All posts by London Transport Museum

Exploring the past and shaping the future

By Sam Mullins OBE, London Transport Museum’s Director

At London Transport Museum we care about making a difference, and we want to reach out and inspire people to shape a better city for the future.  Our core purpose is the inspirational educational work that we do to promote youth engagement with the transport network, to help young Londoners realise their potential and to access all that London has to offer.

As a charitable institution, we have made significant progress on many fronts this year. We have extended the reach of the STARS (Safer Travel, Sustainable, Active, Resilient) programme, and plan to reach all Year 6 children in London in 2020.

Three teenage girls look at an exhibit in the Museum depot
Pupils at a session at the Museum Depot.

We have welcomed an ever growing number of visitors at Covent Garden, encouraged by new interactive exhibitions such as Untangling the Tracks, and thanks to our award-winning Visitor Services team.

Our Hidden London programme continues to grow and embrace new sites and experiences such as Piccadilly Circus, launched in July this year, and Moorgate coming up in February, as well as old favourites Down Street and Clapham South. The programme of tours is supported by a handsome book and the immersive Hidden London: the Exhibition.

Two women look down a disused tunnel at Piccadilly Circus
Disused tunnel at Piccadilly Circus station.

In June, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the District line with a final weekend of steam hauled services on the Underground in central London. The sight of teak Victorian carriages and Met 1 in steam weaving through one of the busiest metro networks in the world delighted and amazed today’s customers. We also operated heritage buses at events across the Capital as well as the unique Imberbus day in the middle of Salisbury Plain.

Our Museum Depot at Acton celebrated its 20th anniversary this year with a record attendance at three Open Weekends, as well as school visits, guided tours and skills sessions which use our rich collections. The London Transport Miniature Railway carried record numbers of passengers, and its operations were improved with new carriage sheds and works on the tracks during a family volunteering day in October.

A man driving a miniature rail train with two children and one other adult on board.
London Transport Miniature Railway at the Acton Depot.

The Depot is still nearly unique as a publicly accessible store, enabling public access to our extensive collections, hosting a raft of significant volunteer projects such as the restoration of the Q stock and the Victoria line automatic train exhibit, a base for heritage bus and rail operations, and a secure store for posters, artworks, ephemera and the whole spectrum of our collections.

Interior view of the Q stock train
1930s Q stock car.

We can only produce such a busy programme thanks to wonderful volunteers, corporate support and London Transport Museum Friends working with our creative staff group. You too can support us as a volunteer and with your visit. Every purchase made in our shop in Covent Garden and online helps us deliver our charitable work, so you can even support us by wearing our moquette socks!

Close up of a leg with the mountain of Mavhu Picchu in the background
Sam and his Routemaster moquette socks in Machu Picchu.

Next year our visitors can look forward to a new London at War gallery in the Museum, celebrations of TfL’s 20th anniversary, a refreshed holiday activity offer for our younger visitors, three Open Weekends at the Acton Depot and more Hidden London tours.

Sign up to our enewsletter and follow us on social media to keep updated. It’s one step at a time towards 2020.

Family Volunteering at the Museum Depot

By Sam Clift, Volunteer Resource Manager

This year we have been striving to reach out to wider audiences with volunteering and provide interesting and meaningful ways for people to get involved with the Museum.

On Saturday 26 October, we hosted our first family volunteering day at the Museum Depot in Acton. The event was hosted in partnership with The Family Volunteering Club, as part of a wider pilot series of events aimed at families in London.

The day provided families with an opportunity to visit our Museum Depot on a weekend afternoon, and spend some recreational time together supporting the Museum. The day focused on working with our London Transport Miniature Railway team, who spend a large part of the year maintaining and investing in the miniature railway from track repairs, to signal upgrades and everything in between to prepare the railway for providing public rides at Depot Open Weekends.

Children and adults sweeping leave off a miniature rail track

Despite the weather being wet and gloomy, everyone arrived with bags of enthusiasm. The group were welcomed in the Depot lecture theatre by Keith Raeburn, Depot Logistics Supervisor, Maddy Mills, founder of The Family Volunteering Club and myself, before heading outdoors to see the miniature railway. Families got stuck in with tidying up the grassy areas, clearing leave from the track (yes that happens on miniature railways too!) and loosening screws on the track ready to be replaced.

A child and an adult wearing a hi-vis jacket screw bolts into the tracks of a miniature rail.

As the rain continued we took some respite by heading into the lecture theatre for tea and coffee and to make use of the soft play facilities. The children enjoyed the down time and it gave time for more informal conversations, with one youngster expressing his enthusiasm for 20th century EMU recognition!

