Does transport shape our experiences?

Transport doesn’t just take people from A to B, it connects us and allows disparate parts of our city, and of our lives, to link. 

Our project, LGBT+ Linking Lives, aims at collecting stories about how transport connects LGBT+ lives and communities across our Capital. We want to hear about the journeys, sites and stories in which transport has played a role in people’s experience in London.

In this blog Andy De Santis – Vice Chair of OUTbound , TfL’s LGBT+ Staff Network – shares with us how London transport has shaped his relationships and experiences. 

Who doesn’t LOVE TfL designs?!

Even before working in transport, I could already understand its importance to the LGBT+ community. When I arrived in London, I initially met a varied group of friends on LGBT+ websites. We were an odd mix of people, from quiet guys in suits to the leotard-wearing nonchalant extrovert. We’d meet up at different venues every weekend – a welcoming break from our exhausting work life. This was our opportunity to be ourselves, free of shame or judgement as we got inside the Tube laughing and enjoying being together.

I don’t drive but I like to pretend I do!

Do you remember what it was like before the Night Tube? After a night out, everyone would drag themselves along to the bus stop to catch their night bus, like tired zombies in the night – ruined make up, dirty clothes, sometimes the stench accompanying someone who had partied too hard!

But the night bus was a place of freedom. Sexuality, race, gender, nothing mattered. Do you remember the big groups? They’d usually be the loudest ones, screaming as if to tell you they’d had such an awesome time. I also remember when they’d start singing – on a couple of occasions others on the bus would sing with them. This bizarre sing-a-long is perhaps what I miss the most from that time. Although I was a bit shy at the time, just hearing everyone around me singing was mesmerising. People united in song, all declaring how they had a good time.

Me and Judith, a very visible and proud bisexual, showcasing our rainbow lanyard.

Oh, the good times… all the connections, and that’s what transport does, isn’t it? It connects communities and people. I volunteer with a service helping LGBT+ people struggling with addiction and some come from outside the city, as support isn’t available in small towns. I could tell you many stories about me, but I’ll skip the “when I got the bus/train/tram”. Most of my experiences wouldn’t have happened without public transport. Transport connects us to people we care about. Isn’t it funny how we take that for granted?

Write to  documentarycurator@ltmuseum.co.uk if you would like to tell us your story about the role of transport in your LGBT+ life and experiences in London.  Visit our website to learn more about the LGBT+ Linking Lives project.

District line: a history in maps

The District line has turned 150 years old, and we are celebrating its past, present and future throughout 2019, as part of TfL’s District 150 celebrations. In this first blog installment, our curator Simon Murphy unravels the history of the District line through maps from London Transport Museum’s collection.

Westminster Bridge station on the first section of the Metropolitan District Railway, 1868

Ref. 2019/680

The oldest part of what is now the District line opened on 24 December 1868, from South Kensington to Westminster. This map was hand-drawn as an exact record of the railway and where it ran. It was standard practice well into the 20th century to use existing, commercially produced street maps of London and simply print the railway line on top, usually in red. Maps of this period were large and functioned as street maps as well as railway maps, but as they got smaller they had to be simplified.

Extension of the Metropolitan District Railway from Blackfriars to Mansion House, 1871

Ref. 2009-11501

As the title in the top left suggests, in the early years the Metropolitan and Metropolitan District Railway companies worked closely together. Four Metropolitan directors sat on the District’s board, and trains for the District were initially provided by the Metropolitan. It was expected that the two companies would merge on completion of the Circle line, but relations between the two companies soon soured, and they became bitter rivals.

District Railway map of London, 1876

Ref. 1984-51-761

The bright colours and bold sans serif typeface of this map make it look quite modern, despite its age. When unfolded, these maps could often be more than a metre wide, but they were still considered ‘pocket size’. Note how the river and a tangle of local railways is bursting out of the left-hand side of the frame! The company’s operating name no longer includes the word ‘Metropolitan’, but has been shortened to the District Railway.

