Poster of the Week: Theatre – go by Underground

Theatre – go by Underground, Barnett Freedman, 1936

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Have you been to a pantomime this festive season? Or perhaps you have been to see a play. This lovely pair of posters by Barnett Freedman would have encouraged Underground passengers from the 1930s to head to the theatre for entertainment.

Each poster works just as effectively on its own as it does in a pair, with the Underground roundel logo on the left poster enough to indicate that the Underground is the best way to get to the theatre. The posters were sometimes displayed together, and sometimes separately, as the two photos below show.

Putney Bridge Station, January 1937
Putney Bridge Station, 1937

Westminster station
Westminster Station, 1936

Up close, the posters show Freedman’s mastery as an auto-lithographer. Auto-lithography is when an artist draws directly onto the lithographic plates or stones themselves, rather than let the litho-craftsmen at the printers adapt their original artwork. This poster shows Freedman’s innovative use of this technique to create unique textures in the poster. Barnett Freedman was a pioneer in the revival of colour lithography and he illustrated numerous literary works as well as designing publicity for Shell, the BBC and the General Post Office and Ealing Films.

It’s almost the final week of our Poster Art 150 exhibition – so come along and marvel at Freedman’s craftsmanship before 5 January. And don’t forget to vote for your favourite!

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Poster of the Week: Keep Warm:Travel Underground

Keep Warm:Travel Underground, Kathleen Stenning, 1925

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As part of the exhibition, the Siemens Poster Vote seeks to find out what your favourite poster is. Is it this one? Let us know by voting now!

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With Christmas just around the corner and the weather suitably chilly, it can be with some relief when you descend into the warmth of your local Underground station.

The Underground Group’s publicity department often promoted the Tube as the best way to travel, whatever the unpredictable British weather. In 1925, Kathleen Stenning was commissioned to design a set of four posters presenting the Underground as a refuge from extreme weather conditions and the most appropriate way to navigate the Capital. In this version of Stenning’s series, the Underground is portrayed as warm, vibrant and festive, encouraging people to get out and about despite the winter cold.

In the same way that the red house stands out as a beacon of warmth and comfort against the snow, so does the Underground train. It is alive with activity, with one woman selling flowers and a glamorous couple alighting. While there are no people to be seen above ground– all presumably huddled up in their homes (or travelling Underground)  – the train is full of people.

Promoting the capacity to provide refuge in inclement weather was a popular concept for the Underground Group during the 1920s. It was a theme that had been used in the Group’s publicity since its inception, with a number of posters emphasising the warmth and brightness of the system. 1926 and 1927 saw a duo of celebrated posters, a variation on a set by Austin Cooper in 1924, produced by Frederick Charles Herrick which similarly stressed the protective nature of the Tube.

Although the image in the poster is inevitably idealised, it is still true that when the snow is falling and the roads are impassable, the Underground can act as a source of comfort to Londoners enjoying the festive period.

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Steam returns to Uxbridge

L150 going through Ruislip Manor © Graham Smith

On a perfect winter’s day on Sunday 8th December, London Transport Museum held its final steam runs celebrating the 150th anniversary of the London Underground. It was a fitting finale to what has been an unprecedented year of heritage steam operations on the world’s oldest Underground railway.

The day was also special thanks to its unique route. It has been a number of years since steam has been seen on the Uxbridge branch of the Metropolitan line and it is possible that it will never happen again. It was a thrill to witness L150 and a Class 20 diesel, with British Rail 4TCs and Jubilee carriage 353 in tow, steaming through the likes of Hillingdon and Ruislip Manor. Met Loco No.1 was sadly absent after a fault was discovered in its pre-run safety checks. Thankfully, L150 was a more than adequate back-up!

The first trip left at 10.50, with a real sense of excitement in the air. As I stood on the platform guiding people to their carriages, I fielded a number of questions from bewildered regular Underground travellers who, expecting their usual service to Uxbridge, must have felt they had travelled back in time.

Uxbridge steam runs December 2013 © Christopher Westcott

As the first train steamed through West London, revellers waited at intermediary stations to catch a glimpse and a photo. The air was clear and crisp, making for some picturesque images of billowing steam. Enthusiasm certainly didn’t wane throughout the day, with each of the runs sold out.

