School half term is a great British institution, and as we all know no half term holiday is complete without a visit to London Transport Museum. So half term always produces a spike in visitor numbers, and the museum’s volunteers put their shoulders to the wheel to help maximise the activities on offer.
So on Thursday 1st October 2012 in the galleries of the museum I found Ash Ketchum preparing the object handling stall in anticipation of the rush, and she was soon joined by Ken Richards. The stall had a bus theme and was designed around bus ticketing through the ages. Ash has been fanatical about London buses since she was a young child, and has a family history around public transport in South East London. She has only been a volunteer with the museum since August 2012, so very much a new recruit. On the other hand, Ken has been a volunteer since 1998, originally joining up when he saw an appeal for volunteer guides in ‘On the Move’, the Underground staff magazine at the time; Ken was a Booking Clerk prior to retirement. Since then he has been involved in a range of activities, most recently delivering the ‘Finding the way’ object handling theme.
Later in the day came the rush – inevitably youngsters can’t resist the opportunity to produce a ticket for themselves and try on a hat. Ash and Ken were kept very busy – all I can say is that I hope that the museum has a very large cache of old tickets for future use.
Two young visitors fascinated by the stall were Tatyana De Freitas (above) and Frankie Newman Smith (below), both shown here getting stuck in. Frankie has London Transport history in her family, so perhaps a volunteer in the making..?
Dave Olney, Volunteer
As promised I’m returning to the topic of the Acton Depot Open Weekend, but this time concentrating on some of the volunteer activities. Well, where better place to start than meeting and greeting? Maintaining a steady flow of new LTM Friends and volunteers is essential to the continuing work of the museum. So, strategically placed at the entrance to the Depot, I found volunteers Paul Fox and Eva-Maria Lauenstein giving no guest the opportunity to get in without understanding the many benefits of being more closely involved with the LTM. Before you run away with the impression of “running the gauntlet”, let me reassure you that it was done with great skill and the best humour, making for a very friendly welcome to the event.
Inside the Depot, having deposited bags and coats at the cloakroom, one of the first teams that one encountered was the signalling team, proudly demonstrating the newly completed Marble Arch signal frame installation. Whilst no expert, I think I can safely say from observation that our visitors tested to destruction the failsafe nature of the interlocking system.
Moving on, the handling trolley in the bus exhibits area soon came into sight, where volunteers Ken Healey, Ash Ketchum and David Berwick looked to be having a great time, with the Tickets Please! theme proving very popular with our younger visitors. The opportunity to have a genuine Gibson or Bell Punch ticket was obviously an immense draw…
Of course, an important role for volunteers on an open day is straightforward answering of visitor questions (most vital of all “Where are the toilets?”) and ensuring that guests respect the exhibits and cordoned off areas. Keeping an eye on the buses were Ian Dolby and Norman Argent, both long standing volunteers.
Staying with buses, I mentioned last week that the opportunity to ride on RM1 was very popular. Helping the crew to marshal visitors at the rear platform I found James Wake, who was expertly handling of the crowds, who were, dare I say, not as skilled at boarding back loaders as Londoners were when RM1 first graced the capital’s streets.
I also found these volunteers lurking at the back of the depot, looking very preoccupied…
Dave Olney, Volunteer
Excellent progress has been made on the carriage restoration over the summer months. As with most projects of this type there is huge pressure between planned cost, available time and the resulting quality. Whilst the approaching LU150 anniversary has constrained the timetable for completion, the quality of craftsmanship going into rebuilding the carriage has remained at the highest standard and is a credit to Festiniog Railway staff.
The interior compartments are currently being fitted out with red plush seating and leather door panels, which together with the completed ceiling panels give a good impression of how the carriage will eventually look. Where practically possible the few original interior fixtures surviving from when the carriage was first built have been grouped together and fitted inside one compartment.
Externally, work on the roof apparatus is starting to take shape with the fitting of wooden blocks to support the replica gas light copper piping. Unfortunately after researching railway heritage organisations and museums up and down the country, no original ‘Pintsch’ gas lamps of the type used on Met353 have been found. However, through studying a combination of historical photographs and archival drawings, eight replica gas lamps has been fabricated by Festinog Railways contracted specialist lamp company. Following the original design they are made from tin plated steel and of traditional soldered construction. Whilst we want the restoration to be as accurate and faithful as possible, we don’t want passengers to have Victorian accidents. Hence the lighting will be powered by low voltage LEDs, whilst the ‘Wethered Patent’ style door locks will be modified so they cannot be accidently opened from inside the carriage when carrying passengers on the London Underground.
After a considerable amount of time inverted (to aid the fitting of braking components) within the workshop, the underframe is now the right way up and almost complete. As I write the only parts remaining to be fitted are the step boards and ‘Swan neck’ section of vacuum piping. Once the carriage body is complete it will be mounted onto the underframe and the heating pipes and emergency stop system connected together.
If all goes to plan static testing will be undertaken at Boston Lodge in the first week of November, followed by dynamic testing on a standard gauge heritage railway line soon after. This will be the first time the carriage has operated on a railway line in over 70 years and a sight eagerly anticipated. Needless to say the completion of the carriage forms just one element of a much larger event currently being developed, to bring the return of a passenger steam train under the streets of London as part of LU150 in January 2013.