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The London Transport Museum: The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

The London Transport Museum: The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

The main item on my agenda today was a trip to the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden Market.  It’s one of my favorite London museums.  There’s been a major renovation since the last time I was here, so there were a lot of new things to see.

The Underground and the iconic red double-decker buses are part of London’s unique charm.  But more than that, public transportation is what enabled London to become one of the biggest and greatest cities in the world.  The museum does a great job of tracing the evolution public transport.

There were almost a million people living in London in 1801.  By 1901, the population had soared to 4.5 million residents, and another 2 million lived in its quickly expanding suburbs.  This rapid growth wouldn’t have been possible without public transportation, particularly the London Underground.  The first line on the world’s first underground transit system opened in 1863.

In addition to chronicling the history of the Underground, the London Transport Museum has a large collection of early horse trams, railroad cars, Tube cars, and buses that are just plain fun to explore!

I thought I remembered riding in Tube cars with wood floors during my 1992 trip to London.  It seemed a bit improbable that such old cars would still have been in use at that time.  I thought perhaps I was misremembering it.  I was thrilled to find a poster from the mid-1990s promoting the refurbishment of old Underground cars.  In the poster, the photo of the “yesterday” car has wood slat flooring, which proves that my memory was indeed accurate.

After touring the exhibits and clambering in and out of all the vehicles, I stopped for a quick bite at the museum’s café.  It has a great view of the action in the Covent Garden Piazza.  My final stop was the London Transport Museum shop.  It’s one of the best places to buy souvenirs in London.  I highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in town.  You don’t have to pay an admission fee to enter the shop, which is just inside the main entrance.  As you’d expect, it sells a wide range of merchandise emblazoned with the famous London Underground map.  You can choose from dishes, notecards, bibs, boxer shorts, and much more.  There are also items bearing the well-known “Mind the Gap” logo.

My grandson is just starting to play with the little wooden trains.  What better way to add to his collection than with a set of official, Brio-compatible London Transport Tube cars?  I also bought a cute wooden double-decker bus and a black cab for his collection.

London Transport is famous for its posters, many of which are true works of art.  The museum shop sells reproductions of more than 100 posters dating back to the early 1900s.  The museum will print on-demand from hundreds more in its online catalog.  I bought a poster called “The Lure of the Underground” on my last trip, and I picked out three more on this visit.  I’m looking forward to putting them up when I get home.

I finished the day by wandering around Covent Garden Market enjoying the shops, market stalls, and street performers.  Some Londoners dismiss Covent Garden as a tourist trap.  Tourist trap or not, there was a very festive atmosphere and everyone seemed to be having a great time.

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