Based in Covent Garden, London’s Transport Museum covers the history of London’s development through the essential role transport played in defining the city’s identity. Their collection displays a rich array of London’s different transport systems throughout time – from its past, to its present and even projecting into its future.
Declared as the world’s leading museum of urban transport with over 500,000 objects on display, it is
“a place for everyone to come to understand and enjoy the story of London’s journey”, according to the museum.
Journey into 19th century London
Our journey starts on the 2nd and top floor, landing right in the middle of London in the early 1800s. Surrounded by recreated atmospheric sounds from noisy 19th century London, real life-sized mannequins and historical vehicles, completely immerse yourself into the time period.
Take a look at the first transport system straight from the 17th century: the chairs to anywhere – known as sedan chairs – enjoy admiring the historic 1829 omnibus – ancestor to our current buses – or the first horse pulled tram from the late 1800s. Sadly, due to the pandemic outbreak, exploring their interiors is now prohibited, but you can still enjoy their colourful exteriors and contemplate the somewhat disturbing mannequins comfortably installed in their seats.
Observe the world's first underground railways
Our next stop on the 1st floor brings us to the late 19th – early 20th century trains. Following a strong expansion to the suburbs, the first steam trains were developed to transport citizens from the city to its outskirts.
From locomotives that powered London’s first underground railway – in fact the world’s first underground railway – to a grand art collection of 20th century posters, maps and original signs, learn all about the people who have travelled and worked in the city over the last 200 years.
Stop to read the signs and discover more about each different form of transport, a few life stories from the people that made it possible, and all about the Worship Company of Carmen – who we have to thank for London’s transport system – and much more. Don’t forget to look out for scattered information about women’s part in all this history whilst touring the museum.
Cross into the hidden side of London
Discover some of London’s Underground secrets in a special exhibit taking the form of three dark, hidden stations teaching you all about London’s underground world, and focusing on its utility during the World Wars: Hidden London.
As the world’s first and oldest subterranean railway, many stations are now abandoned or were never completed, but some of them found another purpose as factories or even top secret hideouts. In times of crisis, the Underground became bomb-proof shelters and opened its arms to citizens and statesmen alike – Winston Churchill himself took cover in Down Street’s abandoned station during the Second World War.
Dream about the future
The journey ends on the ground floor, displaying a collection of historical buses, trams, taxis, bicycles and more and takes a peek into how future technologies might impact London as we know it. Find out more here.
As such, the museum aims to
“stimulate curiosity from an early age and inspire the next generation to realise their potential”.
And indeed, the next generation is already there. Packed with an abundance of interactive exhibits: driving a bus, reconstructing roads, and even a playground, London’s Transport Museum is a great educational adventure for children and adults alike.
No need to travel far from London next time you wish to take a trip – book your tickets and journey through time in London’s own Transport Museum or adventure further and discover the larger depot in Acton.
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