Three cildren play with a wooden train model while sitting on soft mats

The volunteers were rewarded for their efforts with a ride on the miniature railway at the end. All the families enjoyed their time with us, and everyone left with beaming smiles on their faces. Some parents commented:

A patient team who made sure each child had a good experience.

My son asked lots of questions and everyone was lovely and friendly to him. Great experience.

Keep an eye on our website for more volunteering opportunities coming up in 2020!

Santa’s got a new sleigh! Christmas at the Museum

By Stephanie O’Neill, family Learning  Officer

And just like that, we’re near to the end of the year and it’s Christmas time! We’ve had a lot of fun with our family visitors at the Museum during 2019 celebrating women in transport, getting creative with inspiring illustrators, designing and testing uniforms, coding traffic light sequences, and playfully searching for Where’s Wally around the galleries. Not to mention our second ever Family Depot Open Weekend, and running lots of Singing and Stories sessions for our littlest of visitors. But we’re not finished just yet!

Starting on Saturday 30 November and running every day until Sunday 5 January 2020 (excluding 24, 25 & 26 December) families will be able to visit Santa’s Hideaway. That’s 34 days of festive transport fun to be had!

In the foreground, a sign reading 'You Found Santa's Hideaway. come on inside'. In the background a cosy seating area with Christmas lights and decorations.

Outside Santa’s Hideaway, a twinkly, magical, winter forest will be planted, filled with books and toys for you to play with. It’s a cosy, comfy space within the Museum where your family can chill out. The man himself (Santa!) will pop in throughout the day to meet you! He’ll be heading back to the North Pole after Christmas, just so you know, if you visit on or after 27 December.

A dad and his two children read a book while sitting in a mock up forest with Christmas lights, trees and a tepee.

We will also be running seasonal sing-a-long and stories sessions twice a day outside of Santa’s Hideaway. The sessions will be led by one of our enthusiastic educators, and song requests are encouraged, so make sure you come along with suggestions for your favourite songs that we can all sing together.

A group adults and children smiling and dancing in a mock up forest with Christmas lights and trees.

Inside of Santa’s Hideaway will be bunting and winter decorations for your families to create together. Think tracing around steam train and roundel templates, cutting, hole punching, lots of collage, stickers, glitter and tying up with colourful, festive ribbon; perfect for jazzing up your home for winter and to remember your families’ visit to the Museum.

Christmas bunting with two gold pine trees and a red double decker bus with elves.

It’s very important to us that our family offer at the Museum is inclusive for all families. That is why on Saturday 14 December, we’ll be opening from 8:30 to 10:00 for families with additional needs who would benefit from the Museum being quieter. With gallery sounds turned off (including hand dryers in the loos), a caped number of tickets so it remains quiet, and sensory bags available to aid exploring, we hope this will be an opportunity for families to spend some seasonal time together, and even get to meet Santa in a quiet atmosphere.

For something extra special, and an adventure out of the Museum, we will also be running Christmas Lights and Sights tours. Climb aboard our cosy original RT bus and experience the wonder and excitement of the city at Christmastime. But be quick with booking, as these tours are nearly sold out!

A man, woman and two children looking at at red double decker bus parked on a street with Christmas decorations.

We very much hope that you choose to visit us as part of your family’s quality time spent together over the winter season; we look forward to welcoming you and providing lots of fun and joy for the end of 2019!

All our family events in the Museum are free with your annual admission ticket. Remember to book online to save. Kids go free!

Our Q stock story: one year on

By Jullian Urry, Project Manager Q stock Restoration

It’s been a year since London Transport Museum launched the Q stock restoration fundraising appeal to get the last-remaining 1930s Q stock cars running again. It’s time to update you on the progress we have made thanks to your support and the great work of our dedicated volunteers, and look at what lies ahead.

As Project Manager I’ve been dealing with the commercial and financial aspects of the restoration, whilst under the technical leadership of Geoff Thorne, the volunteers have completed most key aspects of the electrical and body restoration to the interior of car 4417, the 1938 driving motor car.

A man standing in the driving cab of a vintage train
Geoff Thorne in our Q stock’s driving cab

Meanwhile, Katarina Mauranen (Curator of Vehicles and Engineering) and a group of Research volunteers have identified the role of the Q stock during the evacuation of school children throughout the early stage of World War Two.  Their research  revealed changes in the fashions worn by Q stock passengers between the 1930s and 1950s, the pay of train guards, and timetable alterations.

