MOSI – museum magic in Manchester

A youngster lifts a real Mini CLOUDS of steam, the deafening clatter of huge, working machines and the smell of hot oil … just the recipe for an eight-year-old grandson on a day out in a 21st century city. And that's just inside!

Pop outside the Power Hall at MOSI, the Museum of Science and Industry in the heart of Manchester, and you can ride behind a gleaming, fully-operational replica of Robert Stevenson's 1830 Planet steam locomotive – and even book lessons on how to drive it.

The railway link is very relevant, for much-loved MOSI is housed in the buildings of the former Liverpool Road station, the world’s oldest passenger railway station and part of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, which opened in 1830.

Steam power in general was vital to the city's industrial development and the Power Hall, a former railway transit shed and one of  five huge buildings in the museum complex, houses the largest collection of working steam mill engines in the world.

Inside the power hall It also includes gas, oil, hot-air and diesel engines built by famous local companies and a towering 30-tonne hydraulic accumulator, as well as railway items including a replica of Novelty, which ran in the famous 1829 Rainhill Trials, and a massive Beyer-Garrett articulated steam loco, made in nearby Gorton in 1930 – almost 90ft long and weighing in at more than 150 tons – which ran on the South African railways into the 1970s.

MOSI, which has just won a welcome £800,000 investment for expansion, is now one of the most visited museums outside London, telling the story of how the modern world began. Its 15 galleries feature working replicas of iconic world firsts such as Arkwright’s water frame – the first machine for mass production of cotton – and the world’s first computer, built in 1948.

You can even experience underground Manchester and explore a walk-through  Victorian sewer, but the real magic for grandson and granddad was well above ground in the stunning Air & Space Gallery, packed with full-sized aircraft including rarities like a Japanese piloted suicide bomb and a supersonic English Electric Lightning jet fighter.

A taste of the huge Air & Space Gallery Pride of place goes to aircraft made by A V Roe and Co – Avro – founded in Manchester by poetically-named Alliott Verdon Roe in 1910, who made the first flight in a British aircraft with a British engine in his Triplane I. A replica of this tiny, spindly flying contraption of linen, wood and wires contrasts with a looming, four-engined Avro Shackleton, built in 1954 at nearby Woodford and designed to locate and attack Cold War submarines.

Great fun, too, to have a space-age ravine race in a Morphis motion simulator, mercifully undertaken before an excellent snack lunch in the Great Western Warehouse coffee shop, chosen as a quicker option to the sit-down dining of the Warehouse Canteen.

The replica Planet After lunch, it was through the nostalgic Textiles gallery and time for some hands-on activities in the Experiment gallery – with grandson Nathan lifting a real Mini with the power of gears and having a bash at all sorts of wonders.

We headed homewards via an old-style helter-skelter and fairground rides on the cobbles outside, before it slowly dawned that although we had enjoyed an action-packed few hours, we had still only scratched the surface of what MOSI has to offer.

We hadn't even made it into two of the five onsite buildings … so when we got home, it was time to go online, checks the 'what's on' and 'what to do' sections of the  website and rough out an outline itinerary for the next visit, which is already very much on the cards, and well worth the £3 requested donation.

Forget Harvey Nicks and the other posh shops in the city centre – just head along Deansgate and make for MOSI.

112 people found this helpful

Share Article:

David Graham

Professional journalist

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Ambassador offers unique ways to focus on health and wellness while enjoying the beauty of the sea….
Who can resist an invitation to a birthday party in Paris? Gillian Thornton celebrates 40 years of Riviera Travel, the…

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.