The UK is home to an outstanding range of museums that chronicle our long and eventful history. For the purposes of this article we’ll be focusing on transport – an area in which Britain has been a major innovator over the past hundred years or so.
From the railways to flight, our inventors have built machines that revolutionised transit in all of its forms. Read on as we take a look at some of the museums that do an outstanding job of showcasing these remarkable feats of engineering.
Please note that all of the museums listed here are temporarily closed due to Covid-19.
National Maritime Museum, Falmouth
The UK’s seafaring heritage is superbly exhibited at the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall. Located in Falmouth, this award-winning museum opened in 2003 and comprises ten galleries displaying a wide variety of craft. These include a 19th century Thames steamboat and the Flying Dutchman – one of the fastest racing dinghies in the world.
The museum is also home to one of the UK’s largest collections of small boats and hosts an annual programme of exhibitions. Previous themes have focused on the Titanic, lighthouses and the work of our coastal rescue services.
National Railway Museum, York
The National Railway Museum in York houses a wonderful array of historic locomotives that tell the story of railed-travel in Britain. On display are iconic steam engines such as the Mallard, The Duchess of Hamilton and a replica of Stephenson’s Rocket.
There’s also an excellent collection of modern trains including the Japanese Bullet and the Class 31 – British Rail’s diesel workhorse that operating during the 50s and 60s. Although the locomotives are undoubtedly the star attraction, there are thousands of additional objects relating to the railways such as photographs and old station signs.
London Transport Museum, Covent Garden
The London Transport Museum actually operates from two sites although the main one is located in Covent Garden. Among the highlights are a well-preserved Routemaster Double Decker bus, a horse tram from the 19th century and an early example of an electric locomotive.
Many of the vehicles that you’ll find here have been sourced from London Transport. As a result, the museum is also home to an extensive collection of underground stock, some of which dates from the 1930s. More than 450,000 supporting exhibits are displayed too including s 100,000 photos documenting the evolution of mass transit in London.
Shuttleworth Collection, Biggleswade
Although not quite as large as some of the other museums mentioned here, the Shuttleworth Collection is no less significant in terms of historical importance.
This famed aeronautical and automotive museum was set up in 1928 and features an impressive range of classic aircraft such as an Avro Tri-Plane, a Sopwith Camel, two Hawker Hurricanes and a Supermarine Spitfire.
Other noteworthy exhibits oinclude a variety of Edwardian cars as well as rare motorcycles like the 1904 Aurora.
National Motor Museum, New Forest
The National Motor Museum is set in the grounds of Beaulieu Estate and boasts a superb collection of cars, motorcycles and related memorabilia. There are more than 280 motoring exhibits ranging from Formula 1 racing cars to vintage vehicles from the early 20th century.
The museum was founded in 1952 and has since evolved into one of the UK’s most popular attractions. Numerous events, exhibitions and rallies are held throughout the year celebrating automotive engineering excellent. Visitors also have access to Beaulieu Abbey, the palace house and gardens.
More Information about Top UK Transport Museums
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