Goodbye Tube150, Hello Year of the Bus!

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Shopping by Tube and Bus, Christopher Corr, 1998 (Detail)

The year of the 150th anniversary of the London Underground has been the most remarkable year for London Transport Museum since we opened in Covent Garden over thirty years ago.

The organisation of the associated celebratory events and projects was a massive undertaking. From the planning of a public programme based on a new social history of the Underground, the undertaking of two innovative restoration projects – Metropolitan loco no.1 and Jubilee carriage 353 – and the operation of steam hauled special services within the original London Underground tunnels of 1863  to arguably the Museum’s most extensive special exhibition, Poster 150 – London Underground’s Greatest Designs, in newly extended galleries. All of this, along with  the opening of the disused station at Aldwych throughout November, was delivered with huge success to record audiences. Indeed, Tube150 provoked broad public interest in London, well beyond the rail enthusiast, and this was echoed by worldwide press coverage. The Underground’s own reputation soared to a new high in January 2013 and throughout the year the Museum experienced record levels of patronage for visits, corporate events, fundraising, retail, online trading and access.

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Tube150 Publicity Image, Courtesy of TfL

In December 2013, a remarkable year was crowned by the Heritage Railway Association making its premier award to the Museum and Transport for London (TfL).  That the Peter Manisty Award should be given to the busiest metro in the world is a reflection on just what was achieved in 2013. When did an operating railway, let alone one of the world’s busiest metros, win industry and public recognition for such an enlightened attitude to its heritage? During the year, the steam trains have run over 350 miles and conveyed nearly 10,000ticket holders, guests and staff in a self-funded service with no delays to the travelling public. Only an organisation confident in its abilities and respectful of its unique heritage could have encouraged us to work through the myriad of operational constraints to operate steam amongst service trains.  This was achieved by a team drawn from a number of areas in the Underground – timetabling, line operations, test crew drivers, rolling stock, heritage trains – and to such a professional degree that there was no interruption to the service.

This award-winning year is no flash in the pan. Having built up such momentum and expertise within the Museum and Underground team, 2014 will see another busy programme of steam-hauled events on Underground metals. The Bluebell’s Ashbury set will return in August 2014 for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Hammersmith & City line’s opening in 1864. Met no.1, the milk van, carriage 353 and the Bluebell rake will run on two Saturdays, 2nd and 9th August, from Hammersmith into Moorgate and back. The following weekend, 16 and17th August, steam will take over the Chesham branch for the first time since 1962. Steam services will run from Rickmansworth, with the replacement bus service for the branch being complimented by a heritage bus service.

Tube150 has broadened and deepened support for our Museum. Delighted with the profile of the anniversary, TfL has asked us to similarly programme with them for future years, starting with a Year of the Bus  in 2014, sponsored by Exterion Media. The success of the year has deepened our relationship with sponsors such as Cubic, Siemens and the former CBSO, and funders such as Heritage Lottery Fund and the Arts Council, and created new relationships with over two hundred individual donors. We are translating this support into a new Patrons Circle and aiming it initially towards our Battlebus project, with the restored B2737 to participate in the commemoration of the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War later in 2014.

New Routemaster at Tower Bridge_CROP

As we move from Tube150 into the Year of the Bus, we can reflect on the power of well planned and meticulously delivered heritage events in central London to engage Londoners and to attract external sponsorship. In June 2014, we will bring a cavalcade of historic buses to Regents Street, a unique gathering of 25 vehicles dating from 1908 to the New Routemaster, to mark the contribution of the motor bus  to London since 1898. We will deliver a range of community events at bus garages around London, present fresh insights into London during the First World War in our Goodbye Piccadilly – from the home front to the Western Front exhibition from May and return our restored B-type bus to Flanders in September and October as part of the centenary commemorations.

Post written by Sam Mullins, Museum Director

To find out more about London Transport Museum’s events programme, including heritage vehicle runs, visit www.ltmuseum.co.uk. You can also sign up for the Museum e-Newsletter, and follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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Happy Birthday B2737!

