Great Central Railway plans museum in Leicester

Great Central Railway The Great Central Railway is the UK's only double track main line heritage railway

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A multi-million pound museum is to be built for the only heritage railway of its kind in the UK.

The museum would be built close to the Leicester North station of the Great Central Railway, which spans Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.

It is intended to be a "significant annex" to the National Railway Museum.

The Great Central Railway is the UK's only double track main line heritage railway, meaning two tracks run parallel in opposite directions.

The museum is expected to attract tens of thousands of people every year when it opens to the public in 2017.

The railway already attracts about 120,000 visitors each year and has featured in television shows and films including Buster, Shadowlands, The Hours and Cemetery Junction.

Bill Ford, managing director of the Great Central Railway, said: "The railways played a huge role in establishing Leicester as a major industrial force, opening up vast export markets for goods made in the city.

"This attraction will bring together priceless locomotives and historical artefacts to tell that story in a way that will appeal to both railway enthusiasts and to anyone with an interest in the city and its heritage."

National Railway Museum in York The museum will be an "annex" to the National Railway Museum in York

Many of the items for the museum would come from the National Railway Museum in York, which holds one of the largest collections of its type in the world.

'Lack of space'

Paul Kirkman, acting director of the National Railway Museum, said: "The prime objective of the National Railway Museum is to ensure that the national collection is properly cared for and is accessible to the public.

"However, much of our collection is in store, out of sight of the public, or dispersed across various sites due to a lack of space."

The National Railway Museum is already supplemented by a second collection at Shildon in County Durham.

Mr Kirkman added: "This new centre in Leicester, ideally situated in the heart of the country, would make it possible for us to share more of our [historical] artefacts with a much wider audience."

The Great Central Railway is also working with Leicester City Council on the project.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said the museum would complement the nearby National Space Centre and Abbey Pumping Station, "helping to enhance the city's reputation as an important visitor destination".

It is estimated that the project would create about 100 jobs in construction, and about 50 full-time posts to run the attraction.

A full business plan is now being developed and it is expected that work could begin within two years.

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