There was particular interest in the Museum’s Victorian Jubilee carriage 353, recently restored and a regular fixture in this year’s Tube 150 celebrations. Every inch of the luxurious upholstery and smooth woodwork was examined by inquisitive passengers. Those lucky enough to ride in the carriage were treated to the unique experience of travelling 1890s style!

As the gloom began to gather and the last train departed Harrow-on-the-Hill, the day came to a close. It had been extremely enjoyable and an appropriate denouement to all the events and celebrations which have taken place this year, which began with the extraordinary Underground steam trips in central London this January.

Thank you to all who have bought tickets to the steam events, and rest assured the Museum is currently planning an exciting programme for our heritage vehicles in 2014.

Toyland Mobilizing for Christmas in 1914

Tony Sarg, In Toyland, 1913 © TfL

Throughout 1913, Tony Sarg produced a series of 12 posters called ‘Humours of London’ for the Underground Electric Railways Company of London. They were issued monthly and depicted humorous scenes of London’s famous places and activities.

For Christmas 1913, Sarg produced a poster called ‘In Toyland’ representing a scene of gift-buying frenzy. Children clamber on the floor with toys in hand, and rotund gentlemen struggle to carry their spoils. Despite Sarg’s gentle mockery of London’s materialism, there is a festive, joyful exuberance to the poster.

The 1913 poster was due to be the last in the ‘Humours’ series but 12 months later, the country was at war. In 1914 Sarg duly produced a topical version of his ‘In Toyland’ poster of the previous Christmas. The image in the top half was identical to the original, but the text and characters in the lower half were altered.

Tony Sarg, Toyland mobilizing for Christmas, 1914 © TfL

Now the text read ‘Toyland mobilizing for Christmas. By Underground to the children’s recruiting depots’. The present-laden family group which originally occupied the space is replaced by toy soldiers in khaki, horse-drawn guns and ambulances. There is even a rather graphic depiction of an allied toy soldier standing on top of a vanquished, decapitated German combatant.

The poster was issued for Christmas 1914 and this patriotic version of the original would have been seen as a popular alternative to the usual Christmas poster. There was some initial optimism after the declaration of war that it would ‘all be over by Christmas’ but by the time December arrived it was obvious that it wouldn’t be.

Interestingly, Sarg actually originated from Germany. He entered a military academy when he was 14 years old and received a commission as lieutenant at the age of 17. However, in 1905 Sarg gave up his commission to the German military and moved to the United Kingdom, before finally moving to the United States in 1915.

Apprentice Recruitment Day Round-up


We are very excited to be recruiting for our Battle Bus apprentices, and on Friday 13th December we held a day specifically designed to put a group of prospective candidates through their paces! Each of the day’s activities provided an insight into the workings of the Museum and challenged them to demonstrate innovative ideas and the potential to fulfil the new roles.

First the candidates were tasked to explore the Museum, choosing one object that resonated with them, before collecting facts and stories with which they would hope to inspire their peers. It’s essential that the apprentices have an enthusiasm for heritage objects but more importantly that they are able to communicate and pass on this enthusiasm to others. Each candidate pitched their object to members of a small group before the group negotiated and nominated one object to go forward to the afternoon’s activities.

Engaging with different audiences will be key to the apprentice’s role. To help the participants demonstrate their skills and understand what it takes we asked each group to choose an audience from a hat (for example a local youth group or a class of primary school children). Next they had to think about how they would engage their audience with the object they had chosen, what questions would they ask, what stories would they tell and how? Each group presented their ideas back, the highlight of which saw staff and candidates playing 10-year olds delivering a well thought out school session!


Following this, each group was asked to develop and design an activity around their object, including a timeline of activities, resources and outcomes. The activity could take any form they wished and we saw ideas emerge around immersive theatre, bus tickets issued with facts on and sessions run in carriages.

It was an inspiring day which tested the enthusiasm, ideas and potential of everyone who took part. It also provided some serious rumination and tough decision making for those of us at the Museum, at the end of a long day, while choosing successful candidates to go through to the next stage…watch this space!

Poster of the Week: Where it is warm and bright

Where it is warm and bright, Verney L Danvers, 1924

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As part of the exhibition, the Siemens Poster Vote seeks to find out what your favourite poster is. Is it this one? Let us know by voting now!

