I have just realised that today, 3rd May, is the anniversary of the opening of the 1951 Festival of Britain. The Festival was a showcase of the best of British design and technology, including fascinating transport exhibits representing a new future.
By the end of the Second World War, like the people it served, London’s transport system had been exhausted. Steel was not readily available, so the designers used aluminium for the new District Line trains instead. Keen to show off their new trains, London Transport exhibited a prototype (car 23231) at the Festival of Britain site on the South Bank, and it is shown here being shipped in and only partially painted – just two days before the site opened to the public. In their final production versions, the train exteriors were left as bare unpainted metal, a feature of several post-war Underground stock types.
In the background, the Dome of Discovery (one of the main Festival of Britain exhibition spaces) and the Skylon structure can be seen. More than 8.5 million people visited the South Bank site for the Festival, and many of them will have seen this new London Transport design proudly on display.
Here’s another image of the car transported by Pickfords Road Services roadtrailer from Metro-Cammell at Birmingham, set to be offloaded at the Festival of Britain site on 1st May 1951.
These trains, known as R49 stock, finally went into formal public service in 1953, were stalwarts for 30 years and were eventually replaced by the D-stock and C-stock. All had left service by 1983.