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Walking to the museum entrance with the low sun shining right along the street towards us and the entrance shrouded in steam and smoke. A sight that would have been much more common when it was a working part of the railway.
- A Researcher's description
The Museum of Science & Industry consists of five listed buildings:
- Station Building - Grade I Listed
- 1830 Warehouse - Grade I Listed
- Power Hall - Grade II Listed
- Great Western Warehouse - Grade II Listed
- Air and Space Hall - Grade II Listed
Most of the buildings are made from bricks, with the exception of the Air and Space Hall, which is of cast iron, wood, glass and slate. The large size of the Museum of Science & Industry makes it ideal for visits by large groups.1
The station buildings and sidings containing the museum form the world's oldest surviving rail terminus. Manchester Liverpool Road station opened in September 1830 as one end of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, itself the world's first inter-city railway. It ran a passenger service until 1844, when the line from Liverpool was extended to reach Manchester Victoria Station and thus the line from Leeds. British Rail finally closed Liverpool Road in 1975, and it was bought by the museum in 1978 for a nominal sum of one pound.
Great Western Warehouse
This former railway warehouse building is now used as the main entrance to the museum. On the ground floor next to the entrance is a café and little shop, as well as two exhibition galleries. The first is called Revolution Manchester and focuses on Manchester's revolutionary discoveries, innovations and inventions.
Near the main entrance to the museum is a working replica of the world's first electronic stored-program computer, the Manchester Small Scale Experimental Machine, also called 'Baby'. This was a computer built using valves and cathode ray tubes for data storage. The cameras people use to take photos of the computer display have more processing power in a much smaller size.
Also on the ground floor is the Textiles Gallery, which has working cotton looms and many interactive displays. This tells the fascinating history of textiles and the part they played in the industrial revolution and beyond. For instance, the punch cards used to form the pattern of cloth woven on a Jacquard loom are the precursors to the punch cards used in early computers.
Researchers who visited this section in 2012 described this part of the museum with the words:
We wandered round the textile bit for a good while, we found some of the more interactive exhibits, where I could touch and play with things which was good as otherwise I had no idea what was going on.
The [thistledown] coat was quite something - must have taken hours to put together!
The first floor has the Restaurant and Experiment! gallery, as well as Manchester Science. The Manchester Science section puts the 'science' in the Museum of Science & Industry. This includes a timeline showing Manchester's scientific advances from a barometer in 1790 to 2000 as well as the Manchester Scientists section, dedicated to four of the most influential scientists in Manchester. These were:
John Dalton (1766-1844)
A founder of modern chemistry, John Dalton founded atomic theory, pioneering the use of ball-and-stick models to illustrate atoms, and assigning atoms weight. He also was one of the first to study colour-blindness. Red-green colourblindness is also called Daltonism.
James Prescott Joule (1818-1889)
He discovered that heat is a form of energy and formulated Joule's Law that states that heat is produced in an electrical conductor. The Joule, the SI unit used to measure energy, is named after him.
Sir Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937)
Despite being from New Zealand, Ernest Rutherford was the Chair of Physics at Manchester University in 1907, studying the internal structure of atoms. He created the model of atoms as similar to miniature solar systems with a nuclear orbited by electrons and discovered atomic half-life. His work led to the development of nuclear power and weapons. The element rutherfordium is named after him and he won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1908.
Sir Bernard Lovell (1913)
A physics lecturer at the University of Manchester since the late 1930s, he worked on radar during the Second World War and used this experience to develop Jodrell Bank Observatory, the world's largest radio telescope. The Lovell Telescope there is the third largest steerable telescope in the world.
This building is the world's oldest surviving passenger railway station building in the world, constructed in 1830 by George Stephenson.
Basement - Underground Manchester and reconstructed Victorian sewer
A side door from the Gas exhibition on the first floor leads to Underground Manchester - a story of plumbing and waste. This covers how water was carried in aqueducts to town in Roman times, a bit about baths, Roman and later, but focusing more on where the used water went.
The display contains latrines and sewers throughout the ages, of many types and sorts, from hollowed logs for water pipes to various types of multiperson and single person latrines, dry and with running sewage. It showed that egg shaped sewers are most efficient for not blocking up in low flow, since the narrow part at the bottom will make the flow a little deeper and faster running than the same amount of water in a flatter pipe.
