Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery Opens at the National Railway Museum to Inspire Curiosity and Engineering Skills


The Wonderlab proudly unveils its newest and largest gallery in over a decade, Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery. This interactive exhibition, developed over five years, is designed to inspire and ignite curiosity among visitors, especially families with children aged 7-14 and school groups, about railways and engineering. Located in the museum’s former locomotive workshop building, next to the Great Hall, this 1,500m2 space features 18 hands-on interactive exhibits aimed at providing immersive experiences and sparking interest in engineering.

Partnering with the rail industry and other experts, the museum has taken into account visitor feedback, emphasizing the need for more interactive and hands-on experiences. Wonderlab aims to make learning about engineering and STEM skills enjoyable and accessible, fostering a spark of interest in young minds to address the UK’s shortage of STEM skills.

The grand opening of Wonderlab also showcases a striking permanent artwork, ‘Mass,’ by artist Steve Messam. This vibrant inflatable sculpture, towering 12 meters high and spanning 16 meters wide, captures attention with its bold presence. Like a hot air balloon, ‘Mass’ uses air pressure to support its structure, symbolizing the power and ingenuity of engineering.

Visitors to Wonderlab can also engage with Pippa Hale’s ‘Play Revolution,’ where they can build and design large-scale structures like bridges and towers using colourful foam shapes. Inspired by the museum’s archives and collections, this interactive artwork encourages visitors of all ages to think like engineers and problem-solve creatively.

In addition to the exhibits, visitors can enjoy live science shows and demonstrations at the Weston Showspace and the demonstration bar, exploring railway engineering in a thrilling and engaging manner.

The gallery was meticulously designed by architects De Matos Ryan, who drew inspiration from the surrounding railway environment and the building’s previous life as an engineering locomotive workshop. The aim is to evoke different forms of motion and stimulate the imagination and problem-solving skills of future generations.

Wonderlab has been made possible through support from various partners, with the Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation being the major funding partner, contributing £2.5 million towards its creation. Other contributors include the Garfield Weston Foundation, Eversholt Rail, Friends of the National Railway Museum, the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, The Holbeck Charitable Trust, the Kirby Laing Foundation, and the Charles and Elsie Sykes Trust.

The launch of Wonderlab adds a significant new attraction for families visiting York and local residents alike. The National Railway Museum has experienced a surge in visitor numbers following the Covid-19 pandemic, with 572,577 visits in 2022, making it the most-visited free attraction in the region.

Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery is set to become an inspiring hub of learning and exploration, encouraging the next generation to think like engineers and contribute to the future of rail and engineering in the UK.