When the London Underground first opened in the middle of the nineteenth century, it represented a revolutionary technological advance and significant step forward for transportation services. The London Transport Museum shines a light on this remarkable past, charting the growth and development of the transportation industry in England’s capital city. Visitors will find the museum full of historic vehicles, vintage signs, informative exhibits, and interactive galleries dedicated to this world-famous transportation system.
History of the London Transport Museum
The London Transport Museum is located in Convent Garden Piazza; it occupies the site of what was once a bustling market that, dating back to the seventeenth century, sold flowers, fruits, and vegetables. The museum’s current building is a striking iron-and-glass structure; designed by the architect William Rogers, it opened to the public in 1871. The London Transport Museum opened here in 1980. It was closed between 2005 and 2007 for a major renovation.
The cornerstone of London’s transportation system is the London Underground, which can trace its roots back to the Metropolitan Railway, an underground passenger railway—the first in the world—that began operating in 1863. Nicknamed the “Tube,” the Underground is famous the world over for its iconic branding, innovative artwork, and inimitable design.
London Transport Museum Highlights
The London Transport Museum is full of fascinating artifacts and interactive displays that tell the rich history of the city’s multifaceted transportation networks and services. Notable pieces of the permanent collection on show here include the world’s oldest surviving Underground steam locomotive, which dates to the 1860s; a double-decker, horse-drawn tram built in 1882; and an eighteenth-century sedan chair, favored by the wealthy, that was designed to be carried by human beings.
Prominent exhibitions and galleries located at the London Transport Museum include London by Design, which shares insights into how the iconic London Underground artwork was created; Future Engineers, an interactive space where kids can test their STEM skills by solving a series of transportation problems of the sort faced by modern engineers every day of the week; Digging Deeper, an exhibit that explores how the Tube’s tunnels were built; and All Aboard, a delightful playzone for children under the age of seven years old where kids can pretend to be drivers, mechanics, riverboat captains, and station announcers while they play on and around miniature trains, boats, cable cars, and more.
A fun way for the little ones to engage with all there is to see and do at the London Transport Museum is by participating in the Stamper Trail. Those individuals wishing to partake in the Stamper Trail experience need simply pick up a free card at the museum’s entrance. From there, you take your card and have it stamped at one of the 13 different stamping stations positioned throughout the museum. This process is evocative of how tickets were once routinely stamped on London public transportation, and makes for a fun way of charting your progress through the site’s many galleries.
More to See and Do at the London Transport Museum
Whether you’re a small child or just a big kid at heart, the London Transport Museum has a lot to offer. Keep reading for several other things of note to check out here during your visit.
*The London Transport Museum shop is not to be missed, especially if you’ve ever dreamed of taking home your very own Tube station sign or map. The shop sells a remarkable selection of posters and prints at a variety of price points, as well as all manner of books, clothing, homeware, toys, model trains, and more.
*For those seeking a quick, casual bite to eat before or after touring the attraction, the London Transport Museum has its own in-house dining option, Canteen. Canteen serves an assortment of sandwiches, soups, and salads in a fun setting: the café space features many design elements evocative of the London Underground itself circa 1950.
*On the ground floor of the museum you’ll find the Lower Deck Café. This small establishment specializes in tasty treats like ice cream and gelato, but it also sells sandwiches, drinks, and assorted snacks.
*If you’re looking to save some money by bringing your own pre-packed lunch—or you’re searching for a water fountain where you can refill your water bottle—the London Transport Museum has a small indoor picnic area that’ll suit your needs perfectly. It can be found on the museum’s ground floor, not far from the Lower Deck Café.
Why the London Transport Museum Should Be on Your Must-See List
Transportation has come a long way over the course of the past three centuries; in particular, public transportation in the city of London has evolved substantially from the days of the hand-drawn cart. So much has changed, in fact, that it’s possible sometimes to take for granted our ability today to get from Point A to Point B quickly, comfortably, and safely. The London Transport Museum manages to make learning all about what it takes to get from one place to another in a fast and secure manner a lot of fun.