Spiral escalator: An engineering wonder ahead of its time

Spiral escalator – An engineering wonder ahead of its time

Written by Laura Sleath, Senior Curator

In 1988, the rusty remains of an engineering experiment were found buried at the bottom of a lift shaft at Holloway Road station. The remains were of a spiral escalator which had been installed in 1906, but abandoned shortly after – probably due to safety concerns.

Construction of the spiral escalator at Holloway Road station, 1906
Construction of the spiral escalator at Holloway Road station, 1906

The spiral escalator was designed by inventor Jesse Reno, who had unveiled the world’s first ‘inclined elevator’ in New York in 1896. His ambitious design at Holloway Road consisted of a double spiral which would have allowed a steady stream of passengers to ascend and descend at the same time with no waiting, unlike a lift. The two spirals encircled a central core – an outer spiral for the descent, and an inner one for the ascent. It ran continuously in a clockwise direction, travelling at a speed of 100 feet (30 metres) a minute. The journey to street level took approximately 45 seconds

It seems that the complex design was flawed and there is no evidence that the escalator ever entered passenger service. It was dismantled in 1911 and only found later during maintenance work.

Conserved section of spiral escalator installed at Holloway Road station, 1906
Conserved section of spiral escalator installed at Holloway Road station, 1906

In 1993, London Transport Museum rescued the surviving parts of the escalator from the lift shaft and later restored a large section, which can be seen at our Acton Depot. A smaller section will soon be going on display in our new Future Engineers gallery, opening in October 2018.

‘There is no doubt that walking upstairs is very fatiguing’ The Engineer, 10 August 1900

Just five years after Reno’s failed attempt, the Underground’s first escalators were installed at Earl’s Court station in 1911.  To allay any fears, a disabled man – William ‘Bumper’ Harris who had lost a leg in an accident – was invited to ride the escalators and demonstrate the safety of the new machines.

The escalators were so successful that they began replacing lifts on the network, which up until then had been the main way of getting passengers from deep level tunnels to the surface (and vice versa).

In 1913, the Underground Group commissioned a poster to celebrate the opening of the new Bakerloo line extension to Paddington station. Featuring prominently in the poster was the exciting ‘moving staircase subway connection’ – obviously considered a strong selling point for passengers tired of taking the stairs.

Paddington New Station, by Charles Sharland, 1913
Paddington New Station, by Charles Sharland, 1913

There are 440 passenger escalators on the Underground network today, and in its 40-year lifespan, an escalator will travel the equivalent distance of a trip to the moon and back. Reno’s dream of a spiral escalator has also become a reality – Mitsubishi Electric have been designing and installing spiral escalators around the world since the 1980s.

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Mabel Lucie Attwell

Mabel Lucie Attwell (1879-1964)

Children’s book illustrator and publishing phenomenon

Mabel Lucie Attwell was one of the most successful female illustrators of the twentieth century, whose trademark chubby toddlers remain as popular now as they were 100 years ago. Although not well known as a poster artist, the success of her children’s books, postcards and (later) annuals, made her an obvious choice for London Underground’s emerging publicity campaign. Her immediately familiar style struck a reassuring note with passengers and, by implication, suggested that the new Tube railway was a safe and reliable system.

Country fairCountry fair, 1912

Trained at Heatherlys and Saint Martin’s School of Art, Attwell’s first commission for the Underground came in 1912. More followed in 1913, and it seems likely that she continued to work for the Underground after the First World War. A Pathe newsreel from about 1920, for example, shows Attwell sketching a new Tube poster, Christmas in Fairyland, in her garden using her three children as models. Sadly, no copy has survived in the London Transport Museum collection, although one exists in the Pushkin State Museum (Moscow). By this time Attwell was a best-selling publishing phenomenon. Her already extensive range of books and cards was expanded to include nursery ceramics, textiles, calendars, dolls and figurines – all eagerly collected today. But it was her immensely popular illustrations for children’s classics such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm that bought her a devoted worldwide following.

Attwell continued to work into old age, assisted by her daughter Peggy who took on the management of Attwell’s estate after her mother’s death.