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One of the best things about winter celebrations is the abundance of lights, and so it seems fitting to focus this week on a poster that exudes ideas of warmth and illumination – not only in its design but also in it’s title.

A perfect example of ‘soft sell’ advertising from the heyday of the Underground, this evocative image of the City by Verney L Danvers depicts a London street scene at night, thick with winter fog. The bright red Underground symbol – representing a familiar beacon in the gloom – invities the blurred figures into a haven of warmth and brightness.

The poster shows workers heading home in the evening after a day of toil. Many of these people would have been heading off into the suburbs of London which, at the time this poster was designed, were rapidly developing – very much as a result of the expansion of the Underground.

This poster is one of many examples in London Transport Museum’s archive of a lifestyle, or subliminal, approach to promoting travel on the Underground network. Perhaps though, it is more interesting in that it is also highlights the promotion of a brand identity that is now recognised as one of the most enduring symbols in the world.

Written by Wendy Neville, Marketing and Communications Manager

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What came before the B-type bus?

FischerPetrol-Electric bus
Fischer Petrol-Electric bus, imported from the USA in 1903 and used for experimental road trials by the LGOC. The bus never entered service. Copyright TfL

When put into service in October 1910, the B-type was London’s first standardised and mass-produced motor bus, with an unprecedented level of reliability. But what came before the B-type bus?

In 1829, George Shillibeer began running the first bus services in London, powered by horses. Throughout the nineteenth century, horses continued to haul the majority of omnibus services through London’s crowded streets. The technology for mechanical buses gradually evolved, but their development was hindered by a number of factors. The Locomotives Act of 1865 (the ‘Red Flag Act’) stated that mechanically propelled road vehicles should not exceed 2mph in towns and 4 mph in the countryside. Furthermore, vehicles were to be led at all times by a man waving a red flag in front. This Act – only repealed in 1896 – plus concerns about road surfaces meant mechanical traction did not develop as quickly as it might have done and horse power continued to dominate until the late nineteenth century.

The first notable attempt at a mechanically operated bus was invented by Walter Hancock and introduced by the London and Paddington Steam Carriage Company in April 1833. Named ‘The Enterprise’ the steam bus ran between the City, Islington and Paddington. In 1836 another steam bus was introduced by Hancock called ‘Automaton’. It successfully made over 700 journeys between Paddington, Islington, Moorgate and Stratford during its operational life.

In 1889 the first battery-electric omnibus, albeit unsuccessfully, was tried by Radcliffe-Ward. Built as a single-deck vehicle, it reportedly had a top speed of 7 mph but never entered service.

First Thomas Tilling Motor Bus 34 seater on Milnes-Daimler chassis. Commenced service 29th September 1904. Copyright TfL

In June 1902 the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) introduced a Fischer petrol-electric bus, but it’s cumbersome size and high petrol consumption was prohibitive. The LGOC then introduced a steam bus from October 1904 to June 1905 between Hammersmith and Piccadilly Circus, and although it lost them money, it convinced the company that mechanical traction was the future. It is interesting to note that the main focus initially was on steam or electric engines, rather than petrol.

However, it soon became clear that the petrol motor bus would win out. The introduction of the Milnes-Daimler double decker – first used by Thomas Tilling’s – was highly influential in bus development from then on. It first entered service on 30 September 1904, the same year that LGOC set aside £20,000 for motor bus development.

Despite further experimentation, motor buses were still unreliable and since there were so many different bus companies, financial difficulty and unproductive rivalries were commonplace. Subsequently, the bus companies came to a decision that they should amalgamate and on July 1 1908 LGOC, Vanguard and Union Jack came together into a greatly enlarged LGOC. With this expansion, LGOC decided it was a better idea to just build its own bus using Vanguard’s overhaul works at Walthamstow. The best features of the wide variety of buses of the previous years were combined into a single bus, named the X-type, until the more refined B-type was completed on October 7 1910.

The genius of these new buses was that the parts were made to such fine measurements that they could be interchanged between buses, increasing reliability and decreasing maintenance costs. The B-type saw revenue and shares leap, and in January 1912 LGOC was taken over by the Underground Electric Railways Company of London. The success of the B-type, however, was the result of years of trial and error.

