Our Q stock story – Restoring three rare 1930s Underground train cars

Work is underway at our Museum Depot in Acton to restore three Q stock cars into operational condition. In November we launched a  fundraising appeal to raise the £200,000 necessary to complete this ambitious restoration project.

Q stock trains first entered service on the District line eighty years ago in 1938. Unlike modern trains with identical carriages, Q stock trains were formed from a range of cars with very different profiles – passengers never knew what formation would pull into their platform!

Built in 1938, the newer Q stock cars were strikingly modern with sleek flared sides and smooth, curved roofs. These were purpose-built to be compatible with a range of older converted cars, with American design features. Dating as far back as 1923, these older cars were originally designated as either N, M, L, K or G stock. Running together, the different Q stock cars revealed the evolution of train design through the 1920s and 1930s.

One of the older Q stock car dating from 1923 is on display at the Museum, preserved exactly as it was when it came out of service in September 1971.

To tell the many stories of the Q stock trains, which were in passenger service for several decades, we decided to restore each car to a different moment in time, exploring different themes.

One car will illustrate wartime Britain, and the evacuation of school children from London in September 1939 at the start of the Second World War. The second will reflect life during the post-war years of austerity as London was being rebuilt in the 1940s. In stark contrast, the final car will show the growing prosperity of the 1950s, when people travelled for pleasure, taking trips to Theatreland in the West End and out to Kew Gardens and Richmond Park.

We are still a long way from choosing advertising posters for the cars and upholstering seats to reflect the three different decades, but work enabling these choices has already begun. In spring 2018 a group of Young Volunteers collected memories from people who remember travelling on Q stock trains along the District line, and a new group of Research Volunteers is going to join us soon, to take this research further.

Our aim is to restore the three 1930s Q stock cars into an operational heritage train, formed from a 1935 trailer car and two 1938 driving motor cars. 

A dedicated team of volunteers from all walks of life – from retired London Underground engineers, to carpenters, and engineering and history students – is carrying out work at Acton Depot, such as cleaning, repairing and overhauling the electrics, and wiring on one of the 1938 driving motor cars.

What unites these seemingly different people is their passion for London’s transport heritage, their drive to see the train operate again, and their willingness to learn something new.
If you would like to join the Q stock restoration team, please email: opportunities@ltmuseum.co.uk.

Blog by Katariina Mauranen, Project Manager – Vehicle Restoration. Kat works in London Transport Museum’s curatorial department. She joined the Museum in 2014 as curator for the Battle Bus project and has previously worked on the restoration of historic boats.

School Early Explorer Mornings at London Transport Museum

London Transport Museum is always at its quietest before a School’s Early Explorer Morning. There are no visitors yet and all the sounds in the galleries are turned off. Even late in the evening, long after the Museum closes, you can still hear the occasional audio narration echoing from a distant part of the galleries. But just before an Early Explorer Morning, all those sounds are silenced, and with good reason.

Boy on an Elizabeth Line tube driver simulator
Sounds off on the Elizabeth Line simulator in our new Future Engineers gallery

Our School’s Early Explorer Mornings have been running since 2014 and, three times a year, they provide us with an opportunity to welcome students with a broad range of Special Educational Needs (SEN), including Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), physical, emotional and behavioural needs.

For many SEN students high levels of noise, big groups of people and unfamiliar places can be stressful, uncomfortable and unmanageable. This can make many everyday situations difficult to deal with, and a visit to a museum as busy and noisy as the London Transport Museum is practically impossible. By turning off the sounds across the Museum, restricting the number of groups who come and keeping the Museum closed for an extra hour to allow exclusive access for our SEN students, we can combat some potential barriers to visiting.

Our latest School’s Early Explorer Morning took place on Friday 16 November. For some of the children visiting as part of school groups, it was an opportunity that remains a rare one; one visiting teacher told us the highlight of the trip was that for her learners, we were “giving them opportunities that otherwise [they] wouldn’t have – including driving/sitting on trains and buses”.

A pupil pointing in the All Aboard play zone
Learning through play in our All Aboard play zone

As well as offering a quiet introduction to the Museum, we also provided a number of additional flexible and sensory experiences, designed to cater for a range of learning needs and abilities. Explorers were able to explore our All Aboard play zone, meet historic characters, get close to our collection with our object handling team, climb aboard our vehicles and make use of our self-guided sensory explorer bags.

These multi-sensory bags are filled with objects and resources that enable learners to make deeper connections to our collection. They focus on four key vehicles in the Museum galleries and contain a range of objects for learners to interact with, including sounds, smells, images, props and interactive objects. These were developed in consultation with SEN teachers, pupils and sensory story specialist Jo Grace, as part of our commitment to supporting teachers’ needs across our School’s programmes. They are, according to a visiting speech and language specialist, “like having a little bit of school in a bag”, and “the best such bags she had ever seen.”

