Sometimes the best things are those that are unplanned. That can be said about a lot of things, especially travel. Last time I was in London I pretty much tossed my thoughtfully crafted itinerary out the window and it all seemed to work out for the best. For example, one afternoon we found ourselves sitting in Covenant Garden, debating how to spend the rest of the day. Low and behold, we looked up and spotted the London Transport Museum. Could be interesting.
The museum is divided between three levels that trace the history of urban transportation in London, featuring a ton of interactive exhibits and more than 320,000 objects including actual vehicles that you can climb inside.
Your journey starts on the top floor in the 1800s when the horse-drawn Omnibus ruled the streets of London. It replaced other modes of transportation like the person-pulled sedan chairs and introduced the city to the concept of a public mode of transportation that traveled a set route and did not require a reservation. Other vehicles like trollies and trams soon followed.
As we moved down to the next level we learned that the growth of London both influenced and was in response to new modes of transportation, and the introduction of the rail road created a need to connect various train stations around the city. Enter the world’s first underground Metro system in 1863. Its carriages were hauled by steam locomotives and became part of what we know as the Circle Line today. Although, the London Underground wasn’t necessarily met with the warmest of welcomes and a huge marketing campaign was implemented to convince people to ride (shopping in the city or the weekend in the country anyone?).
On the ground floor we walked among various motorized vehicles including London’s iconic red double decker buses along with a handful of fascinating exhibits spanning the invention of the escalator system to the power of branding, from typography and signage right down to the pattern of the fabrics used on the seats. Other exhibits look at the role of the system during wartime and a fun interactive activity to explore the future of public transportation and city planning.
To say the museum is interesting would be an understatement. It was beyond fascinating and almost too much to take in during a single visit. The good news is that despite the slightly steep admission price, your ticket is valid for one year so you have the opportunity to return for multiple visits if your travel plans allow. The London Transport Museum is an adventure for all ages and a great compliment to some of the other more popular sights in London. It definitely gives you something to think about next time you hop on a bus or venture underground to ride the Tube.