Celebrating London’s tramways past and present

By Georgia Morley, Curator

We are starting the new year with a celebration of London’s tramways in our new Poster Parade on display at the Museum from 10 January to 26 March 2020.

Drawing of a fleet fo red trams running in the nightime

London’s Tramways, unknown, circa 1929 

The first horse trams in London were introduced in the 1860s, operated by private companies. Although banned from operating in the City and West End, which were still dominated by the omnibus, an extensive tram network developed across the rest of the city.

The arrival of the electric tram in the early 1900s brought cheap transport to the masses. Trams could carry twice as many people as motor buses, and in greater comfort. They were cheap to run, so fares were low, and they were quick and frequent. Despite competition from the first motor buses, the number of passengers using trams grew.

Drawing of a woman holding coloured balloons at a regatta along the river

By Tram from Hammersmith, Wimbledon or Shepherd’s Bush, by Fred Taylor, 1922

London United Tramways (LUT) began London’s first electric tram service in July 1901. They electrified lines between Shepherd’s Bush, Hammersmith, Acton and Kew Bridge. By 1906, ten municipal systems had been set up and by 1914 London operated the largest tram network in Europe. At their peak, over 3,000 trams carried a billion passengers a year over 366 miles of track.

After the First World War tramways began to decline as the motor bus competed for passengers. By the late 1920s, the new buses offered higher standards of comfort, while the pre-war trams were shabby and in need of modernisation.

When London Transport took over all bus, tram and Underground railway operation in the capital in 1933, a massive tram to trolleybus conversion programme began. The tram system was in poor condition with trams increasingly being seen as noisy, dangerous to road users and expensive.

Trolleybuses were cheaper to run and soon attracted more passengers than the trams. Within three years, over half of London’s tram routes had been converted.

Poster showing the drawing of blue and red trolley bus

By trolleybus to Kingston, by F Gregory Brown, 1933

Ironically, the Second World War brought a temporary reprieve for the tram, as the work on the trolleybus conversion was interrupted. Necessary repairs and maintenance were done to keep the tram system running to help the war effort.

After the war however, the remaining trams were replaced by diesel buses. In July 1952, the last tram left Woolwich for New Cross amidst scenes of great sadness. Many trams were scrapped, but some were sold to Leeds where they ran until 1959.

Poster depicting a ticket superimposed on the drawing of a tram

Gone but not forgotten, by Tim Demuth, 1977

Trams were re-introduced into London in 2000, originally run by Tramlink but now owned by TfL. The tram network has 39 stops along 17 miles of track serving Croydon and surrounding areas of south London.

London’s tramways Poster Parade explores the history of trams in London and the rise and fall of the largest tram system in the world. Visit our Poster Parade, at the Museum from 10 January to 26 March 2020 to see our stunning posters up close.

Family Volunteering at the Museum Depot

By Sam Clift, Volunteer Resource Manager

This year we have been striving to reach out to wider audiences with volunteering and provide interesting and meaningful ways for people to get involved with the Museum.

On Saturday 26 October, we hosted our first family volunteering day at the Museum Depot in Acton. The event was hosted in partnership with The Family Volunteering Club, as part of a wider pilot series of events aimed at families in London.

The day provided families with an opportunity to visit our Museum Depot on a weekend afternoon, and spend some recreational time together supporting the Museum. The day focused on working with our London Transport Miniature Railway team, who spend a large part of the year maintaining and investing in the miniature railway from track repairs, to signal upgrades and everything in between to prepare the railway for providing public rides at Depot Open Weekends.

Children and adults sweeping leave off a miniature rail track

Despite the weather being wet and gloomy, everyone arrived with bags of enthusiasm. The group were welcomed in the Depot lecture theatre by Keith Raeburn, Depot Logistics Supervisor, Maddy Mills, founder of The Family Volunteering Club and myself, before heading outdoors to see the miniature railway. Families got stuck in with tidying up the grassy areas, clearing leave from the track (yes that happens on miniature railways too!) and loosening screws on the track ready to be replaced.

A child and an adult wearing a hi-vis jacket screw bolts into the tracks of a miniature rail.

As the rain continued we took some respite by heading into the lecture theatre for tea and coffee and to make use of the soft play facilities. The children enjoyed the down time and it gave time for more informal conversations, with one youngster expressing his enthusiasm for 20th century EMU recognition!