Children exploring a heritage train in the Museum
Exclusive access to our collection of heritage vehicles

On a School’s Early Explorer Morning, the Museum stays at its quietest for a while after opening. As the school groups drift in one by one though, the noise rises – although not to the same pitch as when the Museum is at its busiest – with the excitement of children having the entire Museum to themselves when they may not have the opportunity to visit such places at all.

On the 16 November, many of the school groups decided to stay in the Museum after the noises were switched back on, and the Museum opened up to the public and visitors started filtering in. Having become comfortable in the Museum environment, many of the students found that they were more relaxed and more able to be themselves in an occasionally chaotic environment.

A pupil on the top deck of a tram in the Museum
Independent exploration during exclusive access to the Museum

As the visiting teacher said: “thank you for the amazing day on Friday. Our pupils loved it so much and had a day they will always remember.”

The Museum aims to ensure all visitors to have an enjoyable and meaningful learning experience. We are committed to making London Transport Museum as accessible as possible for all children, including those with physical and learning difficulties. And happily, on those quiet mornings when we open only for our Early Explorers, we can.

Our next School’s Early Explorer morning is on Friday 29 March 2019.

The Museum’s Family Programme also delivers Early Explorer Mornings for family visitors. The next one coming up is on Saturday 15 December 2018 from 8.30 until 10.00. In 2019 an Early Explorer Morning or Explorer Evening for families will run every school holiday – dates coming soon.

If you would like more information about the School’s and Family’s Early Explorer mornings and other events, please do get in touch with us on learningmailbox@ltmuseum.co.uk.

Young People’s Skills Programme – by Young Freelancer Aksana Khan

London Transport Museum’s Young Freelancers are young people, aged
16 – 25, passionate about creative learning and museums. They work on a project by project basis supporting workshops and activities for different Museum audiences. They receive support and training whilst learning on the job, and also have the opportunity to complete an Arts Award qualification.

In this blog, Young Freelancer Aksana Khan talks about her first big project which involved supporting the Young People’s Skills Programme.

Image of the six young freelancers aboard a vintage bus in the museum.
Aksana (top left) and the other Young Freelancers

The aim of the Young People’s Skills Programme was to help a group of young volunteers to create an activity for the Skills Late 2018 event at the Museum. A Skills Late is a cross between a jobs fair and a museum late event. This year, we had a live DJ, an Apprentice Lounge, and stands from leading employers in the transport and technology industries such as Bombardier, Hitachi Rail Europe, Microsoft, Mott MacDonald, Siemens, telent, and Transport for London.

Employers’ stands at last year’s Skills Late

Our six talented, young volunteers had varied creative interests from animation and drawing, to story-telling and making maps. What united them was the desire to boost their own skills whilst helping other career seekers.

Lead Freelancer Becky Hatchett and I organised a Design Sprint Week for the volunteers, where they explored the Museum’s collection, attended sessions on presentation skills, and built their Arts Award portfolio.

Skanska graduates talking about their route into work

During this week, they met with members of our Learning Team, Skanska graduates, Hazel Grant (Recruitment Manager at TfL), and Seema Kaler (Transport Planner) who all provided valuable insight on different skills building.

The main focus of Design Sprint Week was for the volunteer to identify solutions to common questions young career seekers have, such as: what questions to ask employers; what different types of jobs exist in transport and infrastructure; how to find out about jobs that suit their interests and skills.

The volunteers divided themselves into groups and presented their solutions to our Learning Team in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style – although much more jovial and relaxed!

Inspired by ‘Poster Girls’, the young volunteers designed their own posters based on their dream job in transport and infrastructure

The Learning Team were blown away by what the volunteers had come up with for the Skills Late event: a fun dress-up station where visitors could wear transport sector uniforms, and volunteers could dress up too while helping visitors navigate the employers’ stands throughout the Museum.

A 3D digital map with information portals on different careers, and a WhatsApp interface so that career seekers could ask people more about the jobs they are looking for. This solution inspired a career mapping activity, and a WhatsApp handout filled with questions to ask employers.

A highlight of the Skills Late event was how the young volunteers did a presentation on their activities in front of over 200 people!

London Transport Museum’s Young Volunteers

As a Young Freelancer, I learnt how museums can cater to young people who are eager to kick-start their careers. It was touching to be part of something where young people were listened to and had their views taken to account.

This programme exposed them to gatekeepers of various opportunities; it gave them an opportunity to gain an Arts Award, as well as tangible skills and experience for their own job hunt. It was great to see how the group became increasingly confident as the programme drew on.

Get in touch if you want to join us as a volunteer yourself!