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.

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