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David Rooney

David Rooney was Keeper of Technology and Engineering at the Science Museum and curator of Mathematics: The Winton Gallery.

As I’ve mentioned before, back in the Victorian age, the ‘ordinary’ bicycle, or penny-farthing, was the state of the art in cycle technology – and the height of fashion for brave men and women: As with most fashions, this one seems to have come around again. Earlier this month, 400 cyclists dressed in Edwardian and Victorian garb converged on London to take part in the twelve-mile 2010 Tweed Run. I couldn’t make it myself, but judging by the many pictures […]

Well, it’s Wednesday morning and it looks like we might soon be able to stop sheltering from the sky. With air travel still a problem as airlines attempt to return to schedule, fresh attention has been turning to the sea. The Royal Navy brought home some travellers on a warship, and demand for ferries has been high. For passengers between the UK and France or Belgium, the Eurostar rail service has been a possibility (if you can get a ticket). Back in 1936, […]

What a spectacularly unexpected week it’s been for transport. I don’t suppose many of us imagined seeing this kind of warning notice on the Underground… As I write this at the weekend, the volcano is still erupting, and pretty much all UK flights have been grounded since Thursday afternoon. It’s dangerous to attempt to fly through the ash cloud, as news reports have explained. The ash contains glass which can melt and then harden inside jet engines, causing them to shut down. […]

If you’re stuck for something to do this weekend, don’t miss the rare chance to ride a steam train in Hyde Park. A fully-working reproduction of our 1829 Stephenson’s Rocket is steaming up and down a specially-laid track in Kensington Gardens, just by the Albert Memorial, offering passengers the chance to experience the earliest days of railways. The reproduction was built in 1979 and, like today, ran up and down a track in Kensington Gardens. Lots of people I’ve spoken to […]

I talked last time about my recent trip to Southampton. While in town, I popped into the wonderful Solent Sky aviation museum. Whilst much of our aircraft collection is on show in London, and our Wroughton site houses some of the bigger craft, we also have a number of aeroplanes (and other transport artefacts) on loan to other museums. Solent Sky is home to our Short flying boat. Built in 1943 as a military-specification ‘Sunderland’, it was later converted to the civilian ‘Sandringham’ […]

I was in Southampton last week to give a talk, and while I was there, I dropped by the Southampton Maritime Museum to find out all about the area’s history as a passenger port. Outside, I was faced with a view that brought Southampton’s maritime past right up to the present. A couple of hours earlier, P&O’s latest cruise ship, Azura, had docked nearby, ready for its inaugural cruise. P&O was founded in 1840 as the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, operating freight and […]

I recently mentioned our Stephenson’s Rocket reproduction steam train rides in Hyde Park this Easter. Have you had a go yet, if you’re close by? I can tell you first-hand that it’s great fun! Once you’ve experienced the live reproduction, you’ll naturally want to see the real thing in our Making the Modern World gallery. We’ve had Stephenson’s Rocket on show here in the Science Museum non-stop since 1862, apart from a couple of excursions to York and Japan. It’s […]

Some of us might have consumed rather too much chocolate this weekend. A walk is a good idea, but if even the gentlest of exercise makes you shudder, why not let beasts of burden take the strain?  This child had the right idea: get a lift from a pair of prize-winning horses… They had taken part in the 1933 Easter Monday Van Horse Parade through London’s Regent’s Park. This parade, which at its height attracted over 1,200 animals, was founded in 1904 and […]

Many of you will doubtless have plans to get away this Easter (weather permitting). If you’re off, I hope you have a great break. Back in the 1920s, more and more people were getting paid time off, and leisure recreation was booming. Railway companies offered special cheap tickets for the Easter getaway. This 1928 poster, from Manchester’s Victoria Station, advertised excursions to destinations across the country. Sightseers could visit a wide range of resorts, from the rural idyll of Lake Windermere… to […]

No sooner do I write a blog about the symbolism of Waterloo’s station clock than it gets taken out of service for a refurbishment! The concourse underneath the Waterloo clock has become an iconic meeting-place, a focal point amidst the hurry of the station, as shown in Terence Cuneo’s dramatic painting: Now, for a few weeks, time stands still for the station’s passengers. Railways run on time. In the early days, time was a life-saver – literally – as trains […]

An article in the Guardian last week reported that the tens of thousands of autorickshaws on the streets of India’s capital city, New Delhi, might be phased out, replaced (perhaps) by electric vehicles. I mentioned autorickshaws a while ago. We have a very nice example, by major Indian maker Bajaj, in our store at Wroughton:  These vehicles have a long history, being based on motor scooters introduced by makers such as Piaggio in the 1940s and 50s. This scene on our Making […]

Exciting news for transport enthusiasts. As part of its Easter events programme, the Science Museum will be offering rides on a full-size working reproduction of its world-famous steam locomotive, Stephenson’s Rocket, on a specially-laid track in Kensington Gardens, near the museum. The original Rocket, built by Robert Stephenson in 1829, is on permanent display in the museum’s Making the Modern World gallery. It marked a turning point in locomotive design: Modifications over its working life dramatically changed Rocket‘s appearance. Nearby […]