THE campaign to save the National Railway Museum from risk of closure was stepped up a gear with nearly 100 people gathering for a banner-waving protest outside the York attraction.

Local residents and railway enthusiasts from all over the country attended the rally to protest at moves by the Science Museum’s Group to close one of its three museums in York, Bradford, or Manchester.

It came as hundreds of people continue to sign the Press’s Save The NRM petition which has now topped 7,000 names – thanks to petitions containing 600 names from Tesco at Clifton Moor.

Saturday’s gathering sent a message that the York attraction was a national gem and any attempt to close it would rob the city and the entire country of its heritage as well as a source of inspiration to future generations wanting to work in the rail industry.

York council leader James Alexander warned the museum was one of those which was vital to Britain’s future as a manufacturing nation.

He said: “This is not about York vs Bradford. It is about all the museums. We need as a country to be seen to be producing things – not just relying on financial service industries.

"The museum gets just under a million visitors a year. It is very significant for the York economy and part of our heritage. The museum inspires the interest of those who will be involved in science and technology in the future, so I am pleased to see so many here protesting.”

At the head of the crowd was David Gibson, who was inspired to open his rail transport business in Coventry by childhood visits to the NRM with his father.

He said: “My dad used to take me to the Science Museum in London and the NRM. He passed his enthusiasm for railways on to me. The exhibits brought it all alive for me as a boy.

“Just when the rail industry is becoming more dynamic we are talking about the possible closure of this museum. It would be a great shame and I just hope it doesn’t happen.”

He underlined his own fledgling business, Railfast Intermodal, would not exist without the NRM. “I would never have started it if I had not been inspired as a kid by museums like this,” he said.

York Central MP Hugh Bayley said: “With just two days notice we have got dozens of people turning out to say: ‘Do not close the museum.’ “We will carry on bringing the campaign forward and it will grow and grow until the Government give us the answer we want – sufficient funding to protect this museum and all the museums in the Science Museum’s Group.”

• CITY of York Council has teamed up with Bradford and Manchester councils to deliver an open letter to the trustees of the Science Museum’s Group which is published today.

The letter states: “It would be unthinkable even to consider closing national museums, like the Victoria and Albert or the National History Museum, in London. Why then does it appear to be acceptable to discuss potential closures of national museums in Northern cities?

“The economic and cultural impact of closing a national science museum in Bradford, York or Manchester would be much more devastating in any one of these cities, than closing a London museum would be on the capital’s or indeed the nation’s economy.”