StreetsceneatHammersmith
Street scene at Hammersmith, with buses and pedestrians. B-Type Bus, number B204, LGOC, Route 9, Copyright TfL

The B-type bus we are restoring, B2737, is turning 100! Introduced into service in January 1914, B2737 originally worked out of Mortlake garage in south west London and plied its trade on route 9 before being requisitioned by the War Department. Although Mortlake garage no longer exists, route 9 is still flourishing. Today it is worked by the New Bus for London as well as a small fleet of heritage Routemasters in the central London area.

The early 20th century was an exciting period, with new technological developments revolutionising how we travelled and the way we lived. Whilst the B-type bus was London’s first mass produced standardised motor bus, a number of other transport developments took place the same year it was built. The world’s first electric traffic light was introduced (Ohio, USA). Whilst in the air, the first scheduled commercial flight took place (St Petersburg to Tampa, USA). Although now a ubiquitous sight, the first road cone was invented by Charles P Rudebaker in 1914.

Recently our project engineer, Richard Peskett, also celebrated his birthday (not another centennial, I hasten to add!). He received a wonderful B-type themed birthday cake and it seems fitting to also dedicate it to our bus. Happy birthday B2737!

The Kitemark on our B-type bus

British Kitemark on rear wheel

A small but intriguing discovery during the restoration has been the sight of a British Standard ‘Kitemark’ found on the rear wheels. The recognised symbol that something is ‘up to standard’ has existed since the beginning of the twentieth century. On 22 January 1901, Sir John Wolfe-Barry, who designed London’s Tower Bridge, persuaded the Council of the Institution of Civil Engineers to form a committee to discuss standardising iron and steel sections. This led to the creation of the British Standard Mark in 1903, which later become known as the Kitemark. Today it can be seen displayed on a variety of products, traditionally those which require a high level of safety.

Tramway rails were the first item to be standardised, with the introduction of the Kitemark reducing the number of Tramway gauges from 75 to 5. From April 1929, the British Engineering Standards Association was granted a royal charter.

The Kitemark on our B-type suggests the sort of quality that led to its reputation for reliability. It would have certified the construction methods and materials necessary to build a safe and effective wheel. Unfortunately, after further research we have been unable to locate the record for BS850 in the British Standards Institution archive. It possible that being such an early Kitemark, the record was simply lost as the technology evolved or became redundant. It is worth noting wheels with solid rubber tyres had almost completely vanished by the early 1930s whilst the only record found relating to BS number BS850 dates from 1939, and is completely unrelated to tyres.

Employees of the London General Omnibus Company were constantly advised to put ‘Safety First’ and the doctrine ran through to the design and construction of the vehicles used by the company. This small but important sign acknowledges this early emphasis on safety in transport.

Poster Art 150: And the Winner is…

Brightest London is best reached by Underground, Horace Taylor, 1924

basket Buy Brightest London Poster

The results are in and the public have decided that the best London Underground poster of all time is Brightest London is best reached by Underground, designed by Horace Taylor in 1924.

Over 42,000 people voted in the Siemens Poster Vote, choosing from 150 posters that featured in our exhibition Poster Art 150 – London Underground’s Greatest Designs.

Brightest London drew 1752 of the votes with London Zoo by Abram Games (1976) and Underground – the way for all by Alfred France (1911) – securing 1614 and 1342 votes respectively.

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London Zoo, Abram Games, 1976 © Estate of Abram Games
4-Underground; the way for all
Underground – the way for all, Alfred France, 1911

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

basket Buy London Zoo Poster
basket Buy Underground – the Way for All Poster

The winning poster was created when cinemas still showed black and white films; vibrant posters like this splashed colour into 1920s London. The Underground is presented as bright, popular and extremely fashionable with a very smart crowd heading out for a night on the town. Still vibrant almost 90 years after it first brightened Underground stations, it is easy to imagine how effective it must have been at the time. The artist’s granddaughter once explained that Taylor often liked to paint himself into his posters. In this one he is the gentleman with the top hat and the beard on the middle escalator.

