London Transport Museum

The London Transport Museum in Covent Garden documents the history of public transport in London from the ‘sedan chairs’, used by London’s 17th Century middle and upper classes, all the way to the mass transportation of today’s capital.

The museum also houses an impressive collection of buses. They range from horse drawn omnibuses of the late 1800s.

There were a couple of Edwardian motorised buses. One in its’ original livery.

I built a slot car out of an Airfix Omnibus a few years ago. It’s a multipart build thread, but here is part 1:

Another wore it’s WW1 olive green. Buses were used extensively in the First World War. They were mostly used as troop transports but were also used as ambulances, carrier pigeon bases, mobile command bases and general lorries.

I can’t imagine that driving such a tall, narrow vehicle on skinny tyres over the muddy, uneven surfaces on the Western Front’s battlefields was an easy task at the best of times.

The post-war Route Masters were synonymous with London. The golden one is in a special Jubilee livery.

It was pretty cool to see a tram in the museum. Trams have only (somewhat) recently come back into service in London. I’ve never been on one. I might have to change that soon!

Taxi cabs are another familiar sight on the streets of London. My Uncle was a taxi driver in London and had one of these FX4s when I was little. He replaced it with a later LTI TX1 which just don’t have the character of the FX4 in my opinion.

The pre war Taxi was a little before my time haha! It’s a lovely thing though.

Steam trains were used for a period throughout the network of tunnels that snaked under the city. Suffice to say running steam engines in the tunnels was unpleasant for both the crews and passengers and electric soon became the locomotive power of choice.

The museum houses a Metropolitan steam train with a pair of teak coaches (much like the GNR and LNER coaches). Sadly I didn’t photograph them.

The highlight of the day for me was seeing a very, very early electric 0-4-0 locomotive used by the City & South London Railway (C&SLR).

The C&SLR no.13 was built in Mather & Platt in 1890.

It’s partially stripped down inside. The “throttle” mechanism to the right of the vehicle particularly interested me. It’s a lot like the mechanical speed controllers on old RC cars.

They also had a C&SLR coach to complement the locomotive. Much like the LNER teaks the woodwork was beautiful! It’s pretty cramped inside compared to modern stock though.

The London Transport Museum is worth a visit.

The fact that they only offer annual passes at £21 rather than day passes seems a little odd to me. If you go a couple of times a year then it works out pretty good value (plus if you’re a local resident that charge drops to £15). However it seems a little wasted if you’re a tourist and can only go once.

There is a lot to see and read though, so it’s not bad value to have to buy an annual pass. I just think a day rate would make it more appealing, especially at the moment as money is tight for a lot of people.

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By Richard Francis

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