The London Museum of Public Transport is an example of the frugal attitude towards things that is very characteristic of the English.
It’s an example of a careful attitude to things that are very characteristic of the English. Long outdated and useless means of transport of the past and the centuries before are not turned into junk, but become museum exhibits.
How it began
In 1920. The London Omnibus Company decided to preserve two examples of its Victorian horse-drawn vehicles and its first engine-powered buses for future posterity. This was the birth of the London Transport Museum.
Later, in the 1930s, examples of rail vehicles were added to the collection: stables, streetcars, trains and subway cars. In the 60s, the museum occupied the old Clapham Bus Park in south London, and in the 70s it moved to Zion Park in the west part of the capital.
The Transport Museum moved to its current home, a 19th-century cast-iron and glass building where there used to be a wholesale market for vegetables, fruit and flowers, in 1980. In 2005, the museum was closed for two years for expansion and reconstruction, and in 2007 it was reopened to the public.
What to see
The museum’s collections contain more than 370,000 exhibits about the history of public transport in London. The oldest pieces are located on the 3rd floor. You can see carriages, omnibuses, horse-drawn trams, the famous double-decker London buses. The 2nd floor is dedicated to the underground transport of the British capital, the world’s first subway railway.
The word “subway” originated in England and found its way into other languages, but it did not stick in English, where they say “subway” or simply “pipe”.
You can see on the model how the subway was built: they dug a huge pit, laid rails, built a tunnel, and buried it again. This is a vivid visualization of how difficult the manual labor was.
Many exhibits in the museum are interactive: one can touch everything, pull levers, push buttons, pedals, steer, and even drive an underground train using simulators.
Wax figures of typical passengers of the time are installed in the subway cars or bus cabins, some of them utter typical phrases, and horses make sounds. All of this together gives a sense of the atmosphere of the era.
The kids and not only will be interested in the toy models of trains and buses that are on the 1st floor. Lots of information terminals will acquaint the inquisitive with interesting details in the history of London transport.
Address: London, Covent Garden Square, WC2E 7BB. Website.
Open daily from 10:00 to 18:00 and on Fridays from 11:00 to 18:00 (admission until 17:15).
There are also stores with souvenirs and a cafe.
Free admission for 12 months costs GBP 17.50. Children under 18 are free (but under 12 must be accompanied by an adult). Prices on the page are for October 2020.