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I stumbled across these beautiful flying machines in an unexpected place

The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, England, has great exhibits including massive aircraft, trains and steam-driven factory machines.

Inside an incredible 134-year-old building in Manchester, England, I found something I didn't expect: an Avro Shackleton patrol aircraft. And a massive tandem-rotor Bristol Belvedere helicopter. It's the Air and Space hall of the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI).

The rest of the museum is across the street, and in addition to science exhibits for kids (and adults) there's a collection of machines and locomotives from Britain's steam-laden past.

Though small, it packs in a lot of cool stuff.

Here's how it looks.

134 years (and older)

Manchester might not be the first name you think of when it comes to cars or aircraft, but being one of Britain's industrial engines, it had more than its fair share of transport history. The first train station in the world was here, one of the terminals of the world's first steam-powered intercity railway. The famous British airplane manufacturer Avro was founded here. So was Rolls Royce. Ford's first British factory was here too.

The Museum of Science and Industry is part science museum (hence the name), part air museum and part rail museum, with a bunch of steam, air and gas engines thrown in for good measure.

For this tour I concentrated on the Air and Space hall. Built in 1882, it's roughly the same size as the Soylent Sky museum I visited last year, at the other end of the country in Southampton. There's a great mix of aircraft here, along with some automobiles and a satellite (though that's about as far as the "space" part of the name gets).

The center of the building -- dominating it, really -- is an Avro Shackleton. This huge plane was designed in the 1940s as a maritime patrol aircraft, though it had some torpedoes or depth charges. Its twin tail is very reminiscent of the Avro Lancaster to which it was related. More interesting, perhaps, are the fairly rare contrarotating props.

manchester-air-museum-mid-1a.jpg
Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The other big draw is the Bristol Belvedere, a long tandem-rotor helicopter that briefly saw service as a cargo helicopter and troop transport. It's longer even than the (arguably) most famous tandem-rotor helicopter, the CH-47 Chinook.

The science museum has multiple interactive displays and, when I was there, lots of friendly staff to answer the questions (even from this old kid).

Then there's the Power hall, a steampunk dream of elaborate copper, iron and steel engines and machines dating back to a far earlier age.

manchester-air-museum-mid-2.jpg
Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The buildings themselves are also interesting. The 1830 Warehouse dates from said year and the equally old Station building is the oldest railway station building in the world. There are multiple grade I and II listed buildings.

While there are bigger museums closer to London for those into planes, trains and cars, if you're near Manchester it's a few hours well spent, especially if you have kids. Plus it's free.

If Manchester isn't on your travel agenda, check out the photos above of the Air and Space hall, and a hint at the rest of the museum.


In his alternate life as a travel writer, Geoff does tours of cool museums and locations around the world including nuclear submarines, medieval castles, iconic music studios and more. You can follow his exploits on Twitter and Instagram, and on his travel blog BaldNomad. He also wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel. Got a tour-worthy spot you think he should check out? Let him know!