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.
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.
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.