Category Archives: Posters

Celebrating London’s tramways past and present

By Georgia Morley, Curator

We are starting the new year with a celebration of London’s tramways in our new Poster Parade on display at the Museum from 10 January to 26 March 2020.

Drawing of a fleet fo red trams running in the nightime

London’s Tramways, unknown, circa 1929 

The first horse trams in London were introduced in the 1860s, operated by private companies. Although banned from operating in the City and West End, which were still dominated by the omnibus, an extensive tram network developed across the rest of the city.

The arrival of the electric tram in the early 1900s brought cheap transport to the masses. Trams could carry twice as many people as motor buses, and in greater comfort. They were cheap to run, so fares were low, and they were quick and frequent. Despite competition from the first motor buses, the number of passengers using trams grew.

Drawing of a woman holding coloured balloons at a regatta along the river

By Tram from Hammersmith, Wimbledon or Shepherd’s Bush, by Fred Taylor, 1922

London United Tramways (LUT) began London’s first electric tram service in July 1901. They electrified lines between Shepherd’s Bush, Hammersmith, Acton and Kew Bridge. By 1906, ten municipal systems had been set up and by 1914 London operated the largest tram network in Europe. At their peak, over 3,000 trams carried a billion passengers a year over 366 miles of track.

After the First World War tramways began to decline as the motor bus competed for passengers. By the late 1920s, the new buses offered higher standards of comfort, while the pre-war trams were shabby and in need of modernisation.

When London Transport took over all bus, tram and Underground railway operation in the capital in 1933, a massive tram to trolleybus conversion programme began. The tram system was in poor condition with trams increasingly being seen as noisy, dangerous to road users and expensive.

Trolleybuses were cheaper to run and soon attracted more passengers than the trams. Within three years, over half of London’s tram routes had been converted.

Poster showing the drawing of blue and red trolley bus

By trolleybus to Kingston, by F Gregory Brown, 1933

Ironically, the Second World War brought a temporary reprieve for the tram, as the work on the trolleybus conversion was interrupted. Necessary repairs and maintenance were done to keep the tram system running to help the war effort.

After the war however, the remaining trams were replaced by diesel buses. In July 1952, the last tram left Woolwich for New Cross amidst scenes of great sadness. Many trams were scrapped, but some were sold to Leeds where they ran until 1959.

Poster depicting a ticket superimposed on the drawing of a tram

Gone but not forgotten, by Tim Demuth, 1977

Trams were re-introduced into London in 2000, originally run by Tramlink but now owned by TfL. The tram network has 39 stops along 17 miles of track serving Croydon and surrounding areas of south London.

London’s tramways Poster Parade explores the history of trams in London and the rise and fall of the largest tram system in the world. Visit our Poster Parade, at the Museum from 10 January to 26 March 2020 to see our stunning posters up close.

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 150 years of the District line with our new Poster Parade

By Laura Sleath, Senior Curator

Throughout 2019, Transport for London and the London Transport Museum are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the District line. As part of the celebrations we are featuring twenty District line related posters from our outstanding poster collection in a new Poster Parade on display from 28 June to 19 September 2019.

Map of the District line in 1871

The District line opened in December 1868. Then known as the Metropolitan District Railway, it was the second underground passenger railway in the world after the Metropolitan line. Initially running only between Sloane Square and Westminster, seven more stations opened during the first year. The intention was to join up with the Metropolitan line at either end, forming an ‘Inner Circle’ linking all London’s mainline termini. However, rivalry between the two railways meant that the Circle wasn’t completed until 1884.

The District expanded its services to the western suburbs during the steam era to Hammersmith, Hounslow, Ealing and Wimbledon. But when the American financier Charles Tyson Yerkes first took an interest in the railway in 1899, it was in poor financial shape. Yerkes took over the District in 1901, and through his influence the Inner Circle and District were electrified.

The poster Light, power and speed by Charles Sharland features one of the new trains that were introduced during the electrification of the line. Electrification greatly improved conditions in the sections running underground, and the company promoted their new trains as offering comfortable, modern and technologically advanced travel.

Light, power & speed, by Charles Sharland, 