Poster of the Week: For Lost Property

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For Lost Property, Tom Eckersley, 1945

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Transport for London’s Lost Property Office (LPO) in Baker Street is one of their lesser known services. In 1945 Tom Eckersley produced a poster to advertise it entitled For Property Lost featuring an umbrella crying after being lost by its owner.

The LPO is fast approaching its 80th anniversary. It deals with items retrieved from the Underground, buses, taxis, the DLR, London Overground and Victoria Coach Station and is such a busy operation that it requires 39 permanent members of staff. The office receives around 200,000 items every year, a large proportion of which are from the Piccadilly Line due to its connection to Heathrow Airport at the western end.

Many of the standard items you would expect line the walls of the cavernous space with around 38,000 books, 31,000 bags, 28,000 pieces of clothing, 23,400 mobile phones, 10,600 keys, 8,000 umbrellas and 4,000 pieces of jewellery collected annually. £1 coins are also handed in on a regular basis by honest Londoners!

A range of slightly more bizarre items have also been stored here during its history including many sets of false teeth, breast implants, a puffer fish, a coffin, human skulls, prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs, three dead bats, a stuffed eagle, a royal wedding invite, a 14 ft boat, a park bench, a lawnmower and a grandfather clock! Amongst these more unusual items are artworks of varying quality, some of which were gathered together by TfL a couple of years ago and displayed in an exhibition entitled the Lost Collection.

Fortunately one in three of the more standard items are reunited with their owners. The LPO staff go out of their way to return the more obscure items if there are clues available. A suitcase containing £10,000 was returned to an elderly gentleman who didn’t trust banks or the safety of the money in his own home. Having left the suitcase on the Tube he was fortunate that a decent commuter found it and handed it in, and that documents containing his address were still inside. Thanks to the detective work of the work of the LPO staff (and inscriptions) two urns of ashes have also been returned to family members of the deceased.

The LPO is a good place to monitor trends, current events and the weather, with an influx of umbrellas in the winter and caps in the summer. During the Wimbledon Championships more tennis racquets are handed in and when a popular book is released, such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, a significant number of copies are always found on the network.

All items handed in are kept for three months and thereafter donated to charity with toys given to less fortunate children at Christmas and prosthetic limbs to landmine victims. Items of great personal value are often retained for longer in the hope that they can be reunited with owners and items of greater financial value are auctioned off for charity and to help towards the operation of the office.

Tom Eckersley, the artist behind our featured poster, designed posters for London Transport for 60 years from 1935 until 1995. Born in 1914 in Lancashire, he moved to London aged 20 to become a freelance poster designer, his talent having already been recognised at art college. He collaborated on many commissions with fellow student Eric Lombers and they were greatly influenced by Edward Mcknight Kauffer who also designed posters for London Transport. The pair produced posters for other large organisations such as Shell and the BBC.

During the Second World War Eckersley designed propaganda posters for the RAF and the General Post Office among others and in 1948 was awarded an OBE for services to poster design. He later began teaching and was a lecturer at the Westminster School of Art and the London College of Printing (now the London College of Communication). He ran the first undergraduate courses in graphic design in the UK and was Head of Graphic Design for 20 years from 1957 until 1977 with Charles Saatchi one of his more notable students. Eckersley died in 1997.

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Poster of the Week: Rugby League Cup Final

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Rugby League Cup Final, Charles Burton, 1930

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This weekend Wembley stadium will host the final of Rugby League’s knock-out tournament the Tetley’s Challenge Cup. 80,000 fans are expected to converge on Wembley to watch Hull FC battle Wigan Warriors for the trophy.  This week’s posters were created back in the 1930’s to advertise the same event. The competition was first held in 1897 and was traditionally played at the end of the Rugby season in April or May. In 2005 the timing of the final was changed and it now takes place in August.

Since the early twentieth century posters featuring a variety of events and pastimes have been used to encourage passengers onto the Underground, often to sporting fixtures across London. These two examples are panel posters, which were designed for display inside Underground railway carriages. Their small size made them economical to print and they could be produced in large numbers just a few weeks ahead of an event.