In particular there is a working model of the self flushing toilet - the water kept running into a big vat, which tipped over to empty, and thus flushed a stoneware toilet. When empty, the vat tipped back and got filled again.The end of the exhibit leads through a model sewer, with sound effects of trickling and flushing water, and the occasional rat.
One researcher was quite pleased with one of the displays, stating:
In the basement of the station building [I was] looking at a large map display taken from the late 1800s showing how the Victorians tamed the river Etherow in Longdendale to take fresh water from the hills to the city. In one small corner of the map the village I live in is shown.
- Liverpool and Manchester Railway exhibition
- First Class Booking Hall
- Gas gallery
- Making of Manchester
- Trouble with rubbish
An exhibit also informs visitors about coal and gas. One researcher notes:
I went through the entrance and learned about how coal is heated to produce gas, and that the leftovers can be turned into paint and medicines. Additionally, there was a model of a gas storage ...um... thing. Big stonking thing, which inflates as you pump gas into it2. I pressed button and inflated the Perspex model with air.
This section of the museum has a rather worrying odour, as another researcher discovered:
Outside the ground floor entry of the Station house, I found a Gas Light gallery, with six or eight different types of gas streetlights, shining brightly. Except one. There was also a funny smell, so I told myself not to be silly, it's probably all nicely shut off, and that is just the way gas lights smell.
- Electricity Gallery – Recreated rooms of 1930s and 1950s
- Computing in Manchester
- Warehouse for the World
- Connecting Manchester
- 4D Theatre – A cinema where the audience not only wears 3D glasses but experiences moving seats, water spray and air blasts.
One of the world's largest collections of working mill engines and some steam locomotives. Most had to do with hydraulics, steam, water, and all had been in use at some point. The most recently used machine worked until 1972 and powered parts of Manchester.
The largest steam engine in the Museum is actually a narrow-gauge locomotive. The 210 ton Garrett style locomotive was built for the 3ft 6in South-African gauge. It was built at the Beyer-Peacock works in Gorton, east Manchester. This was at a time when the factories of Manchester exported locomotives and other heavy machinery around the world.
Another engine on display is a replica of the Novelty, an engine designed and constructed by John Braithwaite and John Ericsson in 1829 to compete in the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company's locomotive trials at Rainhill, although during the trials the engine proved unreliable. This replica contains the original wheels and a surviving cylinder.
One researcher who visited noted:
I loved those exhibits where the machines were put in context - there was one showing all the machines which were powered by the pump.
This is the warmest part of the Museum of Science & Industry, a fact noticed by two Researchers:
Part of the time spent at the museum, I wandered around trying to hunt down the origin of warm air and metallic pounding.
I wandered round the steam engines bit, not sure what any of the stuff in there was, but it was nice and warm. There were various large pieces of machinery.
The working reliability and longevity of the machines on display was also commented on:
I don't know if anyone took photos of the miniature display in the Power Hall, we didn't have a camera with us. Hubby was telling [us] that the firm he used to work for (Furness) used a few of them when he was working there. His brother (who still does contract work for them) confirmed that they're still using the old band saw.
This Researcher also provides us with the unforgettable last words on the atmospheric Power Hall:
We had just been in the Power Hall and hubby had been telling my son about the miniature machines, he used to use and repair them many years ago. As we were walking out he added, 'and that smell of the steam is not entirely dissimilar to a burning body'. He used to work building and repairing cremators, so he ought to know.
Air and Space Hall
A former Victorian market hall built in 1879, this building was used as Manchester's City Exhibition Hall from 1900. It used to be the Lower Campfield Market Hall, the similar one up the road was the Upper Campfield Market Hall. A researcher who visited it recalls:
The building with the aircraft was a steel or iron construction, kind of cross-shaped as far as I remember, with big windows on all ends and part of the roof was (rather dirty) glass. The iron/steel pillars had the shapes of classical columns, and the ornaments were painted in different colours.
In May 1983 it opened as the Air and Space Museum, becoming part of the larger Museum of Science and Industry in December 1985. Lower Byrom Street separates the Air and Space Hall from the rest of the museum; a zebra crossing allows easy pedestrian access. Its air and road transport collection, focusing on the Manchester area, includes:
- English Electric P1A.