Examples of Attwell’s rarely seen Underground posters are included in London Transport Museum’s current Poster Girls show, together with vintage film footage of the artist at work. Behind the scenes tours of the main poster collection are available to book online.

In keeping with the theme of Attwell’s delightful posters, the next Acton Depot Open weekend (7/8 July) features a variety of special family events to entertain the little ones in your life www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/museum-depot/open-weekends 

We're off to the pantomime

David Bownes is co-curator of Poster Girls and director of Twentieth Century Posters (www.twentiethcenturyposters.com)

70th Anniversary of the SS Empire Windrush

22 June 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the SS Empire Windrush ship arriving in Britain from the Caribbean. Around 236 migrants from the merchant vessel were housed in the labyrinth of underground passages at Clapham South when they first arrived from the former British colonies. In the lead-up to this anniversary, Siddy Holloway, Hidden London Engagement Manager, gives a first-hand account of welcoming a very special guest back to Clapham South deep-level shelter for the first time in 70 years.

The 29 May was an exciting day for the Museum’s Hidden London Team. In partnership with the Windrush Foundation, we welcomed a former resident of Clapham South deep-level shelter, 70 years after his last overnight stay. Mr John Richards was born in Jamaica in 1925 and moved to England in 1948 to seek pastures new. He was a passenger on the Empire Windrush, the famous merchant vessel ship that offered affordable passage to citizens from Commonwealth countries in the West Indies. John, like all the passengers, paid £28 for his passage to come over to Britain to seek employment and help rebuild the country after the war.

John-Richards-by-bunk-beds
© London Transport Museum

When the ship docked at Tilbury on 22 June 1948, around 240 of the passengers had no pre-arranged accommodation. They were all offered lodging by the government in the deep-level shelter at Clapham South until they found employment and housing.

When we began researching for our tours of Clapham South deep-level shelter in 2015, we realised there were very few first-hand accounts from people who stayed in the shelter and what they thought of their peculiar accommodation. We wanted to rectify this and began our search to find someone who had stayed in the shelter having arrived on Windrush.

John-Richards-and-Chris-Nix© London Transport Museum

In April this year we partnered with the Windrush Foundation and they put us in touch with John; needless to say we were over the moon. John is now 92 years old, so a date was arranged for his visit which happened to be very close to the 70-year anniversary of his arrival in the UK. We met him and Arthur Torrington, the president of the Windrush Foundation, on a rainy day in South London and escorted them to the shelter. John, dressed immaculately in a grey suit, was excited to see what had changed and said that he hoped he would be able to remember as much as possible.

John-and-Arthur© London Transport Museum

Once down in the shelter which lies 40 metres below street level, John’s memories started flooding back to him. He told us about his work during the war, his decision to come over to Britain and his three week stay in the shelter. As we settled into hearing about John’s story, the deep rumble of the Northern line passed over our heads. John stopped for a moment, smiled and pointed to the ceiling “that sound used to wake us up every morning”.

We can’t wait to share more of John’s story during our public tours of Clapham South deep-level shelter which will start this year on 11 August 2018. For tickets please visit www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/hidden-london/clapham-south

Siddy Holloway
Hidden London Engagement Manager

Exploring London Transport Museum

Exploring London Transport Museum with engineer Emma Watkins

By Carrie Long, LTM Volunteer

Emma Watkins, site engineer at Skanska, visited London Transport Museum to tell us more about her work, her experience as a young female engineer, and how she is helping to shape and build a sustainable London.

At the last London Transport Museum debate: Women of the future, the Museum celebrated inspiring women from the past, such as the all-female Waterloo bridge builders. They also looked at the future and lead discussions on how to achieve gender equality in the transport industry.

Following on from this theme, Emma is giving a timely talk as part of the Museum’s next Late Debate: Environment matters on 7 June, an event to discuss and explore ways of making London a cleaner, greener, and more livable city, including engineering and design solutions to environmental issues.

Walking around the museum together, stopping at Victorian vehicles and construction models, and taking in the museum’s two new exhibitions, Digging Deeper on tunneling and The Secret Life of a Megaproject on Crossrail, Emma shares her modern engineer’s take on the construction of London and her own experience as a part of it.

