11 February 2013

'wednesday' walkabout--transported to the past

This week I switched my Wednesday walkabout for a weekend day.  So today I decided to spend the afternoon at the...

Took me two or three times as long to get there via public transport and walking.  It's sad to have to change your planned route when the train your on stops indefinitely at a station because the line ahead has seized due to "person under train".  It's not the first time I've heard of it sadly but the first time my journey has been affected by it.  A horrible reason to change plans.  I decided to leave the underground and try my luck with a bus.  I wandered along in the general direction of my destination and ended up walking past the next tube station where there was a kerfuffle of a whole assortment of emergency vehicles.  I walked past a little sombrely.

After some more walking, my umbrella keeping the rain off my head but my falling-apart-boots letting my socks soak it up, I stopped to check the map at a bus stop and saw an approaching bus that was destined to take me somewhat near the museum.  So I climbed on board and took shelter in the warmth which inadvertently slowed down my progression.  There was some Chinese New Year celebration going on at Trafalgar Square which had buses on altered routes meaning the roads we needed to use were jammed with extra traffic.  Eventually, map in hand as I figured out where we were, I went down stairs and asked the bus driver to let me off when next he could.  Though it took a long time to get not so far I ended up closer than the normal route would have taken me.  Just a short walk further and I got inside the museum.

 I stepped inside the elevator with a couple of others and it took us a moment to work out what to do.  There was no level buttons.  Just one 'go' type button.  When someone pushed it the doors closed and we began to move upwards but the elevator numbers were fast counting down YEARS!  We kept going back in time until we stopped at 1800.  That tickled my funny bone.  Transport in London in the 1800s would have been something amazing to time travel back to.  So different from what you see now.  I can't imagine horse drawn carriages all over the streets.  Horse drawn bus (the Omnibus adopting the term from France and it meaning "for all" which I guess we just shortened to 'bus'), horse drawn trams and horse drawn 'cabs'.  Walking through and reading about people problem solving (or attempting to) the various transport needs of a fast growing city was interesting.  One sign said they used 12 horses (6 pairs) in one day for one two horse carriage for it to be able to be consistently available for use.  That's a whole lot of horses over all to be caring for and feeding and pooing on the streets.  Yeah, progress was needed.

Eventually they went underground and London was the first in the world to have an underground train.  They are celebrating 150 years.  The underground steam trains were a bit of a torture ride apparently though.  Lots of heat and smoke and even those up on ground level would get frights as special vents released to clear some of the smoke-filled tunnels.  At first the underground was built with the cut and  cover method which was very messy construction as you can see displayed in the model.  Disrupted the streets and commonly kicked the poor out of their homes with no legal obligation to rehouse them.  And as they wanted more train systems and needed to go deeper, someone came up with the tube system and a better way of digging it out.  Electricity was available now too which meant the invention of electric trains.  And so London has 'the tube' which you can now ride all over the vast city.  I liked the train driver's cabin with simulated work.  Too many kids today to have a go myself though.  Oh well.  There was also some buses and other things down stairs but I didn't look around much there.

After leaving the museum, I went walkabout to stumble across a tube station as it's not too hard to do in the city centre.  The first one I came to though was access to the Piccadilly line which was still closed so I just kept walking.  Then I had to pull out my map, found out I'd gone the other direction than I thought but had still managed to be somewhat in the area I had aimed for.  I started heading toward a Circle line tube station when I walked past a bus stop that caught my attention.  A number 9 bus had just pulled up and that's one that goes right near my house.  And I was thrilled to be able to tick off TWO things on my London-to-do list.

I climbed on the back of one of the active old buses, paid the conductor and rode home!  A fun and appropriate way to end a trip to the London Transport Museum.

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