Ingrow Loco Museum , Keighley

Located on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway just outside Keighley this little gem of a museum showcases both some fine steam locomotives and the unbridled passion of the Bahamas Locomotive Society (BLS). It is actually a two for one Museum with the Ingrow Loco Museum and Workshop and The Museum of Rail Travel (pictured) both on the same site. We stumbled upon the museum quite by accident, but I’m a sucker for a brown road sign and had to pull over and chance a visit. I’m glad I did as we had an excellent time, met some lovely people and had a very informative visit.

There’s a carpark as you turn off the road into the museum, but we’d parked out by the lovely looking church just up the road. The ticket office is located in the middle building which is the actual museum. The first building you come to is also a ticket office, but for those who are going on a train when the trains are running. After a chat with the Vice-Chairman, who happened to be about that day, we were treated to a behind the scenes tour of the lottery funded restoration work in the workshop.  The BLS take their name from the engine currently being restored and my, my is she a beauty.

Now I can’t say as I know all that much about trains. I know the larger blue one is called Gordon not Thomas and I understand the basic principles of railways and steam power. These guys however are re building a machine that was in service a century before I was in short trousers. You don’t need to know about patented wheel design or water scoops to appreciate the magnificence of these engines or undertaking of restoring one.

Having been shown round we quickly looked about the exhibits and other engines (pictured) and headed on to part two. Here we found the ubiquitous gift shop; packed with train, vintage and railway goodies. We showed our tickets, which was infinitely more pleasing than usual, then headed in to see the restored carriages. Covering the walls was signage from across the railway (pictured). One jumped out as something the “understanding wives” of the volunteers here might want on their garden gate.   It was great to snoop around the old carriages; all of which are famous TV and film stars in their own right. An effort has been made here to make the museum interactive and more alive. It works, but in more of a Frankenstein “it’s alive” sense than anything else. The pictured example of some of the mannequin work is one of the less freaky examples.

The icing on the cake is a little engine you can climb up in. You can pull the levers, spin the vales, tap the pressure gauges and live the dream of being a train driver.  Or you can just take selfies on it. Your choice. Of course these trains all work and can be seen across the country puffing smoke and steam about the place as the merrily chug about the country side. So while our impromptu visit didn’t witness it; the real icing would be seeing these marvellous machines in action.

The BLS does a sterling job of preserving a huge part of history in these locomotives. The museum might not have been around long enough for its idiosyncrasies to be “classic” and it might not be as modern and up to date as other museums. It is a great day out for the all the family though and more importantly it entirely volunteer run. I don’t think museums should be volunteer run; I’m vehemently opposed to it in fact. In this instance however we have a society, celebrating its 50th anniversary, that has set up its own museum. It is rare that amateurs are better at something than professionals; museums are one example where this holds true. In this instance however the museum is quite specific in its focus and that is why the BLS is so much better at running it. They know these machines, they have experience of the rail ways and most importantly they have passion. There is an understanding of why they want to preserve this, an understanding usually only obtained through years of studying museum theory.

It’s been a little while since I had this much fun at a museum (in fact I think not since I visited Carew Cheriton; must be something about enthusiast old men and scale models.) The museum is quite flat, but has stairs all over, so isn’t as accessible as it might first appear. There are a lot of chairs about however so it depends on your specific abilities.  This museum might not bring home many awards, but they’re doing a great job with relatively limited resources. Leave your museum snobbery in the car and head of for a great day out at Ingrow Loco.

Taxidermy rating: 0/15

Toilet score: not checked

Trail: Yes, we couldn’t find them all

Dead people: No

Overall Score: 9/10

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