London Transport Museum (London, UNITED KINGDOM)
When travelling with kids, it can be a bit tricky finding a nice mix of activities and museums to visit that are appealing to both adults and children! On a visit to London a couple of years ago, we were looking for something to occupy a few hours with our kids in the Covent Gardens area.
After some pre-searching back at the BnB at which we were staying at, we had settled upon the London Transport Museum. Our young one is crazily into all things transport... buses, trains and that sort of thing. So, we thought that it would be the perfect little outing for her!
It's a little bit strange, I associate the Covent Garden area with the famous markets and the nearby Royal Opera House. In fact, I've been in this exact area a number of times, and have NEVER noticed this museum tucked away in one of the corners!
What you do notice upon entry is the fact that the museum has been restored and renovated in a very modern museum style. Gone are the days of stuffy exhibits, this is a bright and light with lots of things for adults to see and do and interact with.
The entire museum is an elaborate love letter to the famous London public transport system, from it's humble beginnings through to the iconic double-decker buses and the Underground.
There relatively modest entrance hides a huge warehouse of interesting public transport related exhibits in behind it. Several floors of exhibits span the space, with levels devoted to historical transport and many life sized replicas or actual transport vehicles on the lower ground level.
... when we are talking about the modest beginnings, we are really going back to the days of old. When public transport was at best described as exclusive and primitive!
However, the progress from individualised carriers to a more recognisible form of public transport occurred alongside the Industrial Revolution with the introduction of the horse drawn Omnibuses.
... there is even a life sized replica of the Omnibus!
... with replica poop?
... or a nice miniature one?
I think I would definitely find the concept of a large bus sized carriage drawn by horses to be incredibly intimidating as a pedestrian! I do wonder how they were received by the general public in the day!
There is some incredibly interesting headlines and news articles from the day which help put the visitor to the museum in the mindset of the day. It's really quite quaint now, but for the time... it was the cutting edge of marketing!
Also interesting was the drive to replace the horse drawn carriages with the new steam powered carriages that were the cutting edge technology of the day. Interestingly enough, that sort of steampower was still considered too weak for high gradient hills that only horses could tackle!
Electric, petrol and gas powered engines all get a mention as well! No Fusion Cores yet though...
Yes, it appears that the traffic rules of the time were a little bit looser at the time... leading to quite some chaos!
Going down a level took us to the historical train section. With many steam and coal driven trains and their carriages in replica.
Many of the carriages are restored or replicated in a lovely wood style. I'm not entirely sure that natural wear and tear would leave them looking this good!
Again, I love the cute marketing materials of the time!
... and the sex segregation?
It's all too easy to forget that the trains were essentially the space-ships of that era. The glamour of travel to far off lands and counties, and the allure of a mechanical monster... all the sorts of things that captivate us about space now!
... Pleasure Parties? Haha... a more naive time!
Some of the exhibits do feature some disturbingly realistic manikins.
The lowest level of the museum is devoted to full scale buses and trains. The sorts of things that you probably can't have on higher levels due to the load on the building and danger to the public.
The lower level is also devoted to lots of interactive elements and exhibits for children. These activities range from the toddler stages all the way through to secondary school students. In the above picture, you can see a nice reading session for todllers!
Many of the old replicas and restored buses and trams can be climbed up. However, they are limited in where you can go. Generally, you can't go inside the compartments, but only on the outside platforms. Those stairs are quite steep, I could imagine that they would be quite a challenge if the vehicle was moving!
There is also a special semi-permanent exhibition that showcases the "Hidden" parts of the Underground network.
These Hidden areas are mostly sections of the underground network that are now disused, but still accessible. This includes trackwork, but also stations!
Sometimes, these sections or stations are used as film sets...
.. or commandeered as hydroponic farms!
Cool fact! I bet you didn't know that the movie V for Vendetta was shot in the disused underground station of Aldwych!
So, wrapping up, the London Transport Museum! A great place for visitors of all ages to London. Centrally located near Covent Garden, it makes for a nice diversion for a couple of hours before you head on to other activities in the area! I will write again about the Museum, as it was host to a special exhibition about the Underground during the Second World War!