The Museum tells the story of public road transport in Greater Manchester from its very beginnings in 1824 to the present day. The collection spans over 100 years, from an 1890s horse bus to a full size prototype Metrolink tram.

Opened in 1979, the Museum is a partnership between Transport for Greater Manchester and Greater Manchester Transport Society and is an early example of successful partnership working between a local authority and a voluntary body.

Motor bus services in Greater Manchester were originally operated by local authorities, with additional services provided by private companies. In 1968 the Government reorganised bus services in the metropolitan counties such as Greater Manchester and Passenger Transport Executives were created to provide local bus services instead. Known as SELNEC (South East Lancashire and North East Cheshire), the PTE was renamed Greater Manchester Transport in 1974 when Wigan was included.

Fourteen former bus operators were merged into Greater Manchester Transport and all are represented in the Museum: the transport departments of the corporations of Ashton-under-Lyne, Bolton, Bury, Leigh, Manchester, Oldham, Ramsbottom, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport and Wigan, as well as Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley and Dukinfield Transport Board, the once independent Lancashire United Transport and most of the former National Bus Company subsidiary North Western Road Car Company.

Greater Manchester Transport designated important buses to join the collection once their service lives were over. These included the first ‘Mancunian’, the first ‘National’ and the first ‘standard’, with the aim that future generations would be able to enjoy the county’s transport heritage; and would be encouraged to support public transport.

Greater Manchester Transport is now Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) after its bus operations were transferred to GM Buses when local bus services were deregulated in 1986. TfGM is now responsible for local transport policy, bus stations and stops, subsidy for certain bus services, passenger information, concessionary fares and the development of Metrolink. GM Buses was split and privatised in 1993 and eventually became First Manchester and Stagecoach Manchester.