London has had a series of transport museums since the 1920s. At first it was the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) that preserved a number of Victorian vehicles. Then, in the 1960s, the Museum of British Transport opened in south-west London in an old bus depot. This subsequently became the London Transport Collection in 1973.
Flower Market – Home to London’s Transport Museum
The collection moved again, in 1980, to London’s old Flower Market in Covent Garden and became known as London Transport Museum in 2002. The museum welcomes more than 200,000 visitors per year and hopes to become the capital’s most popular attraction, find more about this.
The museum holds more than 375,000 items from posters and original artworks, uniforms, cap badges, photographs, maps and engineering drawings to a sedan chair, bicycles, road vehicles, steam locomotives and complete Tube trains. The collection reflects all aspects of public transport in London from 1800 to the present day and is the most comprehensive collection in the world. Every method of transport is covered from walking and cycling, taxes and river transport to trams, buses, the Underground and Overground. The museum is currently showing The art of the poster, an exhibition featuring 60 posters, original art work and artists’ materials, which will be on show until 31st March 2009.
Highlights of the Exhibition
The museum displays 25 vehicles at Covent Garden including a sedan chair, dating from 1780. These enclosed chairs, carried by two men, could be hired for short journeys around the city. The chairs were numbered and licensed and were usually hired by London’s wealthy.
One of the largest items on display is a Metropolitan Railway A Class steam locomotive dating from 1866. This is the museum’s oldest engine and was used on the world’s first underground railway, the Metropolitan Railway, which brought commuters from north-west London to the centre of town.
Also on display is a Stephenson horse drawn tram dating from 1884. London didn’t get horse drawn trams until 1870 although they were well established in New York by the 1840s. Trams were much larger than their predecessors, the horse bus, and brought mass mobility to the suburbs. The tram on display, “No. 284”, manufactured by the New York tram builder John Stephenson & Co., was imported from the USA in 1884. Trams went out of service in around 1905 and this vehicle was discovered on a farm, some 70 years later, in use as a hen house! It has now been completely restored by the museum.
Within a few years the B-type bus, the first mass-produced motor bus came into service. Designed by Frank Searle (Chief Engineer of the LGOC) in 1910, these vehicles proved very popular as troop transport on the Western Front during World War I. This particular vehicle was one of the first to be preserved by the LGOC.
Open Days at the Museum Depot at Acton
Some of the museum’s vast collection is stored at the Museum Depot at Acton Town, west London. London Transport runs open weekends at the Depot once or twice a year. The next such weekend is scheduled for 7th/8th March 2009 when visitors will be able to see several thousand items from the Museum’s collection as well as current preservation projects.
LTM offers a comprehensive programme of public events for children and adults. Full details of opening times, admissions policy and all public events and open weekends can be obtained from the London Transport Museum.