The Science and Industry Museum, formerly known as the Museum of Science & Industry (MSI) has exhibits on transport, heavy machinery and technology with an emphasis on the Industrial Revolution and the technological achievements that made it possible.
The museum is housed inside the former Liverpool Road railway station and the museum’s highlights include the world’s largest collection of working steam mill engines and the world’s first computer, developed in Manchester in 1948.
What to see at Science and Industry Museum
The museum site is split across several buildings, including Power Hall, Great Western Warehouse and the 1830 Station and Warehouse.
Power Hall is located in a former railway shed and has displays of railway locomotives and a large collection of working steam engines.
Exhibits at Power Hall include the 1907 McNaught Engine, a 30-tonne hydraulic accumulator, a replica of the Novelty steam locomotive that ran in the 1829 Rainhill Trials and the Beyer-Garratt articulated steam locomotive, which was made in Gorton (in Manchester’s eastern suburbs) and used in South Africa until 1972.
Great Western Warehouse
The Great Western Warehouse has exhibition spaces that include Experiment, Revolution Manchester, the Textile Gallery and the Hidden Treasures Gallery in the museum’s Collections Centre.
The Experiment gallery has interactive hands-on science exhibits geared mainly towards children.
The Revolution Manchester gallery showcases the technological advances that took place in Manchester that laid the foundations for the modern world. Exhibits include displays about the Industrial Revolution including Manchester’s cotton industry, a replica AVRO F aeroplane and a replica of the Manchester Baby (or Small-Scale Experimental Machine computer), the world’s first stored-program computer which was the basis for the Ferranti Mark 1, the world’s first commercially available computer (another Manchester innovation). Demonstrations of the Baby computer often take place between 10am and 3pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
The Textiles Gallery showcases Manchester’s role as the hub of the world’s cotton and textile industries and features working textile machinery, Richard Arkwright’s water frame and a model of Watt’s Warehouse.
The Hidden Treasures Gallery in the museum’s Collections Centre on the lower ground floor has interesting exhibits that focus on specific parts of Manchester’s industrial history including displays about coal mining plus microscopes produced by John Benjamin Dancer and equipment used by James Joule in his discovery of the first law of thermodynamics.
1830 Station and Warehouse
The Station Building is comprised of the former Liverpool Road railway station, which closed in 1975 and was the world’s first railway station and the terminus of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the world’s first intercity railway line.
Exhibits in this part of the museum highlight the impact of this historic railway line and show the importance of the railway during the Victorian era and the railways’ role in the Industrial Revolution and the growth of industrial cities in England’s north.
In addition to the above permanent exhibitions, the museum also has a programme of temporary exhibitions. These exhibitions are housed in the dedicated Special Exhibitions Building.
Current and planned temporary exhibitions include:
Based on the CBBC children’s television programme of the same name, the Operation Ouch! exhibition (until May 2024) focuses on the digestive system and lets you ‘travel like a poo’ to discover where your food goes after you eat it. £10.
Visiting the Science and Industry Museum
The museum is located at the southwestern edge of Manchester city centre. It is only a five-minute walk to Spinningfields and a 10– 15-minute walk to the Central Retail District. The closest railway station is Deansgate, which is a seven-minute walk.
Admission to the museum is free, although there is a charge for flight simulator rides and some temporary exhibitions.
The Warehouse Cafe in the Great Western Warehouse near the museum entrance on Lower Byrom Street serves coffee and light snacks such as sandwiches, cakes and pastries. There is also a Bistro up on the first floor of the same building that has more substantial meals.
If you have brought your own food, you can enjoy it in the picnic area in the Air and Space Hall.
It is a large museum and many visitors easily spend longer than three hours exploring the exhibition spaces.