Before the age of Oyster cards and contactless payments, Over 250 pirate buses ruled the streets of London, bringing chaos to the roads as each operator tried to sabotage on another.
The 1924 Chocolate Express, now on display at London Transport Museum represents this epic era in London’s Transport story when an explosion of independent pirate operators challenged the monopoly of the London General Omnibus company in the roaring twenties.
With its distinctive livery and old-fashioned adverts the Chocolate Express demonstrates that London buses have not always been red or green. The bus earnt the reputation of running a reliable service and spotless appearance inside and out.
The Chocolate Express Omnibus company was compulsorily purchased with the formation of the London Passenger Transport Board, the organisation responsible for public transport in London, England, United Kingdom, and its environs from 1933 to 1948. By 1934 Pirate buses were legislated off the roads of London bringing an end to a colourful era.
In 1984, the Chocolate Express bus was discovered, derelict on a farm near Norwich by the highly regarded Leyland bus restorer Mike Sutcliffe MBE. Mike spent three painstaking years researching and rebuilding the bus to its former glory and went on to win several awards.
The Chocolate Express bus will be the only pirate bus in the London Transport Museum collection to represent this period of time. You can help us safeguard the future of this beautifully restored bus by supporting out campaign. Visit The Leyland buses appeal to find out more.
If you’d like to discover more about the 1924 LB5 Chocolate Express, Mike Sutcliffe MBE will be giving a talk and tour on its intriguing journey from being discovered derelict in 1984 to full restoration. Find out more about the event and book your ticket.
How do we, as social historians, attempt to unravel and understand the general mood or atmosphere that existed in a massive city like London at any moment of time? Whilst significant historical events are often extensively recorded and reported often more problematic is our ability to comprehend the atmosphere of day-to-day life in the capital.
As a Museum curator my role is to interpret and make sense of history through visual and material culture and the creation of atmospheric displays. Similarly my talk at Symposium 1914–1918 from Home Front to Western Front, will attempt to reveal the mood and atmosphere in London prior to the outbreak of World War I. Using images of objects, photographs and paintings held in the Museum of London and other collections the talk will give both a broad overview of London in 1914 as well as analysing the minutiae of life at street level.
As the shadow of war began to draw more heavily over the capital what were Londoners getting up to – what was their day-to-day life like, what was happening on the street, what was popular, what were Londoners talking about, were they aware of the impending threat and, more significantly, was the mood on the street being obviously affected by the threat of imminent war?
Air raids on London by Zeppelin airships were expected from the moment war was declared. Early precautions included a blackout at night and the installation of guns on prominent buildings and in the parks. Even so, raids finally began from the end of May 1915, provoking a mix of responses among the Londoners from sangfroid to blind panic.
When the air cover by fighter aircraft became more effective against Zeppelins during 1916, the Germans switched to the use of heavy bombing planes, which proved generally immune from attack by London’s air defences. The civilian authorities’ response to the air attack was lacklustre throughout the bombing campaign. Scores of thousands of Londoners huddled in the tubes, in the cellars of industrial buildings thought to be safe, or fled the city altogether. The ‘Harvest Moon Raids’ of autumn 1917, marked one of the low points of morale in London during the war.
It’s been a busy summer for Battle Bus with appearances at commemorative events and several bus garage open days, and last week it was transformed from its traditional red and cream livery into wartime khaki. On 18 September it will set off for its latest adventure when we say goodbye to Battle Bus as it embarks on a ten day commemorative tour of the battlefields of Belgium and France.
The Bus will depart from Folkestone, a Kent seaside resort made fashionable by the Victorians and which for four years was the main channel through which millions of troops passed on their way to the Front. Early on in the First World War troops heading to France embarked from Southampton however the crossing was long and hazardous and in 1915 the embarkation point was changed to Folkestone, and for the rest of the war the quiet seaside resort became an army camp.
