Britain’s road, railway and canal transport companies were brought under national ownership in 1948. The new body, the British Transport Commission, inherited a large amount of historic equipment and extensive archives. The B
Full-size railway locomotives in the Museum of British Transport, Clapham, in 1966 Credit: Science & Society Picture library
TC took its responsibilities seriously and preserved much that would otherwise have been disposed of during modernisation programmes. In 1961 it opened a transport museum in Clapham, south London. Though it was popular, the BTC could not afford to run it and the museum closed in 1973. By then the large railway collection had become the responsibility of the Science Museum. What could have been a problem was seized on as an opportunity. British Railways, working in conjunction with the Science Museum, found a site for a new museum in York. The National Railway Museum opened in 1975 and was immediately successful. Since then the display area has been more than doubled and the NRM has absorbed the railway collections built up by the Science Museum since 1857. Originally controversial, the decision to open the NRM away from London is now regarded as thoroughly vindicated.