Three cildren play with a wooden train model while sitting on soft mats

The volunteers were rewarded for their efforts with a ride on the miniature railway at the end. All the families enjoyed their time with us, and everyone left with beaming smiles on their faces. Some parents commented:

A patient team who made sure each child had a good experience.

My son asked lots of questions and everyone was lovely and friendly to him. Great experience.

Keep an eye on our website for more volunteering opportunities coming up in 2020!

Santa’s got a new sleigh! Christmas at the Museum

By Stephanie O’Neill, family Learning  Officer

And just like that, we’re near to the end of the year and it’s Christmas time! We’ve had a lot of fun with our family visitors at the Museum during 2019 celebrating women in transport, getting creative with inspiring illustrators, designing and testing uniforms, coding traffic light sequences, and playfully searching for Where’s Wally around the galleries. Not to mention our second ever Family Depot Open Weekend, and running lots of Singing and Stories sessions for our littlest of visitors. But we’re not finished just yet!

Starting on Saturday 30 November and running every day until Sunday 5 January 2020 (excluding 24, 25 & 26 December) families will be able to visit Santa’s Hideaway. That’s 34 days of festive transport fun to be had!

In the foreground, a sign reading 'You Found Santa's Hideaway. come on inside'. In the background a cosy seating area with Christmas lights and decorations.

Outside Santa’s Hideaway, a twinkly, magical, winter forest will be planted, filled with books and toys for you to play with. It’s a cosy, comfy space within the Museum where your family can chill out. The man himself (Santa!) will pop in throughout the day to meet you! He’ll be heading back to the North Pole after Christmas, just so you know, if you visit on or after 27 December.

A dad and his two children read a book while sitting in a mock up forest with Christmas lights, trees and a tepee.

We will also be running seasonal sing-a-long and stories sessions twice a day outside of Santa’s Hideaway. The sessions will be led by one of our enthusiastic educators, and song requests are encouraged, so make sure you come along with suggestions for your favourite songs that we can all sing together.

A group adults and children smiling and dancing in a mock up forest with Christmas lights and trees.

Inside of Santa’s Hideaway will be bunting and winter decorations for your families to create together. Think tracing around steam train and roundel templates, cutting, hole punching, lots of collage, stickers, glitter and tying up with colourful, festive ribbon; perfect for jazzing up your home for winter and to remember your families’ visit to the Museum.

Christmas bunting with two gold pine trees and a red double decker bus with elves.

It’s very important to us that our family offer at the Museum is inclusive for all families. That is why on Saturday 14 December, we’ll be opening from 8:30 to 10:00 for families with additional needs who would benefit from the Museum being quieter. With gallery sounds turned off (including hand dryers in the loos), a caped number of tickets so it remains quiet, and sensory bags available to aid exploring, we hope this will be an opportunity for families to spend some seasonal time together, and even get to meet Santa in a quiet atmosphere.

For something extra special, and an adventure out of the Museum, we will also be running Christmas Lights and Sights tours. Climb aboard our cosy original RT bus and experience the wonder and excitement of the city at Christmastime. But be quick with booking, as these tours are nearly sold out!

A man, woman and two children looking at at red double decker bus parked on a street with Christmas decorations.

We very much hope that you choose to visit us as part of your family’s quality time spent together over the winter season; we look forward to welcoming you and providing lots of fun and joy for the end of 2019!

All our family events in the Museum are free with your annual admission ticket. Remember to book online to save. Kids go free!

Our Q stock story: one year on

By Jullian Urry, Project Manager Q stock Restoration

It’s been a year since London Transport Museum launched the Q stock restoration fundraising appeal to get the last-remaining 1930s Q stock cars running again. It’s time to update you on the progress we have made thanks to your support and the great work of our dedicated volunteers, and look at what lies ahead.

As Project Manager I’ve been dealing with the commercial and financial aspects of the restoration, whilst under the technical leadership of Geoff Thorne, the volunteers have completed most key aspects of the electrical and body restoration to the interior of car 4417, the 1938 driving motor car.

A man standing in the driving cab of a vintage train
Geoff Thorne in our Q stock’s driving cab

Meanwhile, Katarina Mauranen (Curator of Vehicles and Engineering) and a group of Research volunteers have identified the role of the Q stock during the evacuation of school children throughout the early stage of World War Two.  Their research  revealed changes in the fashions worn by Q stock passengers between the 1930s and 1950s, the pay of train guards, and timetable alterations.