Although Battle Bus will depart from Folkestone tomorrow, during the Great War most of the buses requisitioned by the War Department departed from Avonmouth, the port for Bristol. The port had cranes large enough to lift vehicles onto ships and therefore became the departure point for most motor transport.
Folkestone was the main embarkation point for millions of troops heading to France and Belgium, and for many the town was their last sight of England. Tomorrow is the grand depart for Battle Bus, it will set off from Folkestone to begin its tour of battlefields, including Arras and Zonnebeke, to commemorate the sacrifices made by so many during the First World War.
It’s that time of year again when we open the doors of the Museum Depot in Acton to let visitors explore and enjoy our inner workings and hidden treasures! On 13th and 14th September it will be all about our recently restored B-type Battle Bus which served on the frontline during the First World War.
As always we will be warmly welcoming families on both days to learn about our stories through interactive story-telling and fun filled creative activities. This weekend we invite you to meet Barney the B-type bus and his friend Pippa the Pigeon and help them as they embark on a very important mission.
You can also craft your own Battle Bus, and transform it from its bright London red to the Khaki green of the frontline trenches.
All of the activities this weekend have been specially designed for you by our talented young volunteers who have been singing, acting and making all summer to prepare to entertain and get creative with you.
They need you help to transform our family B-type! Decorate our BIG bus red, then turn it green and jump on board for your #ltmbattlebus selfie.
11.30– 11.50 and 14.30 – 14.50 Suitable for families with children aged 3 – 7, Free
Barney’s been painted green! That’s no colour for a proud London bus! But Barney’s on a very important mission and you can join him and his friend Pippa the pigeon on their journeys.
Make and Take:
12.00 – 13.00 and 15.00 – 16.15 Suitable for families with children aged 4 – 12
Build your own B-Type, the Bus that helped Britain in the First World War.
See your bus transform as it drives from the streets of London all the way to the front line.
On a humid summer night on the platforms of Northfields station, with the last Piccadilly and District line services faithfully plying the tracks, we waited with excitement.
We were waiting for the reassuring ‘chuffing’ sound of a steam train in the distance. As it came closer the sound grew louder until, at 23.38, we witnessed the arrival of Met 1 accompanied by her familiar whistle and plume of steam for the first time since the 150th anniversary celebrations of the London Underground in 2013.
The train, comprising the now familiar line up of Met 1, the Milkvan, Carriage 353, the Chesham set of coaches and Sarah Siddons, was being tested during engineering hours ahead of the Museum’s summer programme of heritage train outings taking place throughout August.
Following its prompt departure from Northfields the train, hauled by Met 1, made its way along the District and Circle lines up to Moorgate, surprising unsuspecting late night travellers as it slowly progressed along the line and through near empty stations.
Without a glitch the train soon reached Edgware Road, quickly filling the tunnels of the oldest part of the London Underground with steam, while the unmistakable smell of the coals delighted the senses of everyone who had the opportunity to travel on the train on this warm July morning.
After refilling at Moorgate, it was the turn of Sarah Siddons to haul the train, now with a free reign following the shutdown of the system all the way to Hammersmith. The journey was repeated for a second time before the arrival of the dawn chorus and the start of another working day.
We hope you’ll join us on these historic and memorable journeys with Met 1 on Saturday 2 and 9 August. For more information go to: Heritage Vehicle Outings
London is endlessly entertaining; brimming with opportunities for pleasure, and play. For over a century the Underground has used posters to increase passenger numbers by promoting pleasure trips and leisure destinations. An amazing array of London attractions have been featured. A closer look reveals the timeless allure of pleasure and the changing face of entertainment.
In the 1920’s and 30’s posters promoting London’s theatres and cinemas drew audiences into the West End. The cherubs in James Herrick’s poster, Nightly Carnival, scatter stars beneath their feet creating a sparkling map of well-known theatres. The Underground stations are cast as planets in a clever reinterpretation of the roundel and bar. Brightest London is less subtle but equally seductive. Horace Taylor’s striking design appealed to those who enjoyed dancing, cabaret and dining out. The draw of evening entertainments increased travel after the early evening rush hour.