Improved District Railway map of London, 1884

Ref. 1992-658

After much rancour, and with Government intervention, the District and Metropolitan Railways eventually co-operated over closing the gap between Aldgate and Mansion House to complete the circle. On top of the feud between the two directors, James Staat Forbes and Edward Watkin, both companies were struggling financially at the time. They were more interested in tapping profitable suburban traffic than in collaborating to provide an intensive urban service. Nevertheless, the ‘Inner Circle’ finally opened for public service on 6 October 1884.

Cover of the pocket District Railway map, Jubilee edition, 1887

Ref. 1984-51-760

The District Railway was a prolific publisher of London maps in the 1870s and 1880s. For Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee in 1887, they replaced the usual images of local landmarks with a royal portrait and scenes of Britain’s glorious Empire. Benjamin Franklin’s maxim ‘Time is money’ features around the tunnel entrance at the bottom.

District Railway miniature map of London and environs, 1900

Ref. 1996-5849

Despite being half the width of the earlier folding maps, the District’s first ‘miniature’ maps were still quite cumbersome. This series of maps was originally designed by W E Soar in 1887. Additions and extensions were added to the design as they were built.

District Railway poster map, 1908

Ref. 1996-5849

This map is about the same size as the full-size Tube maps seen on stations and platforms today. Large maps like this were displayed outside District Railway stations from 1908. The District, and the three new deep-level Tube lines opened in 1906-7, are shown in bold lines on a simplified and slightly distorted map of London. The black lines represent the Underground Electric Railways of London (UERL) system. Other railways are indicated with faint grey lines.

First Underground-branded pocket map, 1908

Ref. 1983-4-2

This map showed all the underground railway companies on the same map for the first time, branded with the UndergrounD logo. It was prompted by the opening of the Franco-British exhibition at the Wood Lane exhibition centre in 1908 (you can see it marked on the left-hand side) which was hugely popular and attracted large numbers of visitors to London. The 1908 London Olympics was held there too. The Head of Underground publicity, Frank Pick, coordinated the production of the map, using a different colour for each line. The District has been green on all colour maps ever since. The UndergrounD brand with the capital U and D was another of Pick’s ideas.

Pocket Underground map, 1930

Ref. 1992-85

Fred Stingemore was a talented photographer, designer and artist who worked in the Underground publicity office. His elegant design was used from 1926 to 1932. It simplified the geography of the system, enlarging the central area and doing away with the street background completely. The dotted lines show the new Piccadilly line services that opened in 1932, running alongside the District in the west.

First diagrammatic Underground pocket map, 1933

Ref. 1984-51-204

H C Beck was a draughtsman working in the signalling department when he designed his first ground-breaking Tube map in 1931. It was initially rejected, but Stingemore encouraged him to make some changes and try again a year later. This time it was accepted, still somewhat reluctantly, but when finally issued, it was an instant hit with the public.

The map today: pocket Underground map, December 2018

Ref. 2019-131

Remarkably, pocket Tube maps today are the same size as Stingemore’s three-panel maps of the 1920s, albeit with a fourth panel for the key to lines and other information. To fit the furthest reaches of the Overground into the same space, the central area has shrunk again, and text is much smaller. The District has shrunk too, as many western sections originally opened on the District are now only operated by the Piccadilly line.

We will continue to celebrate the District line’s 150th anniversary all throughout the year. Visit our website for more information about the District 150 celebrations.

Where are all the women?

by Ellie Miles, Documentary Curator

In December 2018, we launched the collecting project Where are all the women? and asked the public to contribute their stories about female family members, ancestors or employees who may have worked in the transport industry in London, or across the United Kingdom, from 1800 to the present day. Here follows a little update on how the collecting project is going.

A storekeeper in the fitting shop at the LGOC’s engineering works during WW2

So far, we have been trusted with some remarkable stories which I’d like to share with you. We have heard about women who found that they were the only females working in an area at the time, whether that was twenty or seventy years ago:

“Mum said she worked in the ticket office at Waterloo station during the war. She was the only female employee in the ticket offices.”  – Ann Westfold, describing her mother’s work during the Second World War

“For a while I was the only female train operator on the Bakerloo line.” – Hannah Wood, talking about her job in the 1990s

Canteen workers being trained at Baker Street, 1968

We have a range of dates covered already, from the last of the horse-drawn era in the 1940s to the Jubilee Line Extension in the 1990s:

