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Golden age of steam showcased at exhibition

Mystery painting is new addition to collection

The golden age of the steam railway has arrived at Melton Carnegie Museum, with a new exhibition which also showcases a painting which is a recent addition to the collections.

The Full Steam Ahead exhibition has, as its centrepiece, an oil painting of a view of Melton Mowbray with the newly-completed railway in the foreground. 

It shows Melton's station and goods yard, possibly in the summer of 1848, when passenger services started across the whole line from Leicester to Melton, Oakham, Stamford and Peterborough.

The actual title, date and artist of the painting are unknown, but it shows an unusual and well-painted view of the town at a time of great change and may have been painted by renowned local artist John Ferneley, say museum staff.

The painting was acquired by the county council's museum collections service in 2018 following an approach by the National Railway Museum, which had been offered the painting, but viewed that it would be more relevant to Leicestershire’s story of steam.

The previous owner said the painting had been in their family’s home for at least 70 years, and possibly longer. 

Full Steam Ahead also gives visitors the opportunity to see the newly-restored painting next to Ferneley’s 1832 painting of ‘The Opening of the Leicester and Swannington Railway’. The exhibition also features other railway-related objects from the collections.

“The exhibition is a must for visitors, including railways buffs, art lovers and those interested in local history. It offers a fascinating glimpse into a hugely important period in Melton’s history – as well as giving people the chance to make up their own minds as to whether John Ferneley was the artist behind the work.

Entry to Melton Carnegie Museum and the Full Steam Ahead exhibition is free. More information and opening times can be found on the museum’s website at

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