A £5 MILLION new interactive gallery is set to be created at York's National Railway Museum in the hope of inspiring the next generation of rail engineers.

The museum says Wonderlab, a purpose-build engineering gallery, will 'ignite young minds' and inspire young people to get hands-on and invent their own solutions to engineering challenges.

"Wonderlab will create a wonder-filled environment where young minds can discover their own potential through building, testing and learning," said a spokeswoman.

"This could include the chance to have a go at pulling a locomotive as well as exploring how fast things travel and how they move.

"A unique ‘tinkering’ workshop space, live demonstrations, live shows and experiments would also inspire the next generation of rail engineers.

"As well as appealing to family visitors, it is hoped that double the current number of school children - up to 80,000 - will get ‘hands-on’ in the new gallery during school visits to York."

Director Judith McNicol said the museum had a vital role to play in inspiring the next generation of engineers and it was fitting to be announcing the plans during the 2018 Year of Engineering.

"The UK currently has an annual shortfall of 20,000 engineers and scientists, but it’s predicted that we’ll need 1.8 million new engineers and technicians by 2025," she said.

“Our vision can help to plug this gap through inspiring and challenging young minds. Wonderlab offers a unique experience where young people will design and create their own solutions – just like real engineers.

“It will also open up our fantastic collections to many thousands more people and enable them to discover the vital impact that railways have had upon all our lives.”

The spokeswoman said Wonderlab would be based on successful interactive galleries created by the Science Museum Group at its Bradford and London museums, which had already sparked the curiosity of many thousands of young people.

"Wonderlab at the Science Museum has been described by Time Out as ‘The best thing to do in London with kids’."

She said Wonderlab was just one element of a vision to transform the museum, including the complete redevelopment of the Great Hall, its largest exhibition space, which will bring the story of the railways to life through new multimedia displays featuring sound, audio and light.

"Over 12,000 objects will be re-displayed and 1,000 brought into public display for the first time in a reimagined Open Store, drawing inspiration from the greatest open storage displays in the world," she said.

"Visitors will also enjoy improved access onto locomotives and will benefit from views over the Prep Bay where they will see visiting engines being maintained and fuelled.

"Stories about how the railways brought us fish and chips and transported the wounded in wartime, will be told through railway vehicles and thousands of smaller objects from the museum’s unrivalled collection."

She added that the museum aspired to complete the transformation by 2025 – its 50th anniversary - with a new Central Gallery built where Leeman Road currently cuts across the museum site, providing a new welcome space and chance to showcase the latest innovations from the modern rail industry.

Outside the front, a new Museum Square would be created for the city, against the stunning backdrop of the historic railway buildings, hosting city-wide events and providing new café facilities.