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London Transport Museum

Unlike some of its more famous brethren, admission to the London Transport Museum isn't free. But we found it to be well worth the price. It answered some questions I had (like which was the first Tube line built, and when?) and many more that I hadn't thought to ask (how did the streets of old London get cleaned of all the horse droppings? what happened to the water taxi drivers when they started building multiple bridges across the Thames? how did the Tube tunnels get built?). The Museum offers a lot of interactive exhibits to appeal to kids (and there were lots of kids there while we were, providing a cheerfully noisy backdrop to our tour of it). But there is also plenty of fascinating history and technology information for adults, too, in a very well-designed environment.

Their website is also chock-full of online content and when there's more information online regarding any of the exhibits I've highlighted here, I've included a link. There are larger versions of these photos, plus a few more, in this Flickr set. And you can read about my visit soon after the event in this blog post.

Here's a look at a portion of the Museum's major exhibition space. You can learn more about these and other vehicles, signs, maps, posters, and lots more by exploring the Museum's online collections.

old buses

All aspects of London's transportation history were interesting, as presented in the Museum's exhibits, but what I most wanted to learn about was the Tube's history. A delightful surprise were these actual tube cars from different eras. You can see a lot more in the Museum's collection of photos.

inside of train car
'60's Tube car

Here's the answer we found to the "first line" question, in the top picture. They called it the Circle Line then, but it was actually my good, old, reliable, District Line! How unbelievable that there was this much underground rail so long ago. Below on the left is a vintage map, showing the underground at a later point in its history. This map was in the vintage car on the left above. And on the right, one from the 1960's, which appeared in the car on the right above.

oldest Tube line
Metropolitan railway/line District line map in old car

The Museum's exhibits provide lots of information on how the Tube system was built, including this model showing how the tunnels were constructed; truly one of London's foremost wonders.

model of Tube construction

One of the most fascinating types of artifacts on display at the Museum are old posters promoting or otherwise related to transportation systems. Here's one from World War II, urging caution when leaving the station, since the blackout restrictions made city streets very dark and difficult to navigate.

Given my interest in World War II, I spent a lot of time in the "London Transport at War" section of the Museum, where I saw this poster.

One of the collections available for viewing on the website features lots of old posters.


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