Not many cities in the world can boast having a famous transportation system quite like London can. With phrases like “Mind The Gap” being known around the world, and its tube maps on countless mugs, towels and other London souvenirs, it makes sense that London would eventually open a museum which focuses specifically on its transport.
The London Transport Museum has been around since the 1920s, and houses over 450,000 items which cover over 200 years of London's transport history. By walking through its galleries, visitors can learn more about the connection between the growth of modern London and its world-famous transportation system; and not just limited to historic items, the museum also covers some present-day transportation concepts, and even futuristic ones as well.
Originally, the museum (which was then known as The Museum of British Transport) was located in an old bus garage in Clapham, and displayed two Victorian horse buses as well as an early motorbus for visitors to admire. But over the years the museum expanded immensely, and was eventually moved to the Victorian Flower Market building in the historic Covent Garden area, and was then renamed the London Transport Museum.
London Transport Museum Highlights
The museum spans over two floors, with the first floor containing the most exciting exhibits including one of the earliest wooden Metropolitan railway coaches, which can be boarded by visitors. On the second floor, visitors can see a variety of historical transportation artefacts, and learn more about the construction of London's first passenger railway (which was from London Bridge to Greenwich in 1833).
Even the entrance of the building is a highlight in itself, as visitors will be greeted with transport system audiovisual recordings from all over the world (like New York, New Delhi, Tokyo, Paris, Shanghai and of course, London). There's also a library (located at 39 Wellington Street), and exhibits which cover the story behind the iconic London Underground logo, which was designed by Frank Pick.
Children will especially enjoy the All Aboard family play zone which boasts a ton of different miniature vehicles children can climb into. Kids are also welcome to try and repair a miniature tube train, sail on the Thames Nipper, and play some musical instruments in the busking spots.
Other popular items in the London Transport Museum include:
- A horse-drawn omnibus (circa 1805)
- The original tube map (which was designed by Harry Beck).
- A wooden Metropolitan Railway “Bogie Stock” coach (which was converted to electricity in 1901)
- A sedan chair (which was London's first licensed public transport)
- The first underground steam-powered engine
- Historic London transport posters designed by the likes of Graham Sutherland, Abram Games and Ivon Hitchens.
- If you want to take a ride on the MBNA Thames Clippers, you can save up to 20% on ticket costs by combining your ticket with the London Transport Museum.
- Make sure you check out the Covent Garden markets, which are open until 8 p.m. every day (except until 6 p.m. on Sundays), as well as its Apple Markets, which are open until 6 p.m.
- Unless you don't mind being surrounded by noisy children, then try to avoid visiting the museum on a weekday when school groups tend to visit.
- Make sure you download the London Transport Museum app for free before your visit. The app provides more information on the galleries and exhibitions inside the museum, as well as an event calendar and special offers for visitors.