'Mummy, why didn't old buses have a roof on them?' or 'Mummy, what underground train did you use when you were a little girl?' - Just a few questions my little girl has been asking recently. I think its because she goes to London so much, and she see's so many different transports that she is curious, added to her spotting an old Routemaster bus that goes through London and noticing that it was an old fashioned bus with the driver isolated in the front. She was curious as to how these buses worked. So whats a mum to do? We went to The London Transport Museum in Covent Garden., and spent the morning having a look around there. We arrived and there was a small queue to get in but the staff were supper efficient and the queue moved at a steady pace. You pay £17.00 for an adult ticket and all your kids get in for free, but also your ticket is actually valid for a whole year so you can go back as many times as you like. This is amazing value for a family and makes for cheap days out. There is also a free cloakroom to leave your coats and bags as you stroll round the museum.
We were given a card for Tilly to collect stamps as she went round the museum, which is good because then you make sure that you don't miss any of the museum as you're always on the look out for the stamper machine. We went in the lift and although we were going up to the second floor, the lift showed us as going back to 1800 and makes it feel like a time machine for kids and you step out of the lift to be faced with transport from 1800's. She learn't about the buses with no roof and how horses used to pull the buses, before they had engines. She was allowed to climb up the buses and noticed how small it was to climb the tight staircase to get to the top floor.
The 1800's saw a lot of change in the transport of London with the Underground opening in 1863 and joining Farringdon to Paddington and then the District line was opened in 1868. From there the underground just grew and grew. Tilly also leaned that people used the Thames to get around and how it was developed from people using the rowing boats to big paddle steamers transporting people along the river. As you go around the museum you see the progression of the London transport and it actually excited Tilly to see the older transports. I did get asked 'Mummy did you go on this bus when you were little?' ..... ' No Tilly, I was born after 1867!'
On level one after looking at the old trains, we went to the interactive area and Tilly pretended to be a underground train driver, she could wear a train driver costume and really got into the role. You can even pretend to work in a transport lost property office as well as climb underneath the tube and repair it. This area can get busy at peak times. They can go up the stairs of a Thames Clipper, walk along the Emirates cable car and come down the stairs of a bus. You can even drive a little play London black cab. There is a cafe to have a spot of lunch or a cup of tea whilst your children play too.
On the ground floor you will also find a huge selection of different buses that you can have pictures taken inside of and a few underground carriages that you can sit in and get the feeling of how it was for the passengers many years ago. One thing that really caught Tilly's attention was the part that underground stations played in WWII. watching video's of how people stayed down there whilst the bombs fell on London. She learn't so much about the people slept down there, how they were given food down there and she sat on a seat that converted to a bunk bed at nights for some families to sleep on. It was all told in an easy way for kids to understand and although Tilly uses the Underground when she visits London, she never realised how deep into the ground they really were and now she understands the underground a lot more. Again there was a small interactive area where you could drive an underground train
When we had finished, and had collected our stamps on the card, we were ready to leave and as we made our way to collect our bags from the cloakroom, there was a small display of transport in the future. There is a shop as you leave the museum and money you spend in there goes towards the upkeep of the museum, so the best thing about having the annual ticket and using it for free entry throughout the year, means it gives you extra cash to spend on little treats from the shop for the kiddies.
Tilly really enjoyed her day at the museum and has learn't so much! You could make a whole day of it there and you wouldn't get bored. The museum isn't just for kids, its for adults too. If its a weekend and you have nothing to do, then we would recommend the London Transport Museum, it doesn't matter if its a cold and wet day, because everything is all inside the museum. There is also a fabulous half term diary of activities for you to look forward to, details can be found here. Pop along to see this museum for yourself, it has definitely passed the 'Tilly Test'.