. In addition, some NRM locomotives and stock are placed on loan to appropriate heritage rail locations around the country.

The new out-station at Leicester North, its Midlands location being closer to the heart of the country than York or Shildon will bring further exhibits within accessible reach of the public. Moreover, it will be alongside the terminus of an established top league heritage line already noted for its lengthy double track section which offers a taste of main line operation as it once was. Exhibits at Leicester North will tell the story of how the GCR and other railways contributed to the social and economic history of Leicester and the County.

Great Central Winter Gala

Great Central Railway’s January 27-29 Winter Gala will feature The Maunsell Society’s ex-Southern Railway Q class 0-6-0 No. 30541 visiting from the Bluebell Railway. This will be the first time a member of this class of locomotive has ever visited the GCR.

Full details have yet to be confirmed but anticipate an intensive timetable, probably nine different locos in action during the event including double-heading, goods and mineral working and TPO demonstrations.

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