Exploring London Transport Museum

In Emma’s first 18 months as a qualified engineer she has taken part in a wide variety of projects. From building an internal bridge at Waterloo station, to a stint on a Crossrail site – “every single engineer in London has worked on Crossrail”, she says, laughing. She is now involved in restoration and modernisation work of Bazalgette’s original sewers. And when someone talks with gleaming eyes and enthusiasm about going down into the sewers, you know that they are passionate about their job. She says engineering allows her to see fascinating hidden parts of London that are inaccessible to the public, but integral to how we use and live in the city.

On our tour of the museum, Emma stops at a model of Victorian cut-and-cover tunneling, showing wooden supports, horse-operated machinery, and men working without any protective clothing. While Emma values health and safety as well as modern machines on today’s construction sites, she can’t help but admire the ingenuity of the workers and inventors of the past, trying new methods at great personal risk. And not only in London: In Paris, the ground was too wet and soft to tunnel into, so the engineers froze it using liquid nitrogen as early as 1900.

cut-and-cover-model

One thing Emma says hasn’t changed much compared to the Victorian tunneling display is the lack of women on a construction site. Today, still only 1% of site workers are women. Attitudes have changed though, and she has always felt welcome and integrated on all her work projects. Emma is passionate about inspiring other young people, especially girls, to go into engineering. She is an ambassador for the Institute of Civil Engineering (ICE). ICE is contributing to the Late Debate too, running an interactive engineering challenge to save a Lego-built city from flooding.

Book onto the Late Debate: Environment Matters on 7th June 2018, where you can meet Emma and hear about her experience developing a green attitude in construction.

Cultural Yoga

Cultural Yoga adds another dimension to the museum experience

Cultural Yoga instructor Chi Onuora combines her two passions, museum education and yoga, to help Londoners add another level of awareness to their museum visit. She runs architectural yoga at the Design Museum and Sir John Soane’s Museum, and now she is bringing her unique approach to London Transport Museum.

Cultural Yoga instructor Chi Onuora

Chi will host a Yoga and Mindfulness workshop as part of the upcoming Late Debate: Environment matters on 7th June. As well as debates on climate change and air pollution, talks and workshops on sustainable transport and greening the city, the Late Debate will be exploring mental health and well-being for city dwellers.

Late Debate: Environment matters

The Yoga and Mindfulness for Urban Living workshop will include a 10-15 minute self-practice for waking up in the morning and winding down in the evening and some desk-based yoga to help with common conditions caused by office work such as wrist and neck problems.

Cultural yoga headstand

And even if you’re not quite able to do a headstand in the middle of the tube, why not use your daily commute for a mindfulness practice? “Mindfulness can help us be more aware of our environment, which can then enable us to change it. And it can help us get through a stressful situation that we might not be able to change – such as the busy tube ride to work in the morning”, says Chi.

Cultural yoga

To take part, join the Late Debate on 7th June. In the meantime, follow @LTMInterchange on Twitter to stay up to date on the ShapingLDN programme and follow @CulturalYoga on Instagram for a taste of Chi Onuora’s practice.

Cultural yoga

 

Let’s clear the air

Let’s clear the air – how to tackle London’s air pollution problem with Professor Frank Kelly of the London Air Quality Network at King’s College London

Walking down Oxford Street on a warm day makes the claim that it is sometimes the world’s most polluted street seem believable. This, of course, is difficult to prove or disprove. The London Air Quality Network measure levels of air pollution in every London Borough and publish the results hourly. It consists of about 100 monitors, very sensitive machines which measure small particles by weight, and gases like Nitrogen Dioxide and Ozone using spectroscopy.

Air quality

Professor Frank Kelly started the network in 1993, as part of the Environmental Research Group at King’s College London. At first, it was established to monitor the pollution in East London where the last remaining power stations were, and coal-burning was the main concern.

While coal is not a considerable source of pollution in London any more, the pollutants found in the air today are mainly coming from transport vehicles. Frank Kelly says: “Diesel in particular has increased as a source of pollutant over that time because all of our public transport system is basically diesel-fuelled.”