Amongst the daytime pleasures on offer, shopping played a prominent role. London has long been considered the shopping capital of Britain. Posters enticed shoppers away from their local high streets to the grand department stores of the West End by promoting sales and seasonal shopping. The Underground even experimented with special season tickets for women passengers shopping in the January sales. The indulgence of shopping continues to pull in the crowds.
Posters promoting sporting events and picnics in the park attracted large crowds to London’s stadiums and open spaces. Before television the only way to see events like the boat race or the cup final was to go along. The Underground produced thousands of small posters to promote sporting events all over London every weekend. A trip to the Zoo became the most publicised leisure destination, offering Sunday outings and evening visits. Posters promoting carnivals, festivals and fairs continue to invite Londoners out to play. The cities buses, trains and tube keep pleasure at the heart of London life.
The year of the 150th anniversary of the London Underground has been the most remarkable year for London Transport Museum since we opened in Covent Garden over thirty years ago.
The organisation of the associated celebratory events and projects was a massive undertaking. From the planning of a public programme based on a new social history of the Underground, the undertaking of two innovative restoration projects – Metropolitan loco no.1 and Jubilee carriage 353 – and the operation of steam hauled special services within the original London Underground tunnels of 1863 to arguably the Museum’s most extensive special exhibition, Poster 150 – London Underground’s Greatest Designs, in newly extended galleries. All of this, along with the opening of the disused station at Aldwych throughout November, was delivered with huge success to record audiences. Indeed, Tube150 provoked broad public interest in London, well beyond the rail enthusiast, and this was echoed by worldwide press coverage. The Underground’s own reputation soared to a new high in January 2013 and throughout the year the Museum experienced record levels of patronage for visits, corporate events, fundraising, retail, online trading and access.
In December 2013, a remarkable year was crowned by the Heritage Railway Association making its premier award to the Museum and Transport for London (TfL). That the Peter Manisty Award should be given to the busiest metro in the world is a reflection on just what was achieved in 2013. When did an operating railway, let alone one of the world’s busiest metros, win industry and public recognition for such an enlightened attitude to its heritage? During the year, the steam trains have run over 350 miles and conveyed nearly 10,000ticket holders, guests and staff in a self-funded service with no delays to the travelling public. Only an organisation confident in its abilities and respectful of its unique heritage could have encouraged us to work through the myriad of operational constraints to operate steam amongst service trains. This was achieved by a team drawn from a number of areas in the Underground – timetabling, line operations, test crew drivers, rolling stock, heritage trains – and to such a professional degree that there was no interruption to the service.
This award-winning year is no flash in the pan. Having built up such momentum and expertise within the Museum and Underground team, 2014 will see another busy programme of steam-hauled events on Underground metals. The Bluebell’s Ashbury set will return in August 2014 for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Hammersmith & City line’s opening in 1864. Met no.1, the milk van, carriage 353 and the Bluebell rake will run on two Saturdays, 2nd and 9th August, from Hammersmith into Moorgate and back. The following weekend, 16 and17th August, steam will take over the Chesham branch for the first time since 1962. Steam services will run from Rickmansworth, with the replacement bus service for the branch being complimented by a heritage bus service.
Tube150 has broadened and deepened support for our Museum. Delighted with the profile of the anniversary, TfL has asked us to similarly programme with them for future years, starting with a Year of the Bus in 2014, sponsored by Exterion Media. The success of the year has deepened our relationship with sponsors such as Cubic, Siemens and the former CBSO, and funders such as Heritage Lottery Fund and the Arts Council, and created new relationships with over two hundred individual donors. We are translating this support into a new Patrons Circle and aiming it initially towards our Battlebus project, with the restored B2737 to participate in the commemoration of the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War later in 2014.
