The Transport Museum Society of Ireland began with an abortive 1949 effort to preserve three Dublin trams. Totally voluntary, the Society became a limited company in 1971 and is now a registered charity, operating to international museum standards.
This is Ireland's only comprehensive assembly of public service and commercial road transport. Even the humblest vehicles are noteworthy; many are the sole extant examples of once familiar types; several others are very rare and some are unique.
Portraying the Golden Age of commercials, the collection includes some 30 marques, more than half of them now demised. All four Irish commercial vehicle builders are represented.
In 1973, when we had 25 vehicles, a survey of the principal vehicle types then working in Ireland led to the compilation of a Forward Preservation List setting out well in advance what should be preserved. Regularly updated, the list has served all interests well ever since. Vehicles come by donation, loan or purchase, are held so as to preclude sale or export and are listed in a register of artefacts.
On 1st September 2001, the collection, increasing at an annual average rate of five, totalled 170 (average age 46 years). Sixty out of the 100 vehicles currently in Howth are on display, and others can be inspected by prior arrangement. The oldest items date from 1883, the newest 1984, the more modem vehicles occupying a twilight zone between obsolescence and future antique status.
Serious space limitations and the need to house every vehicle result in having to display the exhibits more closely than is desirable. The collection is divided into five main standalone categories. These are Passenger, Commercial, Fire & Emergency, Military and Utility.