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Leicester's world class railway museum on track

The Great Central Railway, The National Railway Museum and Leicester City Council are delighted to announce plans for a new railway museum in the city are firmly on track. The new attraction, “Main Line” will see iconic locomotives on display and tell the story of how the railways changed the city. It has received earmarked funding (*) of £9.5M from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The building will sit alongside the Leicester North terminus of the Great Central Railway, with heritage trains arriving alongside the exhibitions. Development funding of just under £500,000 has also been awarded to help the partnership progress their plans to apply for a full grant at a later date.

“We are thrilled by the support from the Heritage Lottery Fund” said Bill Ford, Managing Director of the Great Central Railway. “Main Line will combine our award winning double track main line railway with a unique collection of priceless locomotives and objects, preserving them for future generations. The museum will not only tell railway stories, but will aim to engage people with their own history, so they are inspired to be heritage champions in future.”

The building will be designed with floor to ceiling glass windows. Close up views of trains arriving at the adjacent station will provide a dramatic context for the static exhibits. Personal histories and small objects will help interpret the railways’ role in everyday life and how they transformed the city, helping businesses boom and communities change.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “This news means that we’re a step closer to creating an exciting new visitor attraction that will preserve and showcase the city’s rich railway heritage, while creating important new jobs. ‘Main Line’ will house items which are of both national importance and local interest, complementing the nearby National Space Centre and Abbey Pumping Station and helping to enhance Leicester’s reputation as a visitor destination. We’re extremely proud to be part of this partnership and delighted by the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which is another clear vote of confidence in the city.”

300 short-term construction jobs will be created while the museum is built and 9 full-time posts once open. As part of the bid process an economic impact study has been carried out which demonstrates the museum and railway will be worth £39million for the local economy over five years. In turn this additional spending could create more than 700 jobs in the area.

The exhibits will be drawn from the prestigious national railway collection, which is predominantly focussed on two sites in the north. Paul Kirkman, Director of the National Railway Museum said, "We're delighted that the plans for this exciting project are firmly on track. Leicester had one of the world's earliest railways. It was also a hub of the Midland line.

When the GCR opened in 1899 it was a calling point on the high speed railway of the time. The new museum will ensure that key parts of the national collection are accessible at the heart of the country for the first time, but just as important we hope to inspire a new generation to get involved in our nation’s railway story. This is a project with strong local connections but with benefits that will be felt nationally."

Work has already been undertaken to ensure the museum properly reflects the diverse communities it will serve, with the project team recognising, valuable social history will be lost if it isn’t recorded.

Atul Patel, Trustee at the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “The Great Central has had a lasting impact on industrial and cultural life in this area and this investment will continue the railway’s important role. Thanks to National Lottery players, a world class museum will now be created providing a new home to some of our most significant objects and archives which together tell the story of the British
railways. Alongside nearby attractions, the new museum will help to establish the city as a major tourism destination, and attract wider audiences.”

The Main Line museum will work in synergy with the Great Central Railway’s event programme and provide greater opportunity for local schools and communities to engage in learning activities. A key element will be to demonstrate how the tremendous feats of Victorian engineering can still inspire the engineers of the future.

Following the completion of the separate Great Central Railway reunification project, the museum will be accessible by rail from right across the East Midlands and the country.

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said: “National Lottery money continues to make an absolutely vital contribution to our culture and heritage in the UK. I'm thrilled that nine exciting projects across England and Scotland will benefit from this significant £98m investment.

"Whether it’s a new railway museum in Leicester, the Lovell Telescope at Cheshire’s Jodrell Bank or saving the UK’s most vulnerable sound recordings at the British Library - these grants will not only make a lasting difference to local areas and the UK’s wider heritage, but will also use culture to inspire young people to learn more about science and technology for generations to come.”

Bill Ford concluded, “Now the hard work really starts! We have a great partnership in place and will now look to secure match funding to develop the project to the point where we are ready to build it.”

The partnership will be required to make a further bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to confirm the full grant award. Main Line, could be open in 2019.

Last updated September 2015