As we move from Tube150 into the Year of the Bus, we can reflect on the power of well planned and meticulously delivered heritage events in central London to engage Londoners and to attract external sponsorship. In June 2014, we will bring a cavalcade of historic buses to Regents Street, a unique gathering of 25 vehicles dating from 1908 to the New Routemaster, to mark the contribution of the motor bus to London since 1898. We will deliver a range of community events at bus garages around London, present fresh insights into London during the First World War in our Goodbye Piccadilly – from the home front to the Western Front exhibition from May and return our restored B-type bus to Flanders in September and October as part of the centenary commemorations.
On a perfect winter’s day on Sunday 8th December, London Transport Museum held its final steam runs celebrating the 150th anniversary of the London Underground. It was a fitting finale to what has been an unprecedented year of heritage steam operations on the world’s oldest Underground railway.
The day was also special thanks to its unique route. It has been a number of years since steam has been seen on the Uxbridge branch of the Metropolitan line and it is possible that it will never happen again. It was a thrill to witness L150 and a Class 20 diesel, with British Rail 4TCs and Jubilee carriage 353 in tow, steaming through the likes of Hillingdon and Ruislip Manor. Met Loco No.1 was sadly absent after a fault was discovered in its pre-run safety checks. Thankfully, L150 was a more than adequate back-up!
The first trip left at 10.50, with a real sense of excitement in the air. As I stood on the platform guiding people to their carriages, I fielded a number of questions from bewildered regular Underground travellers who, expecting their usual service to Uxbridge, must have felt they had travelled back in time.
As the first train steamed through West London, revellers waited at intermediary stations to catch a glimpse and a photo. The air was clear and crisp, making for some picturesque images of billowing steam. Enthusiasm certainly didn’t wane throughout the day, with each of the runs sold out.
There was particular interest in the Museum’s Victorian Jubilee carriage 353, recently restored and a regular fixture in this year’s Tube 150 celebrations. Every inch of the luxurious upholstery and smooth woodwork was examined by inquisitive passengers. Those lucky enough to ride in the carriage were treated to the unique experience of travelling 1890s style!
As the gloom began to gather and the last train departed Harrow-on-the-Hill, the day came to a close. It had been extremely enjoyable and an appropriate denouement to all the events and celebrations which have taken place this year, which began with the extraordinary Underground steam trips in central London this January.
Thank you to all who have bought tickets to the steam events, and rest assured the Museum is currently planning an exciting programme for our heritage vehicles in 2014.
Regular blog readers will be starting to gain an appreciation of just how much of a contribution the volunteers make to the smooth running of the museum and, more importantly, the quality of the visitor experience at both Covent Garden and the Acton Depot site.
So, understandably, the museum hosts an annual “thank you” event for all the volunteers who so freely give of their time, knowledge and expertise to help the museum thrive. This year’s event was at the Acton Depot, and featured a diverse agenda covering many aspects of the museum’s operation. Not only did free beer feature, but also a hog roast, so no need to worry – your scribe was at the front of the queue to attend the event. Rumour has it that there was also an alternative for the vegetarians amongst us.
Before lunch we heard from Sam Mullins, Director of the Museum, who gave us a view of the last year and a taste of what 2014 holds, which I can tell you is exciting!
After this there was the presentation of a number of long service certificates to loyal volunteers (and there are many of them). Next came lunch in the yard, which was excellent and blessed with warm sunshine, followed by the the official opening of the Marble Arch Signal Frame, as featured in my previous posts.
On then to a number of very informative and entertaining updates from various parts of the museum; a bus pit tour, with an opportunity to see the underside of a GS type bus; an update on progress with the restoration of the second prototype Routemaster and a guided tour of tunnelling ephemera. After all this and more I left after five hours feeling amply rewarded for my paltry efforts, not to mention entertained and informed.