Could the Transit Museum in New York live up to this?
It was a great idea to use a real subway station as the basis of the Museum as it meant that display of subways at at the lower level gave you a real feel of what the old carriages looked like. So rather then the walking back through time or taking an lift back in time at London's you get to walk through carriages and you can clearly see the change from the padded seats and warm feeling, to the much more cleaner, brighter yet uncomfortable feel of the modern carriages.
So there's certainly lots of rolling stock for transport enthusiasts to pore over, however, I prefer the more human side of underground systems, and had a field day looking at the rules and regulations and the old ads in all of the carriages.
Spitting on the subway appeared to be a major problem, as did meddling:
There were also some escalator rules about the use of canes and umbrellas
The Subway Sun (not like our super soaraway Sun newspaper) had a load of rules or helpful advice on how to behave well on the subway. Ranging from keeping kids on your laps to staying away from kids if you had a cold.
In the 1950's there were a series of Subway contests to find Miss Subway. It might seem a little weird but I've got some old London Underground in house magazines from the 50's and 60's which also ran beauty contests for London Transport staff
However, these Miss Subway contenders appeared to be commuters rather than staff and the contest to find the "loveliest subway riders" was also televised - blimey.
Some of the in car adverts were really typical of their time but also showed some cultural differences between the UK & the US - low alcohol content in beer and high salt usage - maybe it's just me, but I've noticed a lot of people in the US automatically putting salt on food without tasting it first.
The Recording Room carried a display of publicity shots and film posters where the New York subway had appeared in US movies. These went back to silent picture days, some 1950's gang / crime style films, Disney's Fantasia - right up to the Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Saturday Night Fever (with John Travolta in a graffiti'ed carriage) to Subway Stories
However, one of the guys who works at the Museum said that they filmed the Saturday Night Fever shots at the museum itself. When I chatted with him and another museum towards the end of my afternoon there, they said that the authorities in New York have spent so much time cracking down on graffiti that they didn't even want to put a graffiti'ed carriage in as a historical piece.
There is a poster showing how the subway went through a decline in the 1970's and cites the zero tolerance and crackdown on graffiti by 1989 as a "visible symbol" of the subway's renewal.
To close I wanted to show some of New York's posters promoting journeys you can make on the subway and areas that are easily reached by it. It's New York's equivalent of some of our Art on the Underground posters
The two above were my favourites as they seem to borrow from Impressionism (the 2nd one is very Van Gogh) and that Russian Industrial look (don't know the name of it).
So how did it measure up to London's Transport Museum. Yet again with New York & London, similar yet really different. London's really beats this hands down, but then New York's hasn't had £22 million refit. London's is about four times the size of New York's and has a lot more interactivity with the exhibits.
New York's was very cheap though - only $5 entry and yet it was really, really quiet for a Saturday afternoon. It costs £10 to get into the London Transport Museum and it's always been teeming with people when I've been there. The shop in New York was also much smaller, but had lots of well priced gifts. My stash is below:
I had a great afternoon there though and took a shed load of photos, you can see the full set here. There's not a lot of the trains themselves and none of the buses and trams that were also on display, but I hope it'll give you a good feel of the museum, which was certainly very good value for the five bucks entry fee!