This was the second supersonic prototype for the aircraft built in 1954 that evolved into the Lightning, an aircraft that saw service with the RAF from 1959-1988.
- Rocket powered Japanese suicide aeroplane
A manned flying bomb that the kamikaze pilot would fly at the ship or other target he intended to destroy (unused).
- De Havilland DH 89a Rapide
The Rapide was the first commercial aeroplane to land at the new Manchester Airport in 1938, capable of carrying eight passengers up to 520 miles.
- Hawker Siddeley Trident
The Trident was a three-engined British airliner capable of carrying 180 passengers, built in the 1960s and 70s, flying with British Airways until 1986. Only the flight deck and a small section of the passenger cabin from a Trident built in 1971 is on display rather than a whole aircraft. This is accessed from the balcony.
- Mark XIV Spitfire
An armed reconnaissance aeroplane, this Spitfire was used 1946-1948 by 613 (City of Manchester) Squadron at Manchester Airport.
Researchers who visited the Air and Space Hall have been largely impressed in this section of the museum. One was a little worried when:
Sitting in the vehicle room and seeing all the aeroplanes, then noticing a radiation warning notice next to the Spitfire...
Someone else was disappointed by the lack of interactive exhibits in this section:
We went to look at the aeroplanes which was fun, although again these were all behind barriers, with no interactive exhibits. We were turfed out before we went the whole way round the aeroplanes bit, so stood in the cold and waited for everyone to appear from the main museum.
Another researcher has reported having had a moving experience:
In the Air and Space Hall I perambulated half way round the hall at ground level, then ascended to the balcony and continued. From this vantage point I was brought up short by the tiny horror of the kamikaze rocket plane below me. The brutal honesty of the thing was ghastly: it looked so clearly like what it was: a missile with space for a living guidance system in the shape of one cramped and presumably terrified pilot. Douglas Adams' words came to me as so often before, 'For goodness' sake mankind!' And yet it's a brilliant solution. Chilling, revolting and brilliant.
The kamikaze rocket plane was dwarfed by one of the tail fins of a vast British plane [the Avro Shackleton] from the cold war which could stay airborne for 24 hours and contained bunk beds for its crew. This vertiginous juxtaposition was a masterstroke of arrangement on the part of the museum and, dizzied with scale and repulsion, I tottered past some jolly old push-bikes and off to the pub.
The Air and Space Hall is dominated by the aircraft of Sir Alliot Verdon Roe and his aircraft company Avro. Sir Alliot Verdon Roe was the first Englishman to fly a British aircraft and a replica of the Roe Triplane 1, the first all-British aircraft that he flew in 19093, is on display. The replica was built in 1952. In 1910 he founded A V Roe & Co Ltd, soon renamed Avro, on Great Ancoats Street in Manchester, the world's first company dedicated solely to the manufacture of aircraft4.
Many of the aircraft this Manchester company designed are on display in the museum. This includes an Avro 504K from 1930, an aircraft first designed in 1913. Over 8,300 were built between 1913 and 1932, and they were used throughout the Great War in a wide variety of roles. It was a popular post-war aircraft, used in Britain's first scheduled airline service in May 1919, flying from Manchester to Blackpool and Southport. There is also an Avro Avian from 1928, the same type of aircraft that Avro test-pilot Bert Hinkler5 historically flew to Australia, becoming the first person to fly solo from England to Australia, in under 16 days. On display from the jet age is an Avro 707A, a delta wing aircraft built in 1949 to aid the development of the Avro 698 Vulcan jet bomber. It is exactly a third the size of a Vulcan.
Dominating the Air and Space Hall is an Avro Shackleton6, based on the design of the Lancaster heavy bomber used during the Second World War and popularised in the film The Dam Busters. Shackletons were initially designed as maritime reconnaissance bombers and submarine hunters, they were later used as an Airborne Early Warning aeroplane, locating attacking aircraft or missiles.
