On my voluminous lists of places to see was the London Transport Museum. I was hoping it would have a lot about railway history, but ended up being more about transport in London from the olde days to today. The London Tube recently celebrated its 150th year of existence and it would be interesting to contemplate “Then and now.” It is situated in Covent Garden Piazza,WC2E 7BB. But that meant nothing to me as I bailed out of the tube at Leicester Square. I suspect Charing Cross would have have been a better choice, but by then it was too late.
My view from the station was of the Hippodrome Casino, but a quick map look put me more or less in the right direction. The streets are really labyrinths and finding anywhere isnt as straight forward as I thought it would be,
Eventually I found it and soon discovered a modern, bright and interactive facility. It was also very full and there were gazillions of children and their parents pulling and bashing everything in site. My grandmother grew up in the Southwark area, and she probably experienced a lot of what I saw between when she was born and when she left the UK in 1919. Surface transport would have been via horsedrawn cabs or carriage or even omnibus, while below ground steam powered trains would have been travelling in tunnels filled with choking smoke.
The museum is divided into a number of levels, the ground floor is more about road transport whereas the second is more about below ground transport. The James Hall Museum of Transport has a better collection than this museum has, but the condition of the exhibits here is top class.
It is hard to imagine what it must have been like to stand on the footplate on this steam engine while it rattled its way through the tunnels. There is no enclosed cab either, and the crew must have really suffered. Behind them the coaches have an almost Sherlock Holmesian feel about them with their upholstery and woodwork. I have no idea how they ever managed to keep them clean.
Still, compared to the plastic and formica trains of today these were still very opulent. I did find this interesting electric loco that seemed like a very dangerous thing to work on. The carriage behind it was severely lacking in windows, but nevertheless very nice inside.
What was really interesting is that they had set up a simulator inside this train and people were able to experience driving one. Unfortunately, when Johnny of the grubby paws gets his sticky hands on something like that nobody can get close. Then it was time for a quick look at the luverly red Routemasters and the head off elsewhere.
My next destination was the St James Park area via Trafalgar Square, but that’s another story for another day.