“Rose worked on horse-drawn vehicles at King’s Cross and St Pancras from the late 1940s until the 1960s… At only four foot nine inches and weighing six and a half stone, Rose’s small stature was quite a contrast to the large heavy horses she worked with.” – Margaret Palmer, describing her mother’s work

“I joined in 1998 when there was a big recruitment drive for the Jubilee Line Extension. Saw the advert for station assistant at Whitechapel station and decided to apply.” – Nicola Dinneen, describing the start of her career

Vic Roberts tells us she was a “driver, manager and then mechanic. I was part of the much unseen fabric that we women create.” She features in images in the Museum’s collection, and donated a set of photographs that she took of her colleagues.

Bus mechanic Vic Roberts cleaning her tools at Putney bus garage in the mid-1990s

There is still time to submit your story, and we would love you to do that so we can share it. Here are some frequently asked questions about the project:

I’m a woman and I work in transport – can I put myself forward?

Of course! We love first-hand accounts of your work and it’s great to hear from the experts.

Do you want stories that aren’t all positive? Sometimes work has been difficult and I’ve faced sexism in the workplace.

Unfortunately, many people face discrimination at work and have experienced unfair treatment, harassment and bullying. If this is part of your story, please include it in your account so we can preserve a full picture.

I’m a trans woman, is my story welcome?

Yes, we would be very pleased to hear from you, and grateful that you have chosen to share your story with London Transport Museum. The experiences of non-binary people and transgender women are under-represented in our collections and we would like to correct this. If you can help, we’d be delighted.

We look forward to hearing from you. Just pop over to Where are all the women? project webpage and fill out the form there!

LGBT+ Linking Lives collecting project

London Transport Museum’s Documentary Curators, Susanna Cordner and Ellie Miles, collate and collect perspectives on and stories about the role transport plays in contemporary London. Their work gives us the opportunity to bring new voices into our collection and to make sure that the history and narratives we tell reflect the experiences of different kinds of people.

In this blog, Susanna reveals what attracted her to this role, and introduces her latest collecting project, LGBT+ Linking Lives.

What first drew me to the role of Documentary Curator was the opportunity to seek out and share different kinds of social stories. Transport seemed a particularly potent subject through which to do it. Public transport acts as a great unifier of public experience. If you dare to look around you, next time you’re sat on the Tube (I grant you, this isn’t common practice, but it might be worth the risk), more likely than not you’ll find yourself framed by a diverse range of people, with a greater mix of ages, ethnicities, and orientations than the majority of other work places or public spaces can offer.

Public transport is therefore a social space, a social subject, and, simultaneously, the performer of an essential social role. Transport doesn’t just take people from A to B, it connects us – it allows disparate parts of our city, and of our lives, to link.

TfL Ride with Pride vehicles, painted in rainbow colours in support of LGBT+ staff network, OUTbound. Photo by Eleanor Bentall

We took inspiration from this for our current LGBT+ Linking Lives collecting project, through which we are collecting stories about how transport connects LGBT+ lives and communities across our Capital. We want to hear about the journeys, sites and stories in which transport has played a role in your LGBT+ experience in London.

Andy De Santis, Vice Chair of OUTbound, TfL’s LGBT+ Staff Network

I’ve been collaborating with colleagues from OUTbound, TfL’s LGBT+ Staff Network Group, who have been so generous about sharing their stories so far. The subjects of these stories range from experiencing public transport as spaces of safety while transitioning, to the accepting community and revelry of the night bus, from feeling heartbroken heading home on the Tube to finding joy in staffing a station during Pride.

We will be sharing these stories over the coming weeks, and they will be the subject of a pop-up display at our upcoming Friday Late: London Stories on Friday 8 February.

Friday Late and Poster Prize for Illustration: London Stories promotional image by Julia Allum

At the event, you will also be able to add your own love stories to a giant map of meeting places. In case you want to record your own piece of past or present there and then, we will also be hosting a pop-up oral history booth on the night.

The everyday can often tell us more about the human experience than the exceptional, and the role and impact of something as arguably humble but essential as transport on our lives deserves to be remembered. I look forward to hearing your stories!

Learn more about our Friday Late: London Stories event on 8 February, and book here.