Black and white photo of people on a station's platform boarding a train
Q38 Stock at Charing Cross now Embankment station, 1956

In October, the 1938 driving motor car and the 1935 trailer car were pushed out of the Acton Depot’s shed, enabling the wooden milk van to be shunted behind the Museum’s A Stock exhibit. The re-positioning of the 1938 driving motor car allowed us to better evaluate the condition of the underframe equipment.

Colour photo of a brown wooden milk van. Tin milk containers are visible inside
Metropolitan Railway milk van No. 3, 1896

Car 4416 also saw some light of day when the tarpaulin was lifted to allow a more thorough examination. We have commenced an inventory of equipment and components on the car, as well as determined the tasks and repairs to be undertaken.

During 2019, the Museum has held three open days at the Acton Depot and the Q stock received a great amount of footfall.  The strap hangers, once fitted to all London Transport trains, were remarked on by many of the visitors.  After much work by the Q stock volunteers, the saloon doors are operational, giving visitors the opportunity to experience the duty of the train guard, opening and closing one of the sets of double doors – a role that has since been withdrawn over 20 years ago.

Inside of a train with black metal straphangers
Straphangers on Q Stock car

A great deal of work is still required to bring Q stock back to its former glory; if you would like to join the restoration team, please email us at opportunities@ltmuseum.co.uk.  We meet every Thursday and on the last Saturday of every month.

You can also make a donation to help us keep our Q stock restoration project on track!

Stay up to date with this restoration project and other heritage vehicles related events by signing up to our enewsletter.

Farewell, Baker Street – TfL’s Lost Property Office is on the move

Guest blog by Paul Cowan, Manager at TfL’s Lost Property Office

Nearly ten years ago, I took up position as Manager at Transport for London’s Lost Property Office (LPO). The first time I ventured into the cavernous basements at 200 Baker Street, I thought I’d stumbled upon some long-lost treasure hoard, plundered by pirates of the Northern Line or a number 97 bus maybe. Although slightly less dramatic, the truth turned out to be no less fascinating.

A man and a woman look through a shelf full of umbrellas.
Lost property Office at 200 Baker Street, 1933.

The LPO was set up in November 1933, subsequent to the commencement of the London Passenger Transport Board. It is estimated that over the following 86 years, more than 15 million items of property have been processed here and stored on the famous green shelves. Anything that passengers have been able to carry on our services, they have been able to lose on our services – and this has included a staggering array of clothing, bags, work and personal items and, more lately, electronic gadgets which we now take for granted. All of these have been dutifully catalogued and stored for a period of three months, pending their hopeful restoration to grateful owners.

Have you left anything behind? by P Gates, 1951. Collection ref. 2003/29705

200 Baker Street has been our only home and has become synonymous not just with the Lost Property department, but of the people and culture that support it. There is something quintessentially British about the way items are neatly stored, accompanied by the ever-present lost property label on a piece of string. Around every corner of the three-storey subterranean labyrinth is another nook or cranny filled with an assortment of the mundane or the bizarre, the quirkiness of the building layout adding to the overall romance of the site. Artefacts and mementos of time past are dotted throughout – a reflection of the care and love poured into the operation by staff.

As much as we like the place, though, the reality is that it is no longer fit for purpose for the running of a modern, high-volume warehousing operation. We need to adapt to the changing environment in which TfL operates, so are taking up short-to-medium term residence in TfL premises at Pelham Street, South Kensington, whist we consider the longer-term options for the LPO.

It may take a while for the new location to feel like home, although I suspect the distilled essence of things London passengers have lost and reclaimed over so many years will almost certainly follow us wherever we go; it’s in our DNA and always will be.

Lost property ’roundel’ on display at the Museum in Covent Garden.

Should you ever need our services, simply visit the website at tfl.gov.uk/lostproperty to find out how we can help. Of course, we’d prefer if you didn’t lose things in the first instance, so do keep an eye on your possessions when travelling on the network!

Untangling the tracks: Communicating change

By Laura Sleath, Senior Curator

Transport for London and its predecessor companies have a long history of producing posters to keep passengers informed about upgrades to the network. Communicating alterations and disruption to passengers, as well as celebrating successful projects, is an important job for train operating companies. Whilst social media is often used today to keep customers informed, the traditional practice of using eye-catching posters is still an effective method.

Upgrading a working railway usually requires weekend closures, which can catch people out. TfL commissioned this popular series of poster designs which use the iconography of the Tube lines to grab the attention of passengers.