So what can we do to reduce these emissions? The bus fleet is slowly being modernised with electric single-decker buses and hybrid double-deckers. The first electric black cabs can be seen on London’s streets and there are grants available to cabbies to help make that transition. But a lot of diesel and petrol vehicles are privately owned cars. Frank Kelly sees the responsibility with the motor vehicle industry itself: within the range of cars that conform to Euro 6 emission standards, there is still a large discrepancy of actual emissions, and it is hard for consumers to find out which vehicles are cleaner than others.

Having said this, Kelly does recommend choosing public transport over driving no matter how clean your car is, and says he would love to one day see a car-free city: “I think it would be a much better city to live in. Unfortunately, I think it’s going to take a few decades for everyone to realise what the benefits of this will be. Unless you go to Copenhagen or another city which has moved in that direction, you can’t really see what the benefits are until you experience them yourself.” This would go hand in hand with improving cycling infrastructure. But Frank Kelly emphasises how important it is to gain the population’s support before continuing in this direction, again looking at Copenhagen to learn how to overcome resistance to change.

Air pollution mapLondon map showing pollution levels on londonair.org.uk

Frank Kelly is chairing a panel debate at London Transport Museum’s upcoming Late Debate: Environment matters. He’ll be joined by panellists Lilli Matson, Director of Transport Strategy at Transport for London; Samantha Heath, Chief Executive of the London Sustainability Exchange; Justin Bishop, Senior Consultant in Transport Planning at Arup, and Simon Birkett, Founder and Director of Clean Air in London. Together they’ll be debating and discussing measures such as the Ultra Low Emission Zone coming into force in April 2019, and how combined technical, regulatory, and educational approaches can provide a solution to this serious health threat.

To take part in the debate and put your own questions to the panel, join the Late Debate on 7th June. In the meantime, send your thoughts, questions, opinions, or snaps of electric buses or cabs to @LTMInterchange on Twitter.

The Travel Queen

Dorrit Dekk (1917-2014) was probably the most successful female poster designer working in Britain during the 1950s and 60s. Known as ‘The Travel Queen’, her joyful images for Air France, the Orient Line, P&O and the Post Office earned her a worldwide following. Yet surprisingly, given London Transport’s reputation as a patron of outstanding design, she produced only one poster for the Underground, We Londoners (1961), which can be seen in the Museum’s current Poster Girls exhibition.

The commission was the idea of Harold Hutchison, London Transport’s Publicity Officer, who wanted a poster showing various London ‘types’ wearing distinctive, or ceremonial, dress. His suggestions included well-known figures, like Chelsea Pensioners and market porters, alongside more obscure ‘occupations’, such as a Royal Mace Bearer and a Swan Upper. Quite what the Czech born Dekk made of these suggestions is not recorded, but she set about the task in May 1960. The final design, for which she was paid 120 guineas, was published in June the following year. Dekk was evidently very pleased with the result, telling Hutchison that the poster “looks quite gay and just right for the foreign invasion of tourists”. She had the design reprinted as her personal Christmas card, while London Transport reissued it under licence to Cunard and even as a headscarf pattern in 1969.

Doritt Dekk

To find out more about the women who designed posters for the Underground in the 1960s and throughout the last century, visit our Poster Girls exhibition during our ‘Swinging Sixties’ Friday Late, which takes place this Friday evening 18 May. As well as the exhibition, you can enjoy curated lectures, tours, workshops and there will be bars and 60s sounds played by the Museum’s resident DJ – The Museum of Vinyl.

www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/events-calendar/friday-lates#swinging-sixties

David Bownes is co-curator of Poster Girls and director of Twentieth Century Posters www.twentiethcenturyposters.com

BATTLE BUS RESEARCH VOLUNTEER PROJECT – SESSION Five and six

This blog is part of a mini-series of updates about the Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project. To keep up-to-date with all the latest programme activities, please visit the ‘Battle Bus’ section in London Transport Museum blog.

Session five and six 

In sessions five and six the research volunteers started to organise their topics into a narrative and think about the design of the exhibition, with the afternoons spent on individual research. Volunteer Sadie Arora describes what they got up to:

Week five began with us thinking about the key message we thought visitors should take away from the exhibition. We put a brief summary of our research topic on to a sticky note, grouped these into themes and arranged the themes into an order. This simple exercise was really helpful, as we could see a potential storyline emerge, check the key messages were covered, and identify areas with too much or not enough focus. We also found out where in the Museum our temporary exhibition would be on display – in Luke’s Skills Space on Level 1.

