Five Museums on the Move: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

As I was putting together my last blog for History Indoors, ‘5 Museums Not To Miss This Summer!, I made a mental list of lots of my favourite museums across the country and quickly realised that one list was not enough!

Today’s blog introduces 5 more museums that are well worth a visit as the country starts re-opening. This week I’ve given it a theme as well, so please read on to hear about 5 fantastic museums that look at all things Planes, Trains and Automobiles! England has a whole host of transport museums for all interests and ages, from swashbuckling adventurers, to budding pilots, to deep sea divers, to train drivers, there’s something for everyone!

Here I’ve selected my favourites, but there’s loads more to explore including The Tank Museum, The London Transport Museum, and The National Motor Museum!   

The National Railway Museum York

Why not head to York for a long weekend! With its beautiful minster, winding streets, beautiful bookshops and numerous museums, York is the perfect place for a break this summer. Whilst you’re there, why not head over to the National Railway Museum, the world’s largest railway collection! The Great Hall, which was once Engine Shed 4, contains a Japanese Bullet Train (one of the few outside Japan), a working Replica of Stevenson’s Rocket, and numerous other historic trains. Stevenson’s original rocket is also on display and the museum is home to the Flying Scotsman – when it’s not on the tracks – as well as hundreds of smaller objects, including paintings and medals and a miniature railway! 

To get up close and personal with these ginormous locomotives head over to the museums website and book your ticket today!

IWM Duxford

If planes are more your thing, why not head over to the Imperial War Museum Duxford in Cambridgeshire! Duxford explores conflict and aviation history from the First World War to the present, and with live flying displays, a huge collection of planes, and spaces exploring the personal stories of those who flew them, Duxford is a unique day out. Planes and other military vehicles on display include Spitfires, battle tanks, and a variety of de Havilland planes (built nearby in Hatfield) including a Tiger Moth, as well as DH 106 Comet 4, the world’s first commercial jet airliner.

To take in all that Duxford has to offer, turn up early and make a day of it! There’s so much to see and do and with its outside areas and spacious display hangers it’s the perfect place if you’re easing yourself back into the outside world after an isolated lockdown. Click here to explore the museum’s virtual collections and to find out how to prepare for your next visit!

The Mary Rose Museum

Are you one of the 60 million people who watched the news with bated breath as the Mary Rose was raised to the surface in 1982? The culmination of a decade of work and an impressive feat of archaeology and engineering, this event now allows us to see one of Henry VIII’s flagships without getting wet!

The Mary Rose Museum, which was recently renovated, contains not only this magnificent ship but also thousands of objects that were recovered from the wreckage and gives us an unparalleled view into life onboard a Tudor warship. The collection includes tankards, shaving mirrors, bellows, weapons including knives and arrows, and even the remains of a fiddle.

The museum also tells the story of the conservation project itself – one of the largest conservation projects ever undertaken, which led the way and established new techniques. A fascinating place to visit, the Mary Rose Museum is also surrounded by Portsmouth Historic Dockyards, the Spinnaker Tower, and numerous shops and restaurants for the perfect weekend away. Click here to book your trip aboard The Mary Rose!

The Tramway Museum

Next up is one of my favourites, a place that sparks memories of childhood family holidays which were enjoyed even in the English summer weather of torrential rain! The Tramway Museum in Derbyshire transports you back in time: take a ride on one of its many trams up its historic high street and explore the Great Exhibition Hall, which takes you on a hundred year journey through the history of trams. Buy some Army and Navy, Sherbet Lemons, Liquorice Torpedoes or Pear Drops from their historic sweet shop and take a wander along the stunning sculpture trail. Click here to book your tramway ticket today!

Chatham Historic Dockyard

And last but not least we have Chatham Historic Dockyard! Affectionately shortened to the Dockyards when I lived in Chatham, the museum holds an amazing variety of vehicles and displays stretching from the Tudors though to the present day. The Dockyard is fun for all ages and your ticket is valid for a whole year, so there’s plenty of time to explore all that it has on offer!

The site includes three historic warships the HMS Gannet (1878), the HMS Cavalier (1944) and the HMS Ocelot (1962), a lifeboat collection, and a railway! It also houses the original Victorian Ropery, the only one of the original four Royal Navy Ropeyards to remain in operation.

Like Duxford, Chatham’s 80 acres of inside and outside spaces are perfect if you are re-adjusting after lockdown or if you want somewhere to picnic in the shade on a hopefully sunny day. Used as a filming location for productions including Call the Midwife, Bridgerton, Detective Pikachu, Les Mis, and The World is Not Enough, you may also recognise some of its buildings and hidden corners from the big screen!

The area around the Dockyard has also benefitted from recent regeneration, meaning there’s plenty of restaurants and a TraveLodge nearby. If you’re staying overnight, why not also check out Upnor Castle which is a stone’s throw away across the river Medway. Click here to book your next adventure on the high seas!

Thanks for joining us for the second whistle-stop tour of five amazing sites that we hope you’ll visit and enjoy. The heritage industry needs our support more than ever, and by visiting one of these wonderful sites you’re helping preserve their history for the future. Stay safe and enjoy your visits!

By Amy Saunders

Amy did her Undergraduate history degree at the University of Winchester, and after a few years out to complete an MA in London and work in the heritage sector, came back for a PhD in Stuart history, gender, sexuality and heritage. Aside from early modern gender, sexuality and queenship, Amy is also interested in the classical world, and has taught practical mummification (with carrots not bodies!) and directed ancient Greek plays (in translation. They weren’t THAT fancy!). Amy is a distance student living in Yorkshire so hopes to introduce you all to the wonderful heritage sites of the North through history indoors. Interests: Queenship, Sexuality, Heritage, Representation.