London Transport Museum

I travel on public transport frequently and after visiting numerous other transport museums around the world, I finally made it to the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden.  The museum explores the heritage of London and its transport systems and I couldn’t wait to step through its doors.  Standard admission to the museum is £21 or £18.50 for visitors arriving after 2.00 p.m.  Although ticket prices might seem at first glance quite expensive they do allow unlimited return visits within one calendar year.  More information can be found here.

London Transport Museum
London Transport Museum

The museum is located on three levels and it is suggested that visitors start on the upper floor and gradually make their way down to ground level.  The London Transport ‘journey’ begins in the 1800’s when London was a compact city with most people working within walking distance from their homes.  Streets were often crowded with people with the use of private carriages only accessible for the wealthy.

Horse Bus, London Transport Museum
Horse Bus, London Transport Museum

Horse buses started to appear from 1829 but these were still beyond the means of most Londoners.  It wasn’t until 1870 that horse tramways started to operate along most of London’s inner suburban main roads.  Trams were not allowed in the central streets of the City and Westminster but with their high capacity and cheap fares they gave working class Londoners the first means of public transport they could afford.

Early London buses, London Transport Museum
Early London buses, London Transport Museum

The exhibition then explains how railways also played their part in shaping London’s growth.  By the 1830’s and 1840’s routes reached the capital from all directions forming a circle around the city.

Buses, London Transport Museum
London’s double decker buses

Moving on to buses, the iconic red London bus has a lengthy history.  The second half of the 20th century saw the introduction of the iconic Routemaster bus.  These bright red double decker buses ran throughout London and soon became instantly recognisable by everyone.  When London Transport was formed as a single company in 1935, red was already the predominant colour so all buses in Greater London became red.  Despite production ceasing in the 1960’s, Routemasters continued in normal service until 2005, with a heritage route still enabling visitors to ride this classic bus.

London Transport Museum, Metropolitan Line Train
London Transport Museum, Metropolitan Line Train

Continuing through the museum, the next gallery focussed on the London Underground, affectionately referred to as the Tube.  The U.K. capital is home to the world’s first underground rail network with work commencing on the Metropolitan Line in 1860.  Greater London is now served by 11 underground lines along with the Docklands Light Railway, the London Overground, the Elizabeth Line and National Rail services.

Inside an early underground train, London Transport Museum
Inside an early underground train, London Transport Museum

The Elizabeth Line is London’s newest railway and runs through central London, from Reading and Heathrow airport in the west and Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.  The line was originally known as Crossrail during its early stages of planning and construction but was renamed the Elizabeth Line in honour of Queen Elizabeth II who officially opened the service by unveiling the commemorative plaque in May 2022.

Elizabeth Line, London Transport Museum
The newly opened Elizabeth Line

The ‘On The Surface’ gallery is in two sections, covering the pre and post war periods.  During the two world wars the London transport system and its staff played a vital role in keeping the city moving by contributing to the wider war effort.  The tunnels of underground stations were transformed into air raid shelters during the Second World War so that people could escape the dangerous bombing raids.  When the air raid sirens sounded people would head to the underground in order to keep safe.

Hidden London exhibition, London Transport Museum
Hidden London Exhibition

We then explored a temporary exhibition entitled ‘Hidden London’.  Here we visited a replica of an abandoned underground station to discover some of the secrets that lurk beneath busy London streets.  On this immersive journey into forgotten parts of the Tube network we learnt about the Plessey aircraft factory which employed over 2,000 staff during WW2.

Former ticket office window, London Transport Museum
Former ticket office window on display in the Hidden London exhibition

Most of the employees were women who worked in two 2.5 mile long underground tunnels on the eastern section of the Central Line.  Hidden London also features a section on Winston Churchill of how he took shelter in the Railway Executive Committee’s bombproof headquarters during the wartime blitz on the capital.

