Museum – Loughborough Central
The GCR Museum is situated at the South end of the platform, next to the lift entrance. It collects, preserves, interprets and displays a wide range of smaller objects relating to the railway together with printed material, pictures and photos. By means of this collection it aims to tell the story of the original Great Central Railway from its earliest days through to later phases of ownership.
Following extensive refurbishment during 2012, displays in the cabinets and on the high walls now follow specific themes. A hand-painted timeline running the full length of the wall opposite the entrance provides a historical context for these displays. Key personalities and events of the railway’s history are shown in chronological order from the beginnings to the present day, with illustrations and brief explanations.
The Museum occupies two interconnecting rooms. One of them was once office space, and the original fireplace can still be seen in the corner. Over 500 objects are on display altogether but the Museum is spaciously laid out and is fully wheelchair accessible.
There is plenty to evoke the atmosphere of travelling or working on the railway in days gone by. Much of the upper wall space is filled with large cast iron plates and enamel signs from stations, bridges and the lineside. The rest features collections of locomotive plates, wagon plates and signalbox boards and diagrams on their respective walls. Framed displays of pictures, posters, maps and photos are placed at eye level so that they can be studied more closely.
The exhibits in the purpose-built cabinets also follow specific themes. There are commercial records and office items; tableware from dining cars, railway hotels and refreshment rooms; and tools and equipment, to name but a few. One cabinet illustrates the working lives of railway employees, while another corner celebrates their sporting and cultural activities.
Of particular interest are some original documents relating to the building of the GCR’s London Extension – the line through Loughborough. The unique bound volume of maps of the line, hand-drawn by the Surveyor, Henry Fowler, was found in a bookshop in London in 1974 and supporters of the railway raised the funds to buy it. It contains a wealth of detailed information. We also have some historic books of accounts detailing payments to the Engineer and to Land Agents and others.
Don’t miss the wall mounted panel browser in the second room illustrating the story of the navvies who actually built the line in the 1890s. A smoker’s pipe that one of them must have lost while working turned up in the trackbed at Rothley and has been put on display. And another prized exhibit is a recently restored train indicator from Leicester Central Station which is a feature of the first room.
Look out for the short film in the second room which gives a beginners guide to the history of the railway. It plays every few minutes and is well worth a watch.
The Museum owns more objects than there is room to show, so some displays will change from time to time and there will always be new things to see. Visitors are welcome to look in the Museum at all times that the station is staffed.