On my very first excursion to London back in 2001, I was overwhelmed and found it difficult to navigate my way around.
Fast-forward to 2019. Today, not only can I find my way around the city via public transportation, but I find myself guiding foreign visitors around my “home.”
Always intrigued by how the London public transport and how it works, I decided to visit another Hidden Gem – the London Transport Museum.
Okay, I really wanted to see the “Hidden London?” exhibition, not the museum itself. But can you blame me? Seriously, how cool would it be to hang out in the same secret tunnels where Winston Churchill took refuge at the height of the Blitz?
I was truly disappointed to learn the “Hidden London?” exhibition was closed for “reimagining” until October.
Oh Sugar Foot! 😭
Since the true reason I wanted to visit was out of the equation, I considered not visiting the museum and using the time for souvenir shopping. But the history buff in me asked “Do you really need another cheap London shot glass? You have 10 already … and you don’t even drink.”
So off to the museum my happy feet took me.
Tickets for the museum are £18 (£16 online), but it is an annual pass, so I can visit the museum as many times as I want for the next year – AWESOME!
Once inside, I was directed to the lift. Normally, elevator rides are mostly silent affairs, but this ride included a very enthusiastic youngster, who, to my amazement, was very knowledgeable about the London Transport System. His few tidbits about LTS impressed me and the other passengers. It is such a pleasure to see such passion and knowledge in someone so young.
The self-guided tour officially began with the early horse and buggy days, than to the early trolley models to the first steam train. I must say – the museum brought the history of London Transport to life.
I knew London was a very compact city two hundred or so years ago, but seeing photos of how crowded Piccadilly Circus was then was mind-boggling.
Then again, Piccadilly Circus is still crowded. Some things change and some things stay the same.
The tour was very interactive, including quizzes and tidbits of quirky information. The opportunity to sit in old transport models and pretend I was part of the London aristocracy was fun.
I don’t know why I was, but I was surprised by how involved women were during the early onset of London Transport. I knew of Jill Viner was London first woman bus driver, but hadn’t heard of ‘ Widow’ Birch, real name Elizabeth Birch. Birch was the first woman Omnibus Operator. I also learned about Hannah Dadds, the first woman Tube Driver in 1978, was a driver on the District line.
The tour continued and I eventually entered the electric and computerized age.
There was even a section on escalators and Bumper Harris. On Oct. 4, 1911, the first escalators on the Underground opened at Earl’s Court Station. Earl’s Court Station served as my main transport hub during this excursion
“Bumper” Harris, a one-legged engineer, rode the escalators on the first day of operation to reassure passengers of their safety. This is interesting because not many people today give a second thought about how escalators enhanced our ability to travel around the city faster.
Finally, my moment of truth arrived and I took advantage of my chance to become the next Tube Train Driver! WHOOO-HOOO!!
I promised I stuck to the rules and didn’t speed. And I didn’t intentionally closed the door on passengers. Hey, it’s not my fault they got stuck in the doors trying to jump onboard at the very last second. 😜
Even though I’d obeyed all the rules, I didn’t pass the test. Oh well, I guess I’ll stick with driving a London Double-Decker bus.
I guess I didn’t do to well because I was moved to the back and became a ticket checker. 🤪
Overall, the museum was more fun and more interesting than I imagined. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy my visit because of “Hidden London?” closure, but I truly did enjoy every aspect of the museum.
If you’re in London for the day, consider visiting the London Transport Museum. It’s fun for all ages, and worth the ticket price.