The museum also has many cars on display, many with Manchester connections. These include a 1909 Crossley Limousine made by the Crossley Brothers, who made cars in Manchester between 1904 and 1937, and bought the Avro company in 1920, selling it soon after in 1928. Royce first met Rolls at the Midland Hotel in Manchester during 1904 and set up Rolls Royce in Manchester in 1905. Although Rolls Royce moved to Derby in 1907, there is a 1905 Manchester-built Rolls Royce on display in the museum.
Other cars include a 1904 Imperial car, a company that manufactured cars in Manchester from 1900 to 1912. The bodywork was made by the Cockshoot coach-building company, a coach-building company that later constructed car bodies in Manchester 1844-1968, with examples of their work from 1895 and 1900 on display.
Also on display is a Sinclair C5.
In addition to the aircraft, the hall also contains the Morphis Simulator, which emulates the experience of flying in various types of aircraft, for an additional charge. Another attraction is the Planetarium.
On the pavement outside the Air and Space Hall is an additional exhibit of a pale blue post box. It has a plaque explaining that special post boxes for airmail letters used to be painted this colour to distinguish them from the standard bright red ones for ordinary mail. This separate mail system continued until the start of the Second World War in 1939 after which air mail letters could be posted in any box.
The blue post box outside the museum is still an official Royal Mail post box today so any postcards from your visit can be posted in a little piece of history.
As the world's oldest surviving passenger railway station, the museum offers steam train rides around the site at weekends and during school holidays, for an additional charge. It currently has two working locomotives that take turns in hauling the coaches. One is a replica of the locomotive Planet. The original was a pioneering design built by Robert Stephenson7 in 1830, and hauled passenger trains from the old Station on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. It was a precursor to most modern express locomotives. The other loco is Agecroft I, an industrial tank engine built in 1948, also by the Robert Stephenson Company8. It shunted coal wagons at the Agecroft power station and colliery in Salford until the 1980s. Other recent steam locomotives to work at the museum include Thomas the Tank Engine9 and Tornado10.
The Agecroft steam train is semi-permanent. It is based there, as is the Planet replica, but both engines sometimes get hired out for events. Although it is connected to the mainline, a lorry tends to be used to move the engines. None of the other steam locos can be used on the line: The South African one is narrow gauge, the engine from Pakistan is broad gauge, the demo one is chopped in half and the Novelty replica keeps falling over. There are also two diesel shunters that arrived on loan in late 2011. The black one (class 02) was in Barrow Hill Roundhouse Railway Centre, Chesterfield until 2011. There is also a blue class 06 diesel.
If you book in advance it is also possible to learn how to drive a steam locomotive at the museum, although this is expensive.
Visitors who had a ride on the train have described their experiences with the words:
The train actually went choo-choo.
Oh, and after the train ride, I had to brush off soot flakes from my hair.
Cost and Facilities
How much does it cost you the visitor? Entrance to the museum itself is free, although the museum requests a voluntary £3 donation. There are plenty of things to see for free, but there are charges for some things. The steam train ride costs £2.0011. Additionally there are charges for the Planetarium, 4D Cinema and Morphis Simulator.
Refreshments are available in a cafe and a restaurant. A gift shop sells souvenirs of both of science and industry type things as well as the usual gift shop items. The year 2012 heralds the UK London Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, so they also had Olympic souvenirs and Union Jack printed items. Curiously, they did not sell a guide book.
The museum is also available to book for children's birthday parties. Since 2011 MOSI has also held a beer festival in March, run in conjunction with Trafford and Hulme branch of CAMRA13. Two have been held at time of writing, and were storming successes, so the museum plans to continue this.
Getting there: It is really very, very easy to find from the M6. You get off the motorway at junction 19, go down the A556, which turns into the A56, and MOSI's Liverpool Road is on the left soon after you see Deansgate rail station on your right. If you have gone as far as St Peter's Road, you have gone too far and will be sucked into Manchester's one way system.
Parking: lots of car parks around and about. Not free, but hey it is the centre of Manchester. Which brings us to...
Location: It really is practically in the centre. There should be no excuses for not going if you are ever visiting the city.
The Museum is a short walk from Deansgate-Castlefield tram stop and the adjoining Deansgate railway station. It is served by the 33 bus between Manchester and Wigan, and is also on the free Metroshuttle Number 2 bus route. A branch of National Cycle Route 55 runs past the museum and it is easily accessible from National Cycle Route 6. The museum is within easy walking distance of Manchester city centre.
