The London Transport Museum, or LT Museum based in Covent Garden, London, seeks to conserve and explain the transport heritage of Britain’s capital city. The majority of the museum’s exhibits originated in the collection of London Transport, but, since the creation of Transport for London (TfL) in 2000, the remit of the museum has expanded to cover all aspects of transportation in the city.
The museum operates from two sites within London. The main site in Covent Garden uses the name of its parent institution, sometimes suffixed byCovent Garden, and is open to the public every day, having reopened in 2007 after a two-year refurbishment. The other site, located in Acton, is known as the London Transport Museum Depot and is principally a storage site that is open on regular visitor days throughout the year.
The museum was briefly renamed London’s Transport Museum to reflect its coverage of topics beyond London Transport, but it reverted to its previous name in 2007 to coincide with the reopening of the Covent Garden site.
London Transport Museum is a registered charity under English law.
The museum (Covent Garden)
The museum’s main facility is located in a Victorian iron and glass building that had formed part of the Covent Garden vegetable, fruit and flower market. It was designed as a dedicated flower market by William Rogers in 1871 and is located between Russell Street, Tavistock Street, Wellington Street and the east side of the former market square. The market moved out in 1971, and the building was occupied by the London Transport Museum in 1980. The collection had been located at Syon Park since 1973 and before that had formed part of the British Transport Museum at Clapham.
On 4 September 2005 the museum closed for a major £22 million refurbishment designed by Bryan Avery of Avery Associates Architects to enable the expansion of the display collection to encompass the larger remit of TfL which administers all forms of public transport. Enhanced educational facilities were also required. The museum reopened on 22 November 2007.
The entrance to the museum is from the Covent Garden Piazza, amongst the Piazza’s many tourist attractions. The museum is within walking distance from both Covent Garden tube station and Charing Cross railway station.
The depot (Acton)
The Museum Depot is located in Acton, west London, and was opened in October 1999. The depot holds the majority of the Museum’s collections which are not on display in the main museum in Covent Garden. It is the base for the museum’s curators and conservators, and is used for the display of items too large to be accommodated in the main facility.
The depot provides 6,000 square metres of storage space in secure, environmentally controlled conditions and houses over 370,000 items of all types, including many original works of art used for the Museum’s collections of posters, signs, models, photographs, engineering drawings and uniforms. The building has both road access and a rail connection to the London Underground network, which allows the storage and display of significant numbers of buses, trams, trolleybuses, rail rolling stock and other vehicles.
The depot is not regularly open to the public, but is fully equipped to receive visitors, with ticket office, shop, a miniature railway, and other visitor facilities. It opens to the public for special events, including themed open weekends – usually two or three times per year. It is within easy walking distance of Acton Town tube station.
The first parts of the collection were brought together at the beginning of the 20th century by the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) when it began to preserve buses being retired from service. After the LGOC was taken over by the London Electric Railway (LER), the collection was expanded to include rail vehicles. It continued to expand after the LER became part of the London Passenger Transport Board in the 1930s and as the organisation passed through various successor bodies up to TfL, London’s current transport authority.
The collection has had a number of homes. It was housed as part of the Museum of British Transport at a disused tram depot in Clapham High Street (now a supermarket) from 1963 to 1972, and then at Syon Park in Brentford from 1973 to 1977, before being moved to Covent Garden in 1980. Most of the other exhibits moved to York on formation of the National Railway Museum in 1975.
The Covent Garden building has on display many examples of buses, trams, trolleybuses and rail vehicles from 19th and 20th centuries as well as artefacts and exhibits related to the operation and marketing of passenger services and the impact that the developing transport network has had on the city and its population. The first underground electric train, from 1890, can be seen here.
Larger exhibits held at Acton depot include a complete 1938 stock tube train as well as early locomotives from the first sub-surface and first deep-level lines.
The Museum shopping
The museum shop sells a wide range of reproduction posters, models, gifts and souvenirs, both at Covent Garden and online. Profits from sales support the museum’s activities. In 2012 the museum offered luggage racks from decommissioned Metropolitan line A Stock trains, which had recently been replaced by new trains, for sale.
|London Buses||Covent Garden RV1
Aldwych 4, 11, 15, 23, 26, 76, 172
Aldwych 243, 341
|London Underground||Covent Garden
Charing Cross (5 min walk)
Stained glass door.
Metropolitan Railwaysteam locomotive number 23, the only surviving locomotive from the world’s first underground railway, is preserved in the Covent Garden museum
Iconic London buses.
Double-decker horse-drawn tram
A depiction of a man tunnelling on the City & South London Railway
Another mannequin at the upper deck of a bus.
Various forms of transport
Miniature London tube train