Pre-First World War Newspaper Clippings uncovered in Seat Cushion


As part of the restoration of our B-type bus, the Battle Bus project restoration team have been carefully examining an original seat cushion. Intriguingly there were, lodged between the layers of fabric and matting, little scraps of old newspaper. The fragments tell some fascinating stories affecting the everyday lives of Londoners all those years ago.

One contains an advertisement which mentions ‘The Yarmouth Belle’ – a paddle steamer, built in 1898, that regularly sailed between London, Clacton and Yarmouth until the late 1920s. According to the advert, the steamer was due to leave London Bridge at 08.55.

Another fragment describes the cost of a ‘bedstead with bedding’ as 4/-monthly. In today’s money that’s about £15.70 – a far cry from today’s prices! It is interesting to note both cash, or credit was accepted for this item, advertised as an ‘Astounding Bargain’.

A final cutting describes fighting between Reds and Nationalists, with nine people killed and 19 others wounded. The early period of the 20th Century, when B-type buses were first used in London, was particularly turbulent. Although vague in detail, the snippet of information reported clashes, possibly between German Nationalists and Communists. Such incidents were commonplace in an unsettled Central Europe on the eve of the First World War.

It is remarkable to think that a few scraps of newspaper survived for so long, hidden from view since the beginning of the 20th century. As work continues on restoring the bus, the team wonders what other exciting material may await discovery!

Poster of the Week: Go out into the country

Go out into the country, Graham Sutherland, 1938

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As part of the exhibition, the Siemens Poster Vote seeks to find out what your favourite poster is. Is it this one? Let us know by voting now!

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Graham Sutherland (1903-1980) started his career as a railway engineer but soon realised that his future lay in the arts. He studied engraving at Goldsmiths’ School of Art from between 1920–1925 and worked as a graphic artist and designer throughout that decade.  In the 1930’s he began to experiment with oil painting and took on a number of poster commissions and applied art projects to fund this new artistic direction. This poster, created towards the end of this period of transition, was the last of five posters designed by Sutherland for London Transport. It represents an exploration of the relationship between the real and the imagined that he went on to express in his surrealist landscapes.  Sutherland contrasts the grey office with the delights of the countryside.  An imaginary river flows colourfully into a lifeless interior; the static typewriter evokes the story-teller’s past presence, replaced by a small bright butterfly fluttering by an open window.

Created in 1938, ‘Go out into the country‘ encouraged leisure travel as an antidote to winter and the uncertain future that faced the country. A cutting from the Daily Express incorporated in the image urges the reader to take advantage of ‘pleasant winter days’ and ‘go out into the country’. Dated January 21st, the message seems optimistic rather than realistic although the image may have served as a reassuring metaphor for brighter times ahead.

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Poster Art 150: Top 10 posters…so far!

As part of our blockbuster Poster Art 150 exhibition we asked you the public to vote for your favourite poster in the Siemens Poster Vote. With only weeks left until the exhibition closes on 5 January 2014, we thought we’d reveal the current top 10 posters. We’ve mixed up the order a little bit here so the leading poster is not revealed quite yet…so, in no particular order;

4-Underground; the way for all
Underground – the way for all (1911) rosetteVote Now

112-Or take the Tube
Or take the Tube (1987) rosetteVote Now

29-The Tate Gallery by tube
The Tate Gallery by Tube (1986) rosetteVote Now

61-For the zoo book to Regent's Park
For the Zoo (1921) rosetteVote Now

2-Brightest London is best reached by Underground
Brightest London is best reached by Underground (1924) rosetteVote Now

27-Map of the Underground
Map of the Underground (1933) rosetteVote Now

144-London 2026 AD; this is all in the air
London 2026 AD (1926) rosetteVote Now

21-The lure of the Underground
The lure of the Underground (1927) rosetteVote Now

58-London Zoo
London Zoo (1976) rosetteVote Now

33-The quickest way to the dogs
The quickest way to the dogs (1927) rosetteVote Now


Are you surprised by any of the posters in this Top 10? Disappointed that your favourite hasn’t made the grade? Well you can change the Top 10 by voting for your favourite, or any of the other 140 posters in the exhibition, now…before it’s too late!

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