Wembley was built in 1923 as the new national stadium, in readiness for the Empire Exhibition that took place the following year. People flocked there by Underground to see their favourite teams and activities. The Rugby League Cup Final was first held at Wembley in 1929 and has been played there ever-since.

Created in 1930 as one of a series of event posters, the simplicity and clarity of Charles Burton’s design belies its impact. It conveys the energy and excitement of a hard-won try as a player pushes forward to ground the ball just over the touchline. The designer was known for his bold, modern imagery and the hand drawn lettering that appears in many of his posters. The Rugby League Cup Final promoted in Burton’s poster was played in front of a crowd of over 36,000. It saw Widnes win the championship by beating St Helens 10 points to 3.

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Rugby League Cup Final, Herry Perry, 1933

Spectator sports like football and Rugby became increasingly popular during the 1930s. This second poster was created in 1933 by one of the Underground’s most successful and prolific female designers Herry Perry. Between 1928 and 1937 Perry designed 55 posters for the Underground Group and London Transport, many of which advertised sporting fixtures. Perry’s vibrant design captures the frenetic energy of a game and highlights the Underground’s capacity to bring rugby fans right into the heart of the action.

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Poster of the Week: Too much of a good thing

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Too much of a good thing, John Henry Lloyd, 1910

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This week’s Poster of the Week is ‘Too much of a good thing’, by John Henry Lloyd. It’s a great example of the early graphic posters commissioned by Frank Pick for the Underground group and very much reflects the changing nature of poster design at the time.

Prior to 1908 publicity materials largely featured letterpress, text-based designs of various typefaces, which provided a rather confusing and visually overwhelming sight for potential passengers. When Frank Pick joined the publicity office in 1908 he began commissioning graphic posters with eye-catching designs, leading to the Underground group becoming a key patron of the arts and leader in the field of poster publicity.

Pick was very aware of the power of the poster and employed a ‘soft-sell’ approach, understanding the potential of posters to generate goodwill between viewers and their environment. Posters such as ‘Too much of a good thing’ show the potential of the Underground to provide an escape from the urban realities of inner city living.

Lloyd produced a number of posters for the Underground group throughout 1910 to 1911, additionally designing posters for the Great Western Railway. Here, Lloyd depicts a family exploring their options for a day trip. Interestingly, the posters featured within this poster are actual examples of the Underground’s destination posters. Their inclusion celebrates the abundance of destinations in and around London that can be reached by Underground.

Over 100 years later, the same message rings true. With school holidays in full swing, it’s a fantastic time to get out and about – whether it’s a trip to London Transport Museum or into the countryside.

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Discovering Forgotten Metro-land and Carriage 353

A lovely shot of our two most recent restoration projects - Metropolitan locomotive No.1 and 'Jubilee' Carriage 353 - seen together to celebrate the Underground's 150th anniversary
The Museum’s two most recent restoration projects – Metropolitan locomotive No.1 and ‘Jubilee’ Carriage 353 – seen together to celebrate the Underground’s 150th anniversary

On a balmy August day, our restored Carriage 353 again took to the tracks behind Met Loco No.1 to take expectant visitors back in time at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre.

Introduced in 1887, No.353 is the only surviving example from a class of 59 carriages specially designed to work on the steam routes which comprised London’s transport network. These carriages were known as ‘Jubilee Stock’ in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Those who took their luxuriously upholstered seats on this beautifully restored example of a late Victorian Metropolitan Railway carriage were suitably impressed.

Asked for their favourite aspect of the ‘Jubilee’ carriage, travellers simply replied that it was the fact one of these carriages, the only surviving example, actually existed. They said it was a truly exciting privilege to have the opportunity to create times gone by and ride on something that people over one hundred years ago were using in the age of steam.

Sitting in one of the carriage’s elegantly dressed compartments, the most surprising thing about 353 for nearly everybody asked was the sheer quality of the restoration. They noted the wonderful detail that had been included, like the elaborate MR emblems. One passenger even celebrated the slightly hard ride as an authentic example of the conditions our predecessors would have experienced!  The expert paintwork, gleaming in the summer sun, and rich velvet seating, along with the shiny bronze door handles, were all pointed out by riders as evidence of a really high quality restoration.

