These photos were taken on a visit to the German railway museum in Nürnberg where the social and technological aspects of railway history are given equal attention. Founded in 1882, it was the first railway museum in the world. There are historic locomotives and rolling stock and a superb display of 2,000 beautifully made models with staggering levels of detail, most of them built by railway workshop apprentices. Displays are thoughtfully arranged and intelligently lit to allow full scrutiny. And there’s a refreshing absence of interactive exhibits reflecting an institutional confidence about curation and interpretation. A separate section for children doesn’t impact on the rest of the collection. The work of engineers, designers and manufacturers is examined alongside the contribution of a highly trained and disciplined workforce. The vital importance of railways in the expansion of industry is explained together with the impact on leisure activities. Marketing and publicity are represented by posters, brochures, guide books and examples of advertising. Railway architecture from the signal box to the engine shed and the great 19th. century palaces of steam are well covered.
Given the importance of Nürnberg in the development of Nazi mythology it’s appropriate that the role of the Reichsbahn in the Holocaust is not evaded. The display of file drawers stacked with records of each Jewish victim of deportation tells the grim story of a dispassionate and mechanistic approach to the business of extermination. The museum is on two sites – an indoor collection of mostly small scale exhibits and a nearby outdoor site where full size exhibits can be seen. Torrential rain on the day deterred us from visiting the latter. An event which is not commemorated is the 2005 fire that swept through the museum roundhouse destroying a total of 24 historic locomotives.