A modern landmark is the Beetham tower (the tallest building in England outside London, 47 floors high), which is on the opposite side of Deansgate to the street you need for MOSI - Liverpool Road - so when you get to the Beetham tower it is time to turn off Deansgate into Liverpool Road.
A researcher's summed up the experience of walking to the museum by saying:
I walked to the museum from the main shopping district of Manchester, it was a flat walk easily accomplished. There were lots of maps along the way for tourist information and finger posts giving directions when we got a little closer to our destination.
Also on Liverpool Road, Castlefields, the museum is opposite the historic Roman remains of Mamucium Fort14. This Scheduled Ancient Monument was built in 79 AD on the main Chester to York Roman road and had a commander's house, granaries, stables and barracks for initially 480 men and later, in 250 AD, 1,000 soldiers. The fort fell into disrepair at the end of Roman rule in Britain in 410 AD, and only a few remains survive today.
History of the Museum
The Museum of Science and Industry was formed in 1963 when the University of Manchester, Manchester City Council and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) agreed to jointly establish a museum of science and industry in Manchester, using items from their collections. The Manchester Museum of Science and Technology opened in Oddfellows Hall on Grosvenor Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock in October, 1969. In 1972 the Museum was renamed the North Western Museum of Science and Industry, reflecting the regional focus of its collection.
In 1975 British Rail decided to close Liverpool Road Station. As this was a large location in the city centre, this historic site was large enough to contain the museum's expanding collection which had outgrown its original home. In 1978 British Rail sold the site to the museum for £1. Renamed the Greater Manchester Museum of Science of Industry, on 15 September 1983, the 153rd anniversary of the opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, the museum opened at its new site. In May 1983 Manchester City Council allowed the museum to acquire the neighbouring Air and Space Museum, becoming the museum's Air and Space Hall. In 2007 the Museum was renamed the Museum Of Science & Industry.
Many of the researchers who have visited the museum have summarised their experience there. Many have expressed their surprise at the sheer scale of the museum site, and how they did not have enough time to see everything:
I didn't realise the MOSI was so huge, I probably got round less than half of it and I don't linger too long.
I wandered off to the far end of the site to look at the Electrical, Gas and Sewer exhibits and never quite made back before being interrupted by the turnkeys locking up.
There was far too much to see in the short time we were there. It was... most impressive to realise how many significant discoveries and innovations, especially in chemistry and computers, came from Manchester. The lovingly restored engines in Power Hall were most impressive. The textile exhibit was quite thorough, from cotton ball to fabric printing. The Air and Space Hall exhibit was a bit daunting and sobering. I could have easily spent another day, day and a half there.
There was probably quite a lot of the museum that I didn't visit. And had we asked nicely, I'm sure someone could have shown us where the things that I could actually interact with were.
Some visitors had been to the Museum before for various reasons.
I'd visited previously with school age children. It was well worth taking them, as there was lots for them to look at and enjoy, and probably a lot for them to learn about as well.
Last time I was at MOSI was in 2007 for the Doctor Who Exhibition which is no longer there, it was just there for 2007, which included the Daleks.
The museum appealed to the young as well as adult researchers.
My 4 year old son 'liked the playing bits in the main building best. And the fabric bits. And the planes bit was quite good too.' Unfortunately [as] my son... was with his Dad and not me, I can't really elaborate on what he meant by the 'playing bits'. I did see him very happily playing with an air pump powered foam rocket purchased at the museum shop, so maybe that's what he meant!
The museum has also provided personal reactions,
The Ashcroft was not disability friendly, [and] I was looking forward to riding on it… The lockers are downstairs, so again not disability friendly. Cobbles, stairs and a walking stick do not happy bedfellows, make!
Definitely want to visit again, but preferably with a Segway15 or something equivalent.
Highlights for me were the sounds and smells while riding a steam train, trying out knitting on a giant scale, puzzling over the connection between bank notes and battered old shoes, finding out which fabrics are smoothest and admiring a thistledown coat.
This museum had steam trains and broken cotton mills and also a computer and telephone that I have used myself so I would not have expected to see in a museum just yet.
MOSI smells. It smells of hot coal, hot steam and hot iron. It's great.