The 1830 station is currently closed for refurbishment and exhibition installation, so that was a bit disappointing. However, to make up for that lack, the museum currently houses Stephenson’s Rocket, the engine that won the Rainhill trials to become the model for the train engines that would service the brand new Liverpool-Manchester trainline.
It’s the kind of item that has something of a folk status in Manchester, so the crowds around the engine for each of the six presentation talks given about it during the day were relatively thick. We learned that the engine, once yellow, had gone black with age, and we learned about the missing bits that had been repurposed into other train engines.
Beyond the Rocket, however, I found a lot more to appreciate about the museum. An entire section deals with the history of the textile industry in Manchester, and focuses on the process, equipment, and social issues surrounding the incredibly fast increase in population as workers flooded to Manchester for jobs at the turn of the 19th century. There’s also an area full of fun experiments and activities for children to try.
Other exhibits include the first programmable computer, built by two Manchester scientists, a Power Hall full of the machinery designed to create and get power to other machinery as part of the Industrial Revolution, and a look at the 1830 warehouse, across the tracks from the 1830 train station, that remains the oldest in Manchester.
The Air and Space Hall, across the street and affiliated with the Museum, also was closed for repair. But as I wandered away, I found a section of the city that I’d hoped to see and sort of forgotten: Castlefield.
The reconstructed North Gate of the old Roman fort faces a small square that includes a weathered foundation reconstruction of original Roman village. I wandered around those foundations, took pictures of blooming tulips and of the Gate, and continued my wandering.
Manchester will be a place I return. The warmth of the people, the rich history of the area, and the excellent access to city amenities make it an ideal destination. I look forward to bringing my own children some day.