by Keith Raeburn, Depot Manager and Mike Dipre, Customer Services Manager
This week marks the 20th anniversary of the opening of London Transport Museum’s remarkable store, our Acton Depot in west London.
When the Museum Depot first opened on its rail-connected site on 14 October 1999, it was pioneering – the first museum store in the UK to be specifically designed with regular public access in mind. Part warehouse, part rail depot, part workshop, part education space, the Depot is home to over 90% of our vast and diverse collections. For anyone wanting to dig a little deeper into London’s rich transport and design heritage, a visit to the Depot is a must!
In the 20 years since we opened, we have continued to expand the work we do at the Depot. Acton Depot is much more than a static store, it’s a working building where our curators, conservators and volunteers record, manage and restore our collections.
Maintenance and restoration of our historic vehicles, both road and rail, also takes place here – the Depot plays a vital role in ensuring that London Transport Museum’s visitors can not only see historic buses and underground trains, but experience the sights and sounds of riding on them as well!
In the past year alone, the Museum has brought steam trains back to the District line, Art Deco heritage tube stock to Central London, as well as a 99-year-old London bus (and bus shelter) to Salisbury Plain.
The Depot has played its role as the operations base for these specialist operations, allowing us to reach new audiences far beyond our Covent Garden home.
As we look to the future, the experiences that London Transport Museum offer are becoming more numerous and varied every year – and the Depot plays its part. We’ve always offered guided tours to dig deeper into our collection – these have grown in number and diversity and we now offer five different options, including one for younger visitors and families. 2020 will see over 40 days dedicated to the various guided tours, which run alongside group visits and the Learning sessions Mind the Gap and Inspire Engineering.
Our popular Open Weekends allow visitors to truly explore according to their own agenda. They have grown so popular that as of 2017 we have added a third weekend to the programme, and we now welcome 15,000 visitors each year.
While our 2019 Open Weekends are now over, we have a great programme planned for next year. Sign up to our enewsletter to find out when new Open Weekends is available.
Also at the depot is the London Transport Miniature Railway, a working miniature railway based on real London Underground locomotives, carriages, signals and signs. Maintained and run by volunteers, you can take a ride on it during the Open Weekends. On 26 October, we’re running a family volunteering session. Find out more on our Volunteers webpage.
We are certain that the next twenty years will see our Acton Depot playing an even more central part in the Museum’s programme!
To celebrate the Depot’s birthday, we’ve pulled together 20 of our favourite objects at the Depot. Check them out on our Google Arts & Culture story!