Opening the Museum Depot for a new summer season

By Fenella Goodhart, Head of Learning, and Matt Brosnan, Head Curator

Planning is now underway to get the London Transport Museum’s Depot in Acton open in August.  We can’t wait to welcome visitors and staff back and to unlock this treasure trove of London’s transport history.

We are planning a family experience at the Depot for two weeks  from 19-23 and 26-30 August 2020.  It will be a timed ticket offer so that we can control numbers and ensure a safe and relaxing experience for visitors.  We will create a trail of the Depot vehicle sheds which will not only reveal some of the stories of this rarely seen collection but also keep those Maths and Literacy neurons for firing over the summer holidays!

View overlooking train shed inside Museum Depot in Acton

Our vehicles are some of the crown jewels in our rich collection. We care for 85 vehicles including buses, trains, trams, taxis and even a tractor. Some are on display at the Museum in Covent Garden, but opening our much larger Depot gives visitors a detailed insight into how travel in London has changed since the nineteenth century. It is also an impressive sight to stand in the space and take in a bus and tram shed packed full of vehicles and row upon row of Underground trains.

Some of the many buses at the Depot – from right to left, a ‘garden seat’ horse bus, a B type motorbus, a K type motorbus and an NS type motorbus

On their trail in August, visitors can encounter a beautiful ‘garden seat’ horse bus dating from 1881, a time when London’s streets were filled with horse-drawn traffic. Immediately alongside is a handsome red B type bus from 1911, the very first mass produced type of motorbus in the world. Visitors will see for themselves that not all London buses were red, with brown, green and even gold examples at the Depot.

A view along one of the walkways between rail vehicles, including a Metropolitan Railway wagon (right) that was in service from 1897 to 1970

Visitors will also be able to weave their way around an array of trains that have served London’s commuters since the early days of the Underground. They range from the functional to the beautiful. Practical vehicles like an 1897 ballast wagon and a 1939 sleet locomotive share rails with a shiny red 1938 Stock Tube train filled with stylish Art Deco touches.

Inspired by the collection, we will be providing family visitors with their very own sealed, activity pack to use on site or take home.  We will be making use of the large outdoor area behind the Depot to allow families time to rest and relax in the fresh air and dip into their activity packs.  Hopefully snacks and hot drinks will also be available for visitors.

Green Routemaster bus outside Museum Depot

And to top it off,  the London Transport Miniature Railway will be up and running, completing the Depot experience with this much loved attraction.

London Transport Museum Miniature Railway. Driver is facing away from camera with three passengers on board behind him

Foremost in our minds in planning the reopening of the Museum Depot is creating a safe, welcoming and enjoyable experience for visitors and staff.  Managing numbers and social distancing, a robust cleaning regime for all, friendly and knowledgeable staff and clearly planned and signposted one way routes are top of our list of priorities.  We look forward to keeping you posted on our planning and welcoming you to the Depot for our summer season from the 19 August 2020.

Keeping our visitors and staff safe

Geoff Rowe, Assistant Director of Operations and Resourcing

Protecting your health, safety and wellbeing are key to you being able to enjoy yourself and having confidence in us that we can provide a safe Museum experience. As our minds turn to opening our Museum Depot in Acton and Covent Garden again to visitors, your Health and Safety is our top key priority.

The Government have issued their guidance on re-starting the visitor economy and Visit Britain have successfully launched their `We’re good to go` industry standard. My team and I have read and re-read this guidance and are putting the measures in place to ensure we successfully meet the standard to give you confidence to visit us. We will have the `We’re good to go` standard when we open and have almost completed the work required, so please look out for this on our social channels soon. I have listened to multiple talks on toilets (a key concern for many people!), learned from our European colleagues who have already opened their doors and spoken to friends in other attractions about how they have opened to get an understanding of how to do this best at LTM.

Our risk assessments are complete and ready for sign off, a reduced capacity agreed, a new chronological route to best showcase the collection, clear signage is being worked up and staff will be consulted on their return to work. Staff are crucial to the process of welcoming you back. Their engagement and confidence is key to ensuring you have a great visit. We don’t want the team to feel stressed when visitors return to see our amazing collection and we want to welcome you as we did before.

Sliding doors inside London Transport Museum with two hand sanitiser stations position either side

When you visit you will notice some differences, this is nothing to worry about. Staff will be wearing clear visors and there will be screens at key points such as tills and the information desk. We have made the decision to wear visors because we still want to communicate with everyone and face coverings don’t allow this. They are not accessible to people who need to lip-read. This will not increase any risk to you or our team as we will have measures to ensure everyone’s protection.

You will see our staff regularly cleaning floors and other high useage areas around the Museum. This does not mean you cannot still ask them questions or talk to them. We are still keen for you to engage with our team but we want to visibly show we are looking after you and cleaning is part of that commitment and reassurance.

Close-up of gloved hand cleaning a metal seat

A key area of concern for visitors returning are the toilets. Never before has toilet talk been so important and socially acceptable! Operations Managers across the country are working out how best to open toilets.  I had never anticipated toilets would be the centre of all my planning.  There will be an enhanced cleaning rota for you to see how often they are cleaned. Some toilets may not be available but we know we need as many toilets open as we can, so you can have a comfortable visit.

Not everything might be open. We are confident that we can open most of the Museum, given the high performing cleaning materials we have, especially a product that will kill bacteria for 28 days. However, any areas that we are not comfortable with due to the nature of play in that area we may close off. This will not stop your enjoyment as we are confident 90% of the Museum will be open for you to enjoy.

Hand sanitiser station positioned by lift near All Aboard play area at London Transport Museum with red bus in background

To support our capacity and for track and trace, we will need you to pre-book timed tickets via our online booking system or call centre. This will give you a timed entry so you can have a comfortable and quick arrival experience.

Daughter sitting on Father's lap at West Ham station platform and both are wearing facemasks

We also need you to help us. It is really important that when you come and visit you read the pre-visit information we provide and you look after your visiting bubble. We need everyone who visits to be responsible as we continue to get life back to normal. We know the kids will be excited to be back, so will we, but we need to ensure that we work together to help ensure that the Museum remains safe for everyone. Please help us do that, support our survival and do that safely.

Father and son walking in the park wearing face covering

The team and I are excited that we are talking about opening and we will soon be able to confirm dates. When you are visiting, please don’t be shy, please talk to us about your experience and let us know your concerns or if you think we have done a good job. We will listen and learn together. We look forward to welcoming you back and having life back in our amazing Museum.