If you think Het Spoorwegmuseum (The Railway Museum) sounds boring and would only be interesting to railway buffs, think again. This place is everything but boring! There is an elevator taking people back in time, a theater with real actors, a roller coaster, a virtual reality train and a few more cool things about the railways you’re still about to discover.
Want to know more? Here is what the museum’s managers, Evertjan De Rooij and Jelle Rijnhout, shared with AmsterDO.
Evertjan De Rooij: We have just celebrated our ninetieth birthday – the museum was opened on January 7th, 1927. Everything started with just one man, George Willem van Vloten, who worked on the railroad and loved everything that had to do with trains. A small collection Van Vloten had in his house on Kanonstraat eventually became a museum that ended up at Utrecht Maliebaan station. After a big makeover in the early 2000s, we changed the whole concept of Het Spoorwegmuseum and now it’s telling the story of the Dutch railways in experiences, not words. Education through entertainment – this is what we’re trying to do here.
Evertjan De Rooij: Last month we’ve got our 10,000,000-th visitor since the museum was founded. The spotlight fell on Mr. and Mrs. Van den Hombergh from Vinkel who visited with their grandchildren. Also, over the last few years, Het Spoorwegmuseum has been on the list of the 10 most visited museums in the Netherlands, alongside the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House and others. Now, we have around 420,000 visitors annually. Imagine, there were times when it was just 3,000!
Evertjan De Rooij: That is a difficult question. We have a big selection of engines, locomotives and carriages, only a quarter of which are stored here. Besides, the main collection is not always the same, sometimes we replace one engine or carriage with another. And then, of course, there are lots of small things, like clothes, photographs, books, bags… It’s really hard to count the total number. But we have about 120 trains.
Evertjan De Rooij: There are different themed zones that we call “worlds”. The first “world” – The Great Discovery – takes you back to 1839. Walking through the cobbled streets, visitors listen to the story about De Arend, the Netherland’s first steam locomotive (the audio guide is available in different languages). Dream Journeys is the second “world” where you can enjoy a theatrical performance with real actors telling about the Orient Express (in Dutch). Then there is a roller coaster, Steel Monsters. It takes you on a journey through the dark and stops by a couple of the most interesting trains like the Locomotive 6300, which is the biggest in the collection. Finally, there is Trains Through Time exhibition featuring some of the finest trains of the Dutch history and The Fire Test, which is a virtual train ride. Every corner of Het Spoorwegmuseum is worth exploring. There is even a royal toilet here (which you can actually use!).
Jelle Rijnhout: One of them has just passed – the Winter Station. During the Christmas holidays, our visitors are welcome to enjoy winter vibes in the museum. There is an ice rink, an old carousel, campfires, live music, winter food, games… A Christmas break for the whole family! Next on the agenda is the On traXS! Exhibition. Model railway builders from all over Europe come here to present their train models and visitors can try themselves in the model building too, which is a lot of fun. Later on comes Thomas Weekend and Chuggington Do-Days. Finally, while many activities are focused on entertainment, we have numerous educational opportunities as well. Those include guided tours, lectures, fun games to play online and so on.
Jelle Rijnhout: In May, we are opening a new exhibition explaining the basics about trains: how they work, what they consist of and so on. Again, we are trying to do that through entertaining and interactive experiences. Also, there will be a small exhibition dedicated to the 150-th anniversary of the railways in Indonesia, and we’re opening a new section of the museum dedicated solely to models. Finally, a lot of smaller things are coming. We are trying to keep it interesting and different every time.
More about Het Spoorwegmuseum: www.spoorwegmuseum.nl