Tuesday 24 February 2009

London Transport Museum, The Piazza, Covent Garden, central London

The London Transport Museum occupies an elegant Victorian building, with large arched cast iron windows, that used to be home to the flower market on the edge of Covent Garden's popular piazza. It houses an extraordinary collection of tube and bus memorabilia from the past 150 years. From beautifully-preserved Victorian train carriages to antique trams with precarious spiral staircases to stylish vintage advertising posters to fading bus tickets, this museum uses the transport prism to give an enthralling insight into London's recent social history. As you can clamber on and walk inside iconic old tube trains and buses from many of the decades of the twentieth century, longtime London residents are in for a nostalgia trip. Some of the vehicles are populated with charismatic mannequins in appropriate period dress and matching hairstyles, such as sixties moptops, often playing conversational soundtracks.

Realistic simulator
There are also some extraordinarily intricate models, such as one of the first Underground tunnels being dug out by scores of men pretty much by hand. Children will get stuck into the many interactive exhibits, including a very realistic simulator of driving a tube train between stations, trying to ensure it stops exactly parallel with the platform. Adults will be fascinated by the visualizations of the future of London and its transport system. You can have a time out in the pricey cafe, overlooking the piazza and the imaginative shop, selling a few hot snacks and rather stingy portions of cake. Admission to the London Transport Museum is £10 (including a voluntary £2 donation) for adults and free for kids. Good value given the thought that has gone into making this one of London's best museums. 8/10