Black and white photo of people on a station's platform boarding a train
Q38 Stock at Charing Cross now Embankment station, 1956

In October, the 1938 driving motor car and the 1935 trailer car were pushed out of the Acton Depot’s shed, enabling the wooden milk van to be shunted behind the Museum’s A Stock exhibit. The re-positioning of the 1938 driving motor car allowed us to better evaluate the condition of the underframe equipment.

Colour photo of a brown wooden milk van. Tin milk containers are visible inside
Metropolitan Railway milk van No. 3, 1896

Car 4416 also saw some light of day when the tarpaulin was lifted to allow a more thorough examination. We have commenced an inventory of equipment and components on the car, as well as determined the tasks and repairs to be undertaken.

During 2019, the Museum has held three open days at the Acton Depot and the Q stock received a great amount of footfall.  The strap hangers, once fitted to all London Transport trains, were remarked on by many of the visitors.  After much work by the Q stock volunteers, the saloon doors are operational, giving visitors the opportunity to experience the duty of the train guard, opening and closing one of the sets of double doors – a role that has since been withdrawn over 20 years ago.

Inside of a train with black metal straphangers
Straphangers on Q Stock car

A great deal of work is still required to bring Q stock back to its former glory; if you would like to join the restoration team, please email us at opportunities@ltmuseum.co.uk.  We meet every Thursday and on the last Saturday of every month.

You can also make a donation to help us keep our Q stock restoration project on track!

Stay up to date with this restoration project and other heritage vehicles related events by signing up to our enewsletter.

Farewell, Baker Street – TfL’s Lost Property Office is on the move

Guest blog by Paul Cowan, Manager at TfL’s Lost Property Office

Nearly ten years ago, I took up position as Manager at Transport for London’s Lost Property Office (LPO). The first time I ventured into the cavernous basements at 200 Baker Street, I thought I’d stumbled upon some long-lost treasure hoard, plundered by pirates of the Northern Line or a number 97 bus maybe. Although slightly less dramatic, the truth turned out to be no less fascinating.

A man and a woman look through a shelf full of umbrellas.
Lost property Office at 200 Baker Street, 1933.

The LPO was set up in November 1933, subsequent to the commencement of the London Passenger Transport Board. It is estimated that over the following 86 years, more than 15 million items of property have been processed here and stored on the famous green shelves. Anything that passengers have been able to carry on our services, they have been able to lose on our services – and this has included a staggering array of clothing, bags, work and personal items and, more lately, electronic gadgets which we now take for granted. All of these have been dutifully catalogued and stored for a period of three months, pending their hopeful restoration to grateful owners.

Have you left anything behind? by P Gates, 1951. Collection ref. 2003/29705

200 Baker Street has been our only home and has become synonymous not just with the Lost Property department, but of the people and culture that support it. There is something quintessentially British about the way items are neatly stored, accompanied by the ever-present lost property label on a piece of string. Around every corner of the three-storey subterranean labyrinth is another nook or cranny filled with an assortment of the mundane or the bizarre, the quirkiness of the building layout adding to the overall romance of the site. Artefacts and mementos of time past are dotted throughout – a reflection of the care and love poured into the operation by staff.

As much as we like the place, though, the reality is that it is no longer fit for purpose for the running of a modern, high-volume warehousing operation. We need to adapt to the changing environment in which TfL operates, so are taking up short-to-medium term residence in TfL premises at Pelham Street, South Kensington, whist we consider the longer-term options for the LPO.

It may take a while for the new location to feel like home, although I suspect the distilled essence of things London passengers have lost and reclaimed over so many years will almost certainly follow us wherever we go; it’s in our DNA and always will be.

Lost property ’roundel’ on display at the Museum in Covent Garden.

Should you ever need our services, simply visit the website at tfl.gov.uk/lostproperty to find out how we can help. Of course, we’d prefer if you didn’t lose things in the first instance, so do keep an eye on your possessions when travelling on the network!

