I’VE got a confession to make – I’m a bit of a Tube nerd. I just love it. Not the squishy smelly boring commute of course, but I am fascinated about how it runs, how it was designed and all those random Tube facts.
Even when there is a signal failure and I am late getting places, or there are engineering works on the weekend and I’m stranded – I still have a soft spot for it. So much so that people have bought me books on the subject, and one of my favourite moments in London has been when I met someone who worked for TFL and they answered my most burning question: “Where do they all go at night?”
So, needless to say I have been keen to check out the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden ever since I arrived. The only reason I hadn’t checked out number 93 before now is unlike most other museums in town, this one comes with a £13.50 entry fee. Although the ticket fee does entitle you to entrance to the museum for an entire year, compared to all the other free museums it seems a bit steep.
Once inside you are immediately transported back in time. I say that because while you are in the lift to the second floor you can literally see a clock counting back the years. The first part of the exhibition is about how Londoners got around prior to the Tube network being developed. These were mostly horse and carriages and omnibuses transporting people short journeys. Some of these are even open to the public and you can climb up and sit in them to see what they would have been like. One of them has a list of rules for riding in the buses, such as ‘no discussion of politics’ and ‘avoid making a single lady blush’.
From there you slowly work your way through the ages and read about the development of the Underground, the population growth, and the transport needs of London. It’s of course not all about the Tube, as the museum also has many of the vintage buses on display as well. It was great to jump in and sit in one of the first ever Tubes from the Metropolitan line, and on the back of one of the old fashioned double-deckers with a view out over the museum.
The museum also features displays on cyclists and pedestrian pathways, showing that there are many modes of transport around the city. It’s also not all about the past with several exhibits on planning for the future and what’s next for transport development in London.
My favourite part – the gift shop. Not only did they have great London knick knacks and souvenirs, but you can also buy bags and wallets made out of the Tube seat covers. We spent ages trawling through all the retro posters that have featured on the Underground. Although I managed to resist buying anything this time, at least now I know it’s a great place to go if I ever need to get a gift or souvenir.