The Poster Art 150 exhibition opened on 15 February 2013 and was due to close in October but was extended until 5 January 2014 due to popular demand. It formed part of the 150th anniversary of the London Underground celebrations and featured posters by many famous artists including Edward McKnight Kauffer, Man Ray and Paul Nash, and designs from each decade over the last 100 years. Information about some of the posters featured in the exhibition can be found on this blog.

The posters were selected from the Museum’s archive of over 3,300 Underground posters by a panel of experts; the 150 that appeared in the exhibition show the range and depth of the Museum’s collection.

Director of London Transport Museum, Sam Mullins, said “The number of votes for Brightest London is impressive given the public had a large selection from which to choose.  We’re delighted that so many people participated in the Siemens Poster Vote which reinforces the view that our poster collection is one of the best loved collections of graphic art in the world.”

Siemens Rail Systems UK Managing Director, Steve Scrimshaw, said “We were proud to be part of the 150th anniversary of London Underground, and have been delighted by the success of the Siemens Poster Vote, it has really captured people’s imaginations.  It is fascinating to see how design has changed over the last 150 years – we have many engineers who are passionate about design, maybe Poster Art 150 has given them some new ideas!”

B-type decorative fretwork

Fretwork is a form of decoration usually seen on wood and metal panels. It was particularly popular in the late 19th and early 20th century as a means of adding style to architecture, furniture and household items such as radios. Interestingly, the B-type bus also had distinctive fretwork motifs inside the lower deck saloon. Situated at the end of each aisle of seats, they were constructed through a series of drilled holes.

btype_fretwork

During the restoration process, a number of designs were discovered which differ from the fretwork present in the B-type (B340) held in our Covent Garden museum. B340 is decorated with a London General Omnibus Company emblem – the distinctive winged wheel which was the basis of the London Underground roundel.

B340fretwork

Other popular designs included the outline of a star, an attractive fleur-de-lis and a clover leaf. The decorations were simply aesthetic additions to the saloon area which would have otherwise remained rather plain. This kind of decoration was a legacy of the horse bus era, when such fretwork was common. The B-type was the last London bus to display wooden fretwork and the practice soon disappeared. Buses became further standardised and there was no room for the intricate and unique detailing that had been a hallmark of their predecessors.

Thanks to Antony Roskoss for additional historical information

Poster of the Week: Poster Art 150

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Poster Art 150 (Old East London Line Top) Brightest London, 2013

Vote for your Favourite Poster

As part of the exhibition, the Siemens Poster Vote seeks to find out what your favourite poster is. There’s now only a few days left to see our Poster Art 150 exhibition – so come along before 5 January and don’tforget to vote for your favourite!

Vote Now

This poster is one of six designed as a series to promote London Transport Museum’s fantastic exhibition, Poster Art 150 exhibition – London Underground’s Greatest Designs, a key part of the celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of the world’s first  Underground railway. Each poster comprises ‘teaser’ elements of some of the poster designs to be found in the exhibition. To help bring more clarity to the selection of images, the exhibition has six themes, Finding The Way, Capital Culture, Away From It All, Keeps London Going, Love Your City, and this poster depicting my favourite exhibition grouping, Brightest London.

The poster has been very cleverly designed by the Museum’s Head of Design, Sau-Fun Mo,  and fully represents the largely Art Deco flavour of this exhibition theme, without giving any substantive view of the posters on display. Highly colourful, it attracts attention and subliminally invites people to visit. As is often the case with such intelligently designed posters, the image has been a commercial success; Poster art can still attract great attention as well as function as exemplary marketing. Long may this survive.,. This poster and the other five in the series  can be purchased at our Covent Garden shop and also online – along with other exhibition themed gifts.

There are only a couple of days left to see the  Poster Art 150 exhibition as the last day is Sunday 5 January 2014. You can vote for your favourite in the Siemen’s Poster Vote until midnight the same day. We’ll be announcing the winning poster the following week.

Have you voted for your favourite poster yet?

Vote Now