Skip to content

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of Concorde’s first flight (as prototypes numbered 001 and 002), and the iconic aircraft served passengers from 1976 to 2003. A fatal Concorde crash in Paris in July 2000 temporarily grounded the fleet, and economically, it seems, the writing was then on the wall for Concorde’s supersonic service. Our collections are rich with Concorde stuff. Top of the list is our own aircraft, prototype 002, on display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton: In the Science […]

Yesterday, I visited the former Croydon Airport as part of my London Open House perambulations. Croydon was home to London’s first proper airport, with the purpose-designed terminal building opening in 1928. It’s now a visitor centre and business park. Increasing aircraft size, number of flights, and worries over proximity to a fast-growing London (sound familiar?) meant that Croydon’s days were numbered as an international airport after the Second World War, and the last flight left exactly fifty years ago, in September […]

The lovely Emily in our Science Night department has expressed her concern at my taking to powered transport at Wroughton last weekend. She saw me powering into the distance on my Brompton folding bicycle and naturally feared for my safety on anything with an engine! I’ve been thinking of buying a folding bike for ages, but wondered what they were really like to ride. Then I discovered that South West Trains are offering very good value Brompton hire as part […]

I spent last Saturday in the Roundhouse, London. In the 1840s and 1850s it was a locomotive storage shed for the London and Birmingham Railway, and it’s now an arts venue. I was there for the first live performance of Jem Finer’s ‘Longplayer‘, a piece of music designed to play without repeating for 1,000 years. It’s normally computer-generated, and has been playing since 31 December 1999, but Saturday saw 1,000 minutes (nearly 17 hours) of it played live. It was remarkable (not […]

I had a great day out on Sunday at our Wroughton Festival of Innovation. I had my first ever motorbike lesson! My instructor was the excellent (and patient) Neil, from Ace Motorcycle Training, who got me properly riding – changing gears and everything. OK, I didn’t get higher than second, and I had some difficulty turning corners, but I didn’t stall much and more importantly I really enjoyed it… Ace is taking part in the industry-led Get On campaign which is promoting life on […]

Let me introduce the PS Savannah (‘PS’ stands for paddle steamer). 190 years ago, Savannah was docked in Russia while the captain received a gold watch from the country’s Emperor. What was the occasion? A few months earlier, Savannah had become the world’s first steam-powered ship to cross an ocean, travelling from Savannah (on America’s south-east coast), to Liverpool (on England’s west coast) in 29 days. Actually, it was a hybrid sail and steam ship, and most of its journey was carried out under sail, not steam […]

The latest addition to the Science Museum’s road transport collection is the last ever coin-operated kerbside parking meter in Westminster. It arrived at our storage facility last week (let’s hope the delivery van didn’t get a parking ticket). Westminster Council was the first in Britain to install parking meters, back in 1958 (great Times article here), and the roadside sentries have been a feature of London’s West End (and elsewhere) ever since. This particular one was installed in Warwick Square […]

I live on the A2 trunk road as it goes through Greenwich. Well, not actually on it, that would hurt. But I live close enough to hear lots of traffic, and amongst the police sirens (this is south-east London, after all), the 2-stroke scooters and the bass-bins kicking out music I don’t like very much, some of the noisier vehicles are the lorries. But it could have been worse, if it wasn’t for the work of British transport scientists, which leads me […]

I woke yesterday to the news that the Mini is set to receive a boost, as two new models are to be built at BMW’s plant in Cowley, Oxford. Up to 1,000 jobs might be created. Our love affair with the Mini goes back to 1959. Versions of the original design, by Alec Issigonis, continued in production until 2000, and BMW launched the new Mini the following year. Our curator Andrew Nahum’s book on Issigonis tells the whole story. My parents had a Mini […]

The Royal Mail is planning to phase out postal deliveries by bike, according to the Telegraph. Even if new methods are slowly taking over it’s great to know that muscle-power is still used in the final stages of the supply chain, as it’s often the best technology for the job. Until the eighteenth century, mail delivery was largely a matter of messengers on horseback, or slow horse-drawn carts, and by all accounts it was a pretty inefficient system. Then 225 years […]

Earlier this week, a team of British engineers broke the world steam-car land speed record. The ‘Inspiration’ car used a turbine driven by steam from twelve boilers fitted inside the car – check out the video here. The previous record was set in 1906, by American racing car driver Fred Marriott. Marriott drove a Stanley steam car at Daytona Beach for his 1906 record-setting run, averaging an impressive 128mph. The record stood for more than a hundred years, until the Inspiration team drove their […]

Tuesday was the 90th anniversary of the first daily scheduled airline service. By today’s standards it was a pretty modest affair. The aircraft seated a grand total of two alongside packets of mail. But it was a start. The service ran between Hounslow Heath (near today’s London Heathrow Airport) and Le Bourget, just outside Paris. It was operated by the Aircraft Transport & Travel company run by George Holt-Thomas, and 25 August 1919 saw its inaugural flight. Those first services […]