For some, the restored Carriage 353 is so fascinating because they have held a life-long interest in railways, or specifically the Metropolitan Railway upon which it used to run. The consensus seemed to be that it provides a tangible link to our heritage, showing us, with great authenticity, how our railways used to look, and how our ancestors used to travel. Nostalgia certainly plays a large part in 353’s attraction, taking us back to the days when the Metropolitan was run entirely by steam.

Whether it was nostalgia, admiration or astonishment, everyone was in complete agreement about one thing: that they had thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to have a ride on Carriage 353 as part of a great day out at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre.

Written by William Cooper, LTM Marketing and Development Intern

Discover Forgotten Metro-land

Metropolitan locomotive No.1 pulling Jubilee Carriage 353 and a couple of Dreadnought carriages on one of its frequent trips along the stretch of line at Quainton Road
Metropolitan locomotive No.1 pulling Jubilee Carriage 353 and a couple of Dreadnought carriages on one of its frequent trips along the stretch of line at Quainton Road

‘Metroland/Beckoned us out to lanes in beechy Bucks’ – Sir John Betjeman

On the 3,4 and 7 August, Buckinghamshire Railway Centre was transported back in time as visitors flocked to a little corner of ‘Metro-land’ to rediscover the delights of a time when steam ruled the railways.

Based at picturesque Quainton Road station, a former outpost of the Metropolitan Railway, the event was a fun-filled extravaganza with a wide variety of family friendly activities to keep people of all ages fully entertained.

The highlight was undoubtedly the appearance of Met Loco No.1 and Jubilee Carriage 353 in full working order, both beautifully restored with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund and London Transport Museum friends in celebration of the Underground’s 150th anniversary. Enthusiasts and families alike savoured the opportunity to see what rail travel was like more than a hundred years ago as regular steam trips took place along a length of track at the Centre.

Brill No.1, a loving recreation of the 1900 Brill branch line trains, recalls past Metro-land journeys
Brill No.1, a loving recreation of the 1900 Brill branch line trains, recalls past Metro-land journeys

Not only did Met Loco No. 1 make an appearance, but so did a recreation of a 1900 Brill branch line engine, resplendent in Metropolitan livery. Visitors were given the opportunity to ride in open carts, reliving the experience of the first Underground travellers. A number of other vintage carriages were also attached to both Brill and Met No. 1.

The train rides didn’t stop there. The Centre’s miniature railway was in full operation, taking its passengers on an extensive tour of the top end of the site through leafy trails and dark tunnels.

As well as the steam train rides, London Transport Museum brought their Safety and Citizenship team, complete with show vehicle, to teach younger visitors how to stay safe while on the transport network. Also present was a bus and Tube bouncy castle which provided entertainment for energetic youngsters, and respite for their tired parents!

Train building was just one of many fun activities for youngsters throughout the day
Train building was just one of many fun activities for youngsters throughout the day

Craft workshops, an array of locomotives and rolling stock, a model railway, a fascinating museum, and film screenings of Sir John Betjeman’s Metro-land, amongst countless other activities, truly ensured this was an event to remember. The café provided tasty snacks and refreshments for those needing a bit of an energy boost in the warm August sun.

It was a fantastic few days which brought to life a forgotten Metro-land, with Buckinghamshire Railway Centre providing a fitting backdrop for another opportunity to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the London Underground.

Written by William Cooper, LTM Marketing and Development Intern

An Art Deco Classic in Metroland

A good proportion of the vehicles in the Museum are maintained as working exhibits, and as such are, from time to time, allowed back on the road or rails, giving the public the opportunity to sample travel from earlier eras.

The Rickmansworth Canal Festival in mid-May provided an ideal opportunity for just such an outing. The festival has grown over the last 20 years or so into a major waterways event, drawing large crowds. Many of these visitors have a more general transport interest, so it’s an ideal opportunity to dust down a train or two and let them loose on the Metropolitan Line. This year two trains were running: a train of A62 stock and a train of 1938 tube stock.

