The Dutch National Railway Museum (Spoorwegmuseum) is located at Utrecht Maliebaan, just to the east of Utrecht centre. It is one the city's most renowned museums and makes for a great day out - especially for kids and of course any rail enthusiasts.
Utrecht Maliebaan is a semi-closed station in Utrecht originally dating back to the 19th century. It is possible to reach Maliebaan station by an hourly daytime train service from Utrecht Central, which mainly accommodates museum visitors.
Maliebaan has hosted the railway museum since 1954 and more recently (2002-2005) the station and museum underwent a major renovation. Today the restored main station hall is adorned with chandeliers and lavishly decorated in a charming late 19th century style. One can purchase admission tickets to the museum at the ticket window counter.
Around the station hall there are a number of period waiting rooms - 1st, 2nd and 3rd class, the plush Royal waiting room and a dining room. These are used as function rooms, available for events and private hire.
To reach the museum step outside onto the platform and head right. You will pass an authentic old fashioned barber shop - you may be lucky on occasion to see the barber in action giving a shave. Cross over the rail tracks to enter the main exhibition area.
The museum is divided into 4 so-called "Lands":
Land 1 The Great Discovery - Take a short but fascinating audio tour (Dutch, English or German) around the beginnings of the steam age in the Netherlands. The first railway line was Amsterdam-Haarlem which opened in 1839 using De Arend steam locomotive. Includes a mock-up of Amsterdam's station from the time and a working replica of De Arend.
Land 2 Dream Journeys - How the well-to-do from the 19th century travelled in style by railway - such as taking a trip on the Orient Express from Paris to Constantinople (Istanbul) and on to Cairo. On show is a fine display of railway posters and leaflets from the time - including many advertising ferry/rail services between England and Holland.
Land 3 Steel Monsters - A mechanical ride (max 4 persons per car) which takes you on a brief journey through the dark with the Gommers family, 3 generations who worked on the railways. You will experience close encounters with some giant steam trains. The narration is in Dutch only and the ride itself is a little tame. Expect queues on busy days.
Land 4 the Workshop - Large exhibition hall which houses a comprehensive collection of old locomotives and carriages - from steam trains (19th century/early 20th century) to a variety of electric and diesel units from the 20th century. There is also various railway memorabilia on show and some models of Dutch trains.
There is an outdoor area around the station where you can climb up to the signal box. When we visited on a Sunday, De Arend steam locomotive (pictured above right) was being driven up and down a very short piece of track. There is also a children's railway ride and play area.
Basic café-restaurant facilities are located off the old station hall and at Land 4. The museum shop sells many railway themed items such as large yellow NS (Dutch Railways) timetable boards - as seen in many a student house!
Overall an enjoyable place to spend a few hours for both young and old.
Spoorwegmuseum Essential Info
Opening Times: Tue-Sun 1000-1700. Closed Mon, except Dutch school holidays.
Admission Prices (2016): €16. FREE entry to children 0-3 and Museumcard holders. Guided tours can be arranged for an additional €65 - maximum group size of 20.
Getting There: Trains from Utrecht Central to Maliebaan run hourly from around 1000 to 1630. Day return tickets cost €4.40. If coming by rail from Amsterdam (or another Dutch city) then just buy a ticket to Utrecht Maliebaan and change at Utrecht Central. If travelling with an OV-chip card then check-out at Utrecht Maliebaan. Alternatively take a pleasant 20 minute walk through the historic old centre of Utrecht.
A paid car parking facility (€5.50) is also available.
More info on Getting to Utrecht for those coming from Amsterdam or elsewhere in Netherlands.
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