Past becomes Present with Steam Underground

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Met 1 at Hammersmith Station on 30th July 2014

On a humid summer night on the platforms of Northfields station, with the last Piccadilly and District line services faithfully plying the tracks, we waited with excitement.

We were waiting for the reassuring ‘chuffing’ sound of a steam train in the distance. As it came closer the sound grew louder until, at 23.38, we witnessed the arrival of Met 1 accompanied by her familiar whistle and plume of steam for the first time since the 150th anniversary celebrations of the London Underground in 2013.

The train, comprising the now familiar line up of Met 1, the Milkvan, Carriage 353, the Chesham set of coaches and Sarah Siddons, was being tested during engineering hours ahead of the Museum’s summer programme of heritage train outings taking place throughout August.

Following its prompt departure from Northfields the train, hauled by Met 1, made its way along the District and Circle lines up to Moorgate, surprising unsuspecting late night travellers as it slowly progressed along the line and through near empty stations.

Without a glitch the train soon reached Edgware Road, quickly filling the tunnels of the oldest part of the London Underground with steam, while the unmistakable smell of the coals delighted the senses of everyone who had the opportunity to travel on the train on this warm July morning.

After refilling at Moorgate, it was the turn of Sarah Siddons to haul the train, now with a free reign following the shutdown of the system all the way to Hammersmith. The journey was repeated for a second time before the arrival of the dawn chorus and the start of another working day.

We hope you’ll join us on these historic and memorable journeys with Met 1 on Saturday 2 and 9 August. For more information go to: Heritage Vehicle Outings

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Posters and Propaganda

To tie in with our First World War Exhibition Goodbye Piccadilly we’ve focused our current Poster Parade on the use of Propaganda in posters, specifically those used on the Homefront. The 20 posters featured reflect advertising campaigns during both the First and Second World Wars.

The term ‘propaganda’ is not easy to define and all of the posters featured can be interpreted differently. Propaganda messages during this time were included, often surreptitiously, in advertising and other public messages.. At the beginning of the First World War, we can identify an emphasis on encouraging leisure travel and shopping. During the Second World War, we see greater use of patriotic and politically charged imagery. Posters also served to boost morale and provide safety information to the general public. However propaganda is defined, the posters produced in wartime were designed to influence thoughts and promote specific action.

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They shout for joy, they also sing – Flags of Allied Nations, 1944, Austin Cooper

Austin Cooper, a Canadian born artist, moved to London in 1922 and began producing posters for London Transport. Cooper is mainly known for his colourful, abstract style and in the pre-war years produced posters promoting travel by underground to places of heritage and the museums in South Kensington (http://tinyurl.com/cnspj9)

The poster‘They shout for joy, they also sing – Flags of Allied Nations’ (1944) is strikingly different to his other works. The central flags of The Republic of China, The United States of America, The Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) and Great Britain represent the super powers of the time. The white star and blue background at the top of the poster is reminiscent of the League of Nations, which was formed after the First World War. Is its inclusion intended as a symbol of unity?

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We had difficulty identifying all of the flags, but fortunately Cooper designed a key to illustrate them!

If you want to learn more about propaganda posters during the First World War, why not attend the talk by David Bownes, Assistant Director of Collections at the National Army Museum, at London Transport Museum on Tuesday 2 September.

Written by Hayley Jedrzejewski, Collections Assistant

London at Play

London is endlessly entertaining; brimming with opportunities for pleasure, and play. For over a century the Underground has used posters to increase passenger numbers by promoting pleasure trips and leisure destinations. An amazing array of London attractions have been featured. A closer look reveals the timeless allure of pleasure and the changing face of entertainment.

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Nightly Carnival, by Frederick Charles Herrick, 1924
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Brightest London and Home by Underground, Horace Taylor, 1924

In the 1920’s and 30’s posters promoting London’s theatres and cinemas drew audiences into the West End. The cherubs in James Herrick’s poster, Nightly Carnival, scatter stars beneath their feet creating a sparkling map of well-known theatres. The Underground stations are cast as planets in a clever reinterpretation of the roundel and bar. Brightest London is less subtle but equally seductive. Horace Taylor’s striking design appealed to those who enjoyed dancing, cabaret and dining out. The draw of evening entertainments increased travel after the early evening rush hour.

Amongst the daytime pleasures on offer, shopping played a prominent role. London has long been considered the shopping capital of Britain. Posters enticed shoppers away from their local high streets to the grand department stores of the West End by promoting sales and seasonal shopping. The Underground even experimented with special season tickets for women passengers shopping in the January sales. The indulgence of shopping continues to pull in the crowds.

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Summer Sales Quickly Reached, by Mary Koop, 1925
Simply Indulge
Simply indulge, by Charlotte Knox, 2001

Posters promoting sporting events and picnics in the park attracted large crowds to London’s stadiums and open spaces. Before television the only way to see events like the boat race or the cup final was to go along. The Underground produced thousands of small posters to promote sporting events all over London every weekend. A trip to the Zoo became the most publicised leisure destination, offering Sunday outings and evening visits. Posters promoting carnivals, festivals and fairs continue to invite Londoners out to play. The cities buses, trains and tube keep pleasure at the heart of London life.

Come out to Play
Come out to play, by Clifford Ellis and Rosemary Ellis, 1936
Come out to play tonight!

Don’t forget to join us this evening for our Carnival-themed Friday Late! http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/events-calendar/friday-lates