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Being valuable historic items the Museum has to make sure that the trains are well-stewarded, and a mix of LTM staff and volunteers fulfil this requirement. Safety is also important, as is ticket inspection. The trains run mixed in with the normal service, and I saw a number of people try to board the A62 assuming that it was a normal service train. In fairness I suppose it is only a year or so since they were withdrawn.

Also out and about was the prototype Routemaster RM1 from the Museum’s collection, assisting with the bus connection from Rickmansworth station to the festival site, again with crews and stewards drawn from Museum volunteers.

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I was lucky enough to ride on both trains and RM1. The A62 was in ‘as withdrawn’ condition, and truth be told it was as if it had never been away. On the other hand the 1938 stock train is restored in immaculate condition, and regular readers will have seen it being prepared for service by Chris Daniels in an earlier post on the Volunteers’ blog.

Both trains drew a good number of passengers, but inevitably it was 1938 stock that was the star of the show. I can confirm that it gave a very lively ride, and drew many an admiring look from passengers on the new S8 trains. The interior was a delight, including the period adverts. Oh to be a guard on £25 14/6 a week.

Dave Olney, Volunteer

Poster of the Week: Summer nights

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Summer nights, Vladimir Polunin, 1930
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And finally, summer reaches London! Always a fantastic time to explore the Capital, with so many wonderful activities and events on offer – from alfresco dining through to one of the world’s greatest classical music festivals, the BBC proms. This week’s Poster of the Week celebrates summer nights in London. Designed by Vladimir Polunin in 1930, it promotes the Tube’s services as extending beyond the daily commute, enticing passengers to discover the glamour and excitement of London’s nightlife.

Born in Moscow, Polunin studied in St Petersberg, Munich and Paris before becoming a chief designer for the Russian Ballet and later Opera, along with teaching at the Slade School in London. Such a varied cultural background made Polunin an excellent choice of artist to depict London’s cultural highlights.

Interestingly, this poster also features the Underground’s headquarters at 55 Broadway, designed by Charles Holden. An impressive example of modernist architecture, it was the tallest office building in Westminster when it opened in 1929. Its inclusion in the poster design adds to the portrayal of a modern, dynamic, bigger and brighter London.

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Riding Shotgun on Met 353

The more observant amongst you will have noticed that the restoration of Metropolitan Railway carriage no. 353 by the Museum has been one of the highlights of the Underground 150 celebrations. Dating from 1892, 353 has been the centrepiece of the show, and has appeared a number of times on the recent steam runs on the Underground.

Late in May came the ‘Steam on the Met’ event (if you missed it there’s another similar run in September!), giving the opportunity for members of the public to ride behind a steam loco on the main line in a variety of old rolling stock, hauled by a steam engine. A British Rail 0-6-0 pannier tank built in the early 1950s, 9466, did the honours. No. 353 formed part of the train, and museum volunteers were fully involved with Underground staff in stewarding the event and making sure that all passed off well for the customers.

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Electric loco ‘Sarah Siddons’ and diesel 20 189 in its London Transport red livery were also in the train – no way were we going to be allowed to breakdown and block the line! Your humble scribe was pressed into action as a steward, and very enjoyable it was too. A freezing cold day found me joining the team at Harrow-on-the-Hill station for a full briefing prior to doing two round trips to Amersham. After joining the train our customers got on as well, and we were treated to a surprisingly fast run out to Amersham.

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The atmosphere in the carriage was wonderful, with steam pouring past the windows, the Victorian ambience and the shared enjoyment of travelling first class in deep red plush seats on the Metropolitan Line.

Everything passed off smoothly, other than the cold, wet weather: time was kept, and all passengers thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They also had the opportunity to chat about the history of 353 with the volunteers, who had received background notes from Dave Taylor (volunteer). Between the two trips we had a chance to retire to a pub in Harrow for a very late lunch, which was very welcome; strictly no alcohol though.

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353 will be out and about quite a bit in 2013, and not just on London Underground lines, so there will be a chance to sample its delights at a number of different heritage railway events. Keep a lookout on the Museum’s Vehicles on the Move page!

Dave Olney, Volunteer

Semi Detached Holden?

