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Welcome to the York Solar System model. This scale model of the Solar System is spread out along 6.4 miles of the old East Coast main-line railway. Along it you can find scale models of all the planets in our solar system as well as models of the Cassini and Voyager spacecraft. The scale of our model is 575,872,239 to 1. So every 100 metres along the track corresponds to more than 57 million kilometres in space. This means that along the route the speed of light is about 1.16 mph, so it is easy to walk at around 3 times the speed of light and to cycle at about 10 times the speed of light!  


Of course you could get to the Solar System by bike! The model lies on the national cycle network route 65. There is an excellent cycle map of York available from the City of York council which you can find here. The Solar system model is marked in bottom left-hand corner of square C9. Your can download our map and some more information about the route by clicking on the links below. DOWNLOAD A MAP OF THE ROUTE > DOWNLOAD A INFORMATION ABOUT THE ROUTE >
Parking: If you’re planning to cycle the whole solar system model from the York then parking is available at the Askham Bar Park & Ride. The car park is only 500m from the Sun and the start of the route. Bike Hire: Bike hire is possible in York from Cycle Heaven and Get Cycling.  


There’s lots to see and do along the solar system model. The track is a wonderful nature reserve with many different species of trees along the way, and an abundance of wild life to see and hear. Remember too that this was once a railway line. There are several good pubs not far from the track, most of which serve good food. The Fisher of Dreams is one example of an feature you will find along the route. Constructed in the main from galvanized 2cm diameter steel rod, the height of the fisher from the top of the bridge to the top of his head is over 4 metres. The dog is 3.3 metres from nose to tail and 2 metres tall. The bike wheels are 8 feet in diameter. FEATURES & ATTRACTIONS ALONG THE ROUTE >  


The walk forms a scale model of the solar system with each of the planets represented. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PLANETS >  

Scale of the Model

 Real Model 
DiameterDistance from SunDiameterDistance from Sun
thousand kmmillion kmcmmeter

The Making of the Route

When the Selby coal field was developed in the early 1980s the train line was diverted. The route was bought by the newly-formed Sustrans for £1. The construction of this track in 1985-1987 was the first venture for Sustrans, who have gone on to create the National Cycle Network with the help of a £43.5 million grant from the Millennium Commission.
In 1999 Adam Hart- Davis cut the tape and officially opened the route. Since then many events have taken place along the tracks such as guided tours of the model and even a unicycle ride.
The Solar System model was constructed over a period of about 6 months at the end of 1999. First the track needed to be measured to get the correct scale. The positions of the sun and Pluto were known so distance between them was measured and remeasured. The distance is 10.2 km or about 6.4 miles. The planet bases are made from concrete sewer pipes. The tops of the bases are made from stainless steel which was shot-blasted. The bases were filled with concrete and the tops set into the concrete after a few fine adjustments. Then the smaller planets were screwed in place. Saturn and Jupiter were welded in place on the stainless steel tops.  
Construction of the Sun was another matter.... The Sun is made from 2 fibreglass hemispheres manufactured for a septic tank. A hole was cut into one of the hemisphere and then the two halves were fiber glass together. Next the internal steel work to support the Sun was installed and the sphere sealed before being painted gold. The supporting steel-work was manufactured by Minster Engineering. The foundations were prepared, 10 tons of concrete poured in and finally the finished model was installed.


Cycle the Solar System was made possible by a Millennium Award to its creators Dave Coulthard, Willy Hoedeman & Peter Thompson. Our award was administered by The Royal Society and the British Association. The community partner for the project was Sustrans. The project would have not been possible without the generous support of Dave Jackson and his sons Paul and Phil.


If you want to get in touch with us please email: info@solar.york.ac.uk