THE National Railway Museum is to slash the opening hours of its world class library and archive centre as part of a money-saving drive.

The centre, known as Search Engine, gives people the chance to drop in and get help with railway-related questions, research railway topics, access original material from the York museum’s archives, listen to oral history recordings from people who've worked on the railways and watch railway films.

It can currently be visited seven days a week but, from March 17, it will only be open four days a week, from Wednesday to Saturday.

A spokeswoman said the new opening hours would result in a reduction in both the number of posts and hours worked by Search Engine staff, with three people leaving.

She said the museum had considered a number of different options, including some constructive counter-proposals.

“The resulting changes balance our commitment to providing personal access to the archives for the public with the need to make savings in a difficult financial situation.” she said.

“We will still provide an excellent level of service, by opening the Search Engine facility to the public four days per week and continuing to make resources available online for remote access.”

She said the four days fitted best with when current users were accessing Search Engine.

Museum director Paul Kirkman said in an email to staff that the decisions had not been taken lightly.

“Everyone involved in the service has worked extremely hard to make Search Engine the world class research facility that it is but, unfortunately, economic necessity means that we can no longer afford to have a library and archive service open seven days a week,” he said.

Meanwhile, the museum has been buoyed by a big rise in visitor numbers last year to 931,000. Mr Kirkman said the increase was mainly due to the staggering success of its Mallard75 series of events.

“Our Great Gatherings of all six steam survivors set new visitor records at both our York and Shildon sites and now the season is over we hope that people will still flock to see the record breaker at its York home,” he said.