Untangling the tracks: Communicating change

By Laura Sleath, Senior Curator

Transport for London and its predecessor companies have a long history of producing posters to keep passengers informed about upgrades to the network. Communicating alterations and disruption to passengers, as well as celebrating successful projects, is an important job for train operating companies. Whilst social media is often used today to keep customers informed, the traditional practice of using eye-catching posters is still an effective method.

Upgrading a working railway usually requires weekend closures, which can catch people out. TfL commissioned this popular series of poster designs which use the iconography of the Tube lines to grab the attention of passengers.

‘Going to the match this weekend?’ Artist unknown, 2010 (L)
‘Going shopping this weekend?’ Rachel Thomas of The Milton Agency, 2010 (R)

Recently,  Thameslink has also actively used posters to engage with customers. Some of these posters are explored in our Untangling the Tracks exhibition, which examines the Thameslink Programme, a major project to increase capacity, improve connections and provide greater reliability on the Thameslink route. During the programme, two major line closures over August bank holiday and Christmas 2017 affected hundreds of thousands of passengers. The iconography of the railway – specifically the ‘railway no entry’ icon – was used to add a festive touch to the poster campaign informing passengers.

Christmas line closures, 23 Red agency, 2017

For railway companies celebrating success at the end of a big project is also useful to remind passengers that the disruption was worthwhile.

What today is part of the Bank branch of the Northern line, started out as the City and South London Railway. It was the world’s first deep-level electric railway, opening in 1890. Being the pioneer, its tunnels were built on a smaller scale than subsequent Tube lines. When the time came to merge the line with the Hampstead Tube, the tunnels had to be closed to allow widening work to take place. This poster celebrates the reopening of the line in 1924, emphasising the new modern trains.

From Euston to Clapham Common the transformation is complete, Richard T Cooper, 1924

The redevelopment work at London Bridge station was a major element of the Thameslink Programme. Starting in 2013 the station was completely rebuilt, unifying what had essentially been two separate stations, yet remained open throughout. The architects, Grimshaw, also had to work carefully around its listed features, and many historical elements were kept and incorporated into the new building. The redeveloped station was officially opened by HRH the Duke of Cambridge in 2018. This poster was commissioned to thank the 50 million passengers who use the station every year for their patience during the disruption.

Welcome to your new station concourse, Magnet Harlequin/WMH Agency, 2018

Visit Untangling the Tracks to explore how historic London Transport posters and their modern Thameslink equivalents help to communicate important updates to passengers.

The exhibition is open until Spring 2020.

#MyJourneyToPride – Here’s what happened!

By Ellie Miles, Documentary Curator

Back in July we partnered up with museum freelancer Sacha Coward and invited people to use the #MyJourneyToPride hashtag to document and share their stories of travelling to Pride in London and UK Black Pride on social media. We also asked some people to record video diaries of their journeys in order to create a picture of the lived experience of a group of people from the LGBT+ community in London in 2019.

This film is a glimpse into the experiences our diarists had over the weekend. How did they feel about their journeys? Did they feel safe travelling to the events? Did they ‘de-rainbow’ for the journey home?

When we asked people to record their stories we sought a full picture, not just the positive, and were thankful to be entrusted with accounts than included good and bad. Alongside the moments of celebration and connection there are incidents of abuse and examples of people feeling unsafe or uncomfortable. One of the clips towards the end of the film shows how walking home alone in the dark can feel unsafe. It’s all part of the story that we wanted to record.

We didn’t know whether trying to collect these stories via a hashtag would work, but we were pleased to see that over the weekend the hashtag was pretty active, being shared around 500 times. We’re now in the process of approaching people to ask permission for rights to preserve their content within the Museum’s collection.

These stories will enrich our collection and give these experiences a place in the history of transport in London. They will sit alongside physical objects that we collected in recent years which you can learn about on our website, including posters, badges, oyster wallets and the first rainbow crossing. We hope to preserve the poster series that TfL installed at Green Park station as well. We will continue to work to build our LGBT+ collections in the future, and hope to do more to learn about the history of LGBT+ communities and their transport experiences.

We want to thank everyone who supported this collecting project. We are very grateful to be entrusted with caring for these stories, objects and experiences. We are currently working on ways to display and interpret this material in the Museum itself, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated!

If you shared material but have not heard from us yet or if you have material from Pride weekend which you haven’t shared yet but would like to tell us about, please get in touch by emailing documentarycurator@ltmuseum.co.uk.