‘Going to the match this weekend?’ Artist unknown, 2010 (L)
‘Going shopping this weekend?’ Rachel Thomas of The Milton Agency, 2010 (R)

Recently,  Thameslink has also actively used posters to engage with customers. Some of these posters are explored in our Untangling the Tracks exhibition, which examines the Thameslink Programme, a major project to increase capacity, improve connections and provide greater reliability on the Thameslink route. During the programme, two major line closures over August bank holiday and Christmas 2017 affected hundreds of thousands of passengers. The iconography of the railway – specifically the ‘railway no entry’ icon – was used to add a festive touch to the poster campaign informing passengers.

Christmas line closures, 23 Red agency, 2017

For railway companies celebrating success at the end of a big project is also useful to remind passengers that the disruption was worthwhile.

What today is part of the Bank branch of the Northern line, started out as the City and South London Railway. It was the world’s first deep-level electric railway, opening in 1890. Being the pioneer, its tunnels were built on a smaller scale than subsequent Tube lines. When the time came to merge the line with the Hampstead Tube, the tunnels had to be closed to allow widening work to take place. This poster celebrates the reopening of the line in 1924, emphasising the new modern trains.

From Euston to Clapham Common the transformation is complete, Richard T Cooper, 1924

The redevelopment work at London Bridge station was a major element of the Thameslink Programme. Starting in 2013 the station was completely rebuilt, unifying what had essentially been two separate stations, yet remained open throughout. The architects, Grimshaw, also had to work carefully around its listed features, and many historical elements were kept and incorporated into the new building. The redeveloped station was officially opened by HRH the Duke of Cambridge in 2018. This poster was commissioned to thank the 50 million passengers who use the station every year for their patience during the disruption.

Welcome to your new station concourse, Magnet Harlequin/WMH Agency, 2018

Visit Untangling the Tracks to explore how historic London Transport posters and their modern Thameslink equivalents help to communicate important updates to passengers.

The exhibition is open until Spring 2020.

Celebrating 20 years of our Museum Depot

by Keith Raeburn, Depot Logistics Supervisor and Mike Dipre, Depot Manager

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the opening of London Transport Museum’s remarkable store, our Acton Depot in west London.

When the Museum Depot first opened on its rail-connected site on 14 October 1999, it was pioneering – the first museum store in the UK to be specifically designed with regular public access in mind. Part warehouse, part rail depot, part workshop, part education space, the Depot is home to over 90% of our vast and diverse collections. For anyone wanting to dig a little deeper into London’s rich transport and design heritage, a visit to the Depot is a must!

Trains in Acton Depot
Some of the trains in the Depot

In the 20 years since we opened, we have continued to expand the work we do at the Depot. Acton Depot is much more than a static store, it’s a working building where our curators, conservators and volunteers record, manage and restore our collections.

Maintenance and restoration of our historic vehicles, both road and rail, also takes place here – the Depot plays a vital role in ensuring that London Transport Museum’s visitors can not only see historic buses and underground trains, but experience the sights and sounds of riding on them as well!

Volunteers working on the Q stock at the depot

In the past year alone, the Museum has brought steam trains back to the District line, Art Deco heritage tube stock to Central London, as well as a 99-year-old London bus (and bus shelter) to Salisbury Plain.

The Depot has played its role as the operations base for these specialist operations, allowing us to reach new audiences far beyond our Covent Garden home.

As we look to the future, the experiences that London Transport Museum offer are becoming more numerous and varied every year – and the Depot plays its part. We’ve always offered guided tours to dig deeper into our collection – these have grown in number and diversity and we now offer five different options, including one for younger visitors and families. 2020 will see over 40 days dedicated to the various guided tours, which run alongside group visits and the Learning sessions Mind the Gap and Inspire Engineering.

Primary school pupils discovering the world of transport at one of our Mind the Gap sessions

Our popular Open Weekends allow visitors to truly explore according to their own agenda. They have grown so popular that as of 2017 we have added a third weekend to the programme, and we now welcome 15,000 visitors each year.

While our 2019 Open Weekends are now over, we have a great programme planned for next year. Sign up to our enewsletter to find out when new Open Weekends is available.

Also at the depot is the London Transport Miniature Railway, a working miniature railway based on real London Underground locomotives, carriages, signals and signs. Maintained and run by volunteers, you can take a ride on it during the Open Weekends. On 26 October, we’re running a family volunteering session. Find out more on our Volunteers webpage.

We are certain that the next twenty years will see our Acton Depot playing an even more central part in the Museum’s programme!

To celebrate the Depot’s birthday, we’ve pulled together 20 of our favourite objects at the Depot. Check them out on our Google Arts & Culture story!