We were then treated to a brilliant talk from Sau-Fun Mo, Head of Design at the Museum. Sau-Fun gave us what seemed like the trade secrets of museum design departments, not only explaining the process of designing exhibitions, but demonstrating how vital design is in supporting the content, and the potential for design choices to subtly affect how information is conveyed.

After explaining design structure schemes, which link every task in a project to a clear progression, Sau-Fun detailed her work on two contrasting displays in the Museum: the Poster Girls temporary exhibition about female poster artists, and the new permanent gallery about tunnelling, called Digging Deeper. We learned how approaches differ according to the scale of the space and the objectives of the displays. We were also given examples of techniques that help inform and engage visitors, such as the graphic of small images running along the entire Poster Girls display to convey the wealth of the collection that the exhibition was drawn from.

Poster-Girls-Exhibition

Sau-Fun gave us some advice on the design approach for our project. As the space is a self-contained room, she told us to think about what the space outside could communicate to visitors, and what the immediate impression of the exhibition should be when entering the room.

In week six, we discussed ideas for the exhibition space. Although we won’t be dong the design work ourselves, we wanted to put our ideas into the design brief and were keen to have a go at applying what we’d learned from Sau-Fun. On the whole, we went for realistic ideas that would engage the audience. Smoke machines and animatronics in the skills room seemed unlikely!

Design-discussion

We felt that making a clear link from the Battle Bus itself, which will be on display in the main gallery on the ground floor, will be crucial. Ideas included a trail of logos, or handing tickets to visitors to ‘continue the journey’ upstairs. We weighed up whether it’s better to divide the room into sections, or have a central feature. We’ve been so taken with the T.O.T magazines that a suggestion to use them in the graphic design was popular, as was a large map to unite the different topics. A pigeon motif was suggested, to make use of the room’s height and engage visitors with the surprising sight of B-type pigeon lofts. Simple ways for visitors to interact were also suggested, especially children’s activities and a comments board.

Style brainstorm

As we approach the end of the project, it’s sinking in that our research must form a story worthy of a museum display. That is quite daunting, but we are also hugely reassured to know that the Design department will be able to work wonders with whatever we come up with.

Comeback every week to read the latest instalment on how our volunteers are getting on with their Battle Bus project.

BATTLE BUS RESEARCH VOLUNTEER PROJECT – SESSION FOUR

This blog is part of a mini-series of updates about the Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project. To keep up-to-date with all the latest programme activities, please visit the ‘Battle Bus’ section in London Transport Museum blog.

Session Four

Getting started on the research

This week the group started to research their chosen topics, which included the use of the b-type buses during the war and the role of transport workers. Research volunteer Carrie Long writes about her discoveries whilst exploring the Museum library and photo collection.

British army soldiersBritish and Indian soldiers posing on a B-type bus in France, c 1914

‘A new type of hero in war. The man of the moment at the front is the London bus-driver’, reported the Daily Mail in 1914. Throughout the First World War, bus drivers swapped their foggy routes along the Strand in central London for the ‘veritable hell of shell and shrapnel fire’ on the Western front. Many of those drivers volunteered to go with their bus when they were commandeered for the war. Publicly named as ‘heroes’ as early as 1914, it was clear that the sacrifice and mechanical skill these men were providing was incredibly important to British victory. But, in popular memory the stories of these brave London bus drivers have been forgotten, until now.

This week our research team began a mission to uncover their stories from the archives. The Museum’s photo collection in Collections online was fantastic for allowing us to see the transformation of the bright red buses to their war-time khaki colours. It was notable that the drivers maintained their cheerful smiles and spread a visible culture of ‘comradeship’. However, it was clear the change of scene from London to the Western Front was no holiday for the drivers. Photographs of vehicles transformed into military troop carriers or buses lying burnt-out in a ditch, highlighted the immense danger and high level of responsibility they played in the war.

