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Public Transport

The London Transport Museum

There are few things more iconic to the city of London than its world-famous open-backed double-decker buses, resplendent in red livery. Built between 1954 and 1968, these Routemasters were in regular service for over half a century, until they were replaced with low-floor buses. If you want to jump on a Routemaster these days, the place to go is the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, which is one of the coolest public transport museums in Europe. Some older double-deck vehicles on display are an 1882 horse-drawn tram, a horse omnibus with two lengthwise rooftop seats from around the same time, and a 1914 B-type bus, from the first mass-produced motor-bus series in the world.

London Transport Museum
1938 Tube stock, a 1963 Routemaster & a 1954 RT-type bus

London is home to the world’s first underground railway, which opened in 1863. Among the Tube highlights are an A-class steam locomotive from 1866, in use until the electrification of the Circle line in 1905, a windowless deep-level coach from 1890, and a 1938-stock motor car, the first Tube train to have its motors & electrical equipment housed beneath the floor. The presentation also looks at the growth of London after the railways were extended further out from the city centre, and at the role London’s transport system & its staff played in keeping the city moving through both world wars. A special section is dedicated to London’s transport design heritage, including the Tube map, signage & posters.

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The Shillibeer omnibus marked the beginning of London’s bus history. On 4 July 1829, George Shillibeer, a coach builder, started London’s first omnibus service, between Paddington & the Bank of England, the most popular commuter route. The omnibus was pulled by three horses and could carry 22 people. At one shilling, the fare was far beyond the means of most people.


In late Victorian London, public transport required 50,000 horses, who ate 250,000 acres of foodstuff a year and deposited 1,000 tonnes of manure on the streets every day.


The Museum Depot at Acton holds the majority of the museum’s collections that are not on display in Covent Garden. The depot is open to the public only for guided tours and on open days, held three times a year, typically in April, July & September.


In 2016, Transport for London commissioned Monotype to refresh the famous sans-serif typeface that Edward Johnston designed for the Underground a century earlier. The type foundry released a video (6½ min.) to introduce the updated typeface, a design by Malou Verlomme:


The Imperial War Museum in London has a B-type bus from 1911 on display that was purchased by the War Office in 1914. It served in France & Belgium throughout World War I as a troop carrier taking relief forces from rear areas to the front line, returning with battle-weary & sometimes wounded men. On 14 February 1920 it was inspected by King George V, thus becoming the first bus His Majesty had ever boarded.

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