London’s transport heritage isn’t just about the vehicles; there is also a lot of very important legacies in the network infrastructure. Perhaps one of the better known parts is the architectural work of Charles Holden. I thought I knew it – until I was lucky enough to join the trial run of a new walking tour that the Museum offered to the public as part of the London Festival of Architecture summer programme, which ran throughout June.

Ten of us met at Oakwood station, at the outer reaches of the Piccadilly Line, including our guide for the tour, David Burnell, a long standing Friend of the museum and, more recently, volunteer. David started us off with a knowledgeable discourse on the history of the roots of Holden’s involvement in Underground architecture and the styles that influenced him. Next was a very informative and discerning explanation of the result, using both the interior and exterior of Oakwood to demonstrate the story.

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What did I learn? Well, art deco isn’t a type of architecture; it’s the design features. The architectural style is generally described as ‘British Modernism’.  And Holden only designed one half of his stations, the street level elements. The rail level design was the responsibility of Stanley Heaps, London Transport’s in house architect. They certainly gel well.

From Oakwood we caught a Piccadilly Line train one stop south to Southfields station, another Holden masterpiece, to my eye reminiscent of something from a Buck Rogers comic strip. Under David’s expert eye we also took a 15 minute walking detour via a fine selection of Edwardian suburbia.

Back at Southfield, we again took a train to Arnos Grove, the third in our trio of Holden’s, featuring a rectangular street building as at Oakwood. David again gave us an excellent overview of the main features of the building.

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Ever a glutton for punishment, I stayed on for the optional one hour walk through Arnos Park to Abbotshall Avenue, to see a fine row of 1930s Modernism houses, not to mention a detour to see the Arnos Park viaduct of the Piccadilly Line, an imposing brick edifice.

Dave Olney, Volunteer

Poster of the Week: By Underground to Fresh Air

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By Underground to Fresh Air, 1915, Maxwell Ashby Armfield
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This week’s poster was created for the Underground in 1915 by the British artist Maxwell Ashby Armfield. Born in 1881 into a Quaker family in Hampshire, Armfield studied at the Birmingham School of Art where he met his wife Constance Smedley.  She was a feminist, a suffragette and a writer. Constance wrote about contemporary life and the experiences of women. She published more than twenty novels, some of which her husband illustrated.

Maxwell Ashby Armfield finished his education in Paris at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere and the Atelier Colarossi, whose progressive teaching methods suited him and are reflected in his work. He went on to become a successful writer, illustrator and stage designer. ‘By Underground to Fresh Air’ still has a contemporary feel despite its age but it would have seemed strikingly modern when first seen. In 1915 Armfield also painted a portrait of the artist Edward McKnight Kauffer. Kauffer had been awarded his first poster commission for the Underground in the same year and went on to become one of the most influential graphic designers of his generation. Over the next 25 years he created more than 120 posters for the Underground Group and London Transport.

Both artists were influenced by Japanese art, which was prevalent at the time and aspects of Armfield’s poster design are similar in style to a Japanese woodcut. The softly coloured discs with delicate patterning appear like bright planetary forms in the night sky. The circles cut into the dark surround could also be interpreted as lights at the end of a tunnel, each leading to a different destination. This visionary poster encouraged passengers to escape to the countryside and beyond by Underground, however by 1915 the First World War was raging, with little sign that the hostilities would end quickly as was first predicted. This poster was therefore one of the last to promote leisure travel during the war period.

The first edition of the Metro-land guidebook was published in 1915, illustrating the benefits of moving to one of London’s new suburbs. The Metropolitan Railway had extended out towards the northwest and the term Metro-Land had been coined to describe the railway suburbs that had sprung up around it. A publicity campaign extoling the benefits of fresh air and healthy living had supported this expansion. Golders Green station opened in 1907 and by the time ‘Underground to Fresh Air’ was commissioned in 1915, ten million journeys a year were being made from this station.

Researched and written by Chloe Taylor (Trainee Curator), Valia Lamprou (Curatorial Intern) and Kirsty Parsons (Curatorial Intern)

Why not Discover Forgotten Metro-land this weekend and next week at Buckinghamshire Railway Centre

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