To understand how these men and their families coped with their transformation from civilian life to soldiering, the T.O.T magazine (T.O.T was shorthand for Train, Omnibus, Tram)  proved an archival treasure trove. The magazine, published fortnightly and later monthly after 1915, was produced for members of staff serving at the Front and their families and colleagues at home. It is a fantastic resource for documenting the changes throughout the war. The editors actively encouraged soldiers to write letters and to be personal about their experience, writing that ‘saying what you mean and what you feel’ is most important. The magazine was not intended to be a public newspaper, but rather a news forum for transport workers and their families.

TOT-1914-1921

Remarkably, the magazine didn’t read as war propaganda as I expected, but instead provided insights into a diverse range of experiences and emotions. Published letters from the men reveal the attachment drivers felt towards their buses through their affectionate reference to them as ‘old tubs’, provide insight into their personal sense of loss through sometimes graphic accounts of comrades’ deaths, to sharing their joy at meeting other drivers on the road.

A personal research highlight was discovering that London bus drivers were connected to a much wider global story of war. Drivers were at the forefront of forging Commonwealth connection through transporting Indian soldiers to the front lines, driving the wounded to hospital, and facilitating days out for dominion soldiers on leave in London. The international community spirit is clear from Corporal E. Scuffell, who wrote ‘Australians, Canadians, Indians and French … we are mixed up a bit, but all of one mind’.

Research-session-four

The T.O.T was consistently described as a joy to read by soldiers. It provided them with a connection to home as they used it to communicate birthday wishes to their children, see pictures of their families on days out, and learn about how women were contributing to the war effort through becoming bus conductors in London. Today, the accounts of the T.O.T provide a permanent record of the bravery of the transport workers who went to war, and of the drivers and buses that supported them there.

Comeback every week to read the latest instalment on how our volunteers are getting on with their Battle Bus project.

C&RE

A modern couple who brought a new aesthetic to 1930s poster art

Unique among the artists featured in London Transport Museum’s Poster Girls, Clifford and Rosemary Ellis were a husband and wife design partnership. They married in 1931 after meeting at the Regents Street Polytechnic, and henceforth virtually all their commercial work was jointly signed, often with the initials ‘C&RE’. At the time, this was an unusual demonstration of artistic and marital equality, underlined by the occasional use of the signature ‘Rosemary and Clifford Ellis’ (rather than ‘Clifford & Rosemary’) which can be seen on one of the London Transport posters in the exhibition. In describing their collaborative approach, Rosemary explained that either one might have the original idea for a design which they would then finalise together.

Whatever the origins of their ideas may have been, the results were extraordinary. Their unmistakable style was characterised by a lively use of colour and form, creating unusual and memorable poster designs. Travels in Time (1937), for example, is almost surrealist in its depiction of a disembodied Charles I against an imagined landscape. Luckily for Londoners, this bewildering image was paired with an explanatory poster (also designed by Rosemary and Clifford) promoting the Capital’s museums. In contrast, their representation of animals and birds, seen in their designs for Green Line Coaches (1933), was wonderfully naturalistic and alive with movement.

Ellis artwork

By the late thirties, the couple were much in demand, having designed posters for London Transport, the Empire Marketing Board, the Post Office and Shell-Mex. Their joint output included book jackets, lithographs, murals, mosaics and wallpaper. Clifford was also the headmaster of the Bath Academy of Art and instrumental in re-establishing it as one of Britain’s foremost art colleges at Corsham Court after the Second World War. During the war, Rosemary and Clifford worked together on the monumental Recording Britain project, but are perhaps best remembered today for the 60+ dust jackets they designed for the long running New Naturalist book series.

The couple’s extensive personal archive was auctioned in 2017 following the death of their only child, the sculptor Penelope Ellis. London Transport Museum acquired two rare ‘proof’ versions of ‘Museums’ (1937), showing annotations made by the artists before final printing. These included the replacement of the printed London Transport logo with a hand drawn alternative, which was accepted for the final design.

To find out more about Clifford and Rosemary Ellis, visit the Poster Girls exhibition at London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, or go behind the scenes to explore the Museum’s famous poster collection at Acton Depot Open Weekend, 21-22 April. Full details of Depot tours and times can be found here www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/museum-depot/open-weekends

David Bownes is co-curator of Poster Girls and director of Twentieth Century Posters (www.twentiethcenturyposters.com)