Nestled at the heart of the Covent Garden Piazza, London Transport Museum is a living archive of the rich heritage and history of London’s transportation system. The 450,000 exhibits (and growing) here document the explosive growth of transportation in London since the Victorian era and its synergistic relationship with the rise of London as a global metropolis.
The museum also owns a 6,000 square metres depot in Acton Town, which is used to store most of the vehicles and paraphernalia not displayed at the Piazza. The environmentally controlled Acton depot, which houses in excess of 370,000 exhibits at any given time, accepts pre-booked tours on selected dates. In 2017, the depot welcomed 10,227 visitors.
The museum was established sometime in the 1920s as the Museum of British Transport by the London General Omnibus Company in Clapham, inside an old bus garage. The original exhibits featured a couple of Victorian horse buses, which was a popular mode of transport in the city before the advent of motor vehicles, and one first generation motorbus.
In 1973, the museum moved to a new and larger location in Syon Park and changed its name in the process to London Transport Collection. However, its stay there proved short-lived as seven years later, the museum moved to its final home, the significantly more spacious Grade II-listed Victorian Flower Market building in Covent Garden. It also changed its name once again – this time to London Transport Museum.
First generation trams and double deckers at the London Transport Museum. Image courtesy of David Stanley.
The museum’s collection encompasses a wide breadth of exhibits, ranging from vehicles (historic, current and futuristic concept models), art and posters, signage, uniforms, photographs, engineering drawings, and other transport related memorabilia. The exhibits are neatly categorised into separate galleries to give visitors a clear grasp of the evolution of transportation in London.
Broadly though, the first floor is limited to large physical exhibits such as early wooden Metropolitan coaches, double deck electric trams, ballast wagons, bicycles, and horse buses. The second floor is more focused on multimedia presentations, covering topics such as wartime transportation and the development of the underground system.
The museum also boasts of a library containing over 14,000 books and journals relating to transportation in London. Some of the materials in the library are unpublished, and as such, no copies exist elsewhere! Please note however that the museum is planning to move their library to a new premise at St James’s Park Underground station in 2018.
London Transport Museum also holds seasonal themed exhibitions, so please check their website to learn of upcoming events.
London Transport Museum is located in the thriving Covent Garden Piazza, which is a highly accessible location. However, the easiest way to get to the museum is probably using the tube, via Charing Cross station which is located just a five-minute walk away.
The museum’s opening hours are between 10.00 a.m. and 6.00 p.m. daily, but the shop and upper deck café opens until 7.00 p.m.
The admission fee is £17.50 for adults (£15 concession). Lower rates can be obtained through group bookings or annual admission tickets.
Depot Discoveries - Routemaster diagram