Vintage tram, London Transport Museum
One of the old trams we climbed aboard

The ground floor of the Transport Museum holds a collection of more than 80 vehicles including a classic red double decker bus.  It’s possible to climb on board many of them to discover how travelling by public transport has changed over the years.

Roundel, London Transport Museum
The iconic London Transport roundel

Last but not least a section of the gallery is devoted to the roundel.  This is the symbol of London’s public transport system and from its beginnings as a platform name board in 1908 it has become one of the most recognised symbols in the world.  The iconic symbol can be found on trains, buses, at bus stops, stations, on staff uniforms, Tube maps and publicity leaflets.

Vintage posters, London Transport Museum
Vintage London underground posters

In addition to providing a wealth of information on the history and workings of London Transport, the museum has much to offer families with young children.  They are extremely well catered for with lots of interactive activities and role play opportunities.  There’s a large wardrobe filled with dressing up clothes where children can take on the pretend roles of bus drivers and railway staff.

London Transport Museum gift shop
London Transport Museum gift shop

Lastly, there’s an attractive cafe with moquette upholstered chairs in the same patterns as heritage buses and underground carriages.  Mention must also be given to the splendid gift shop filled with vintage transport posters, books and toys.  I particularly liked the moquette cushions in transport patterns as these would look very attractive on plain sofas as well as bringing back fond memories of riding London’s buses and the underground.  I hope this post may have inspired some of you to visit the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden.

During our visit we were guests of the London Transport Museum and as always all views and opinions are entirely my own.

 

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London Transport Museum

 

53 thoughts on “London Transport Museum

  1. It’s interesting to see the evolution of transportation and transit in London. The museum looks very well done and how fun that you can climb on board and explore many of the vehicles on display. I didn’t know that the UK is home to the first underground rail network. Thanks for sharing. Linda

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a great museum Linda with something for all ages. Yes, the London Underground is the oldest that’s why we have to endure narrow platforms and tiny carriages on our older lines. The Jubilee and new Elizabeth Lines are much more spacious but I enjoy riding g the older ones too as long as I’m not packed in like a sardine!

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  2. Daniel

    wow! so much history in one place. When I visit London next time this will be on a list. Didn’t know about the story of hidden London, will check more on internet.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: London Transport Museum – Horizon Partners Of Travel Locally Owned & Operated

  4. This museum has passed me by, and after reading your post, I can’t imagine why. When I lived in London, I was a frequent visitor to Covent Garden, and I go there now on occasions. Your photos clearly show all the interesting and nostalgic vehicles to view. I love the posters and the shop sounds enticing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The London Transport Museum is superb June and a great way of spending a couple of hours. The gift shop is wonderful too and of course you can pop into there without buying a museum ticket. Next time you are in London and it’s raining you can try and visit! Thanks for your interest.

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  5. Very interesting and informative post about what looks like a great museum, Marion. It’s good that they allow repeated visits throughout the year since the price is quite steep. I love the story about the Plessey aircraft factory.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a really neat museum! I’m fascinated by transportation (public and private), and it’s great to see here how the famed double decker bus came to be in London. Definitely a site to check out when I return to London this spring! Thanks for sharing, Marion. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My ancestors on father’s side were carriage builders around London before the extended family migrated to Australia in the early and late eighteen hundreds where they first set up the same business in Brisbane just south of where I live now before moving into building kitchen ware like the old wood burning stoves etc. So I found this interesting.

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    1. It’s a great museum and right in the heart of the city Lyssy. In Jan 2916 when we visited NYC we went to the New York Transit Museum located in a disused subway station and it was brilliant! Hope the New Year is going well for you and thanks so much for your welcome thoughts.

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  8. That picture of the metropolitan line train resonates with me. How well I remember turning those metal handles to open the door, and the sound of wood on wood as those doors swung open and shut.
    I’ve tried to recreate it in in my writing in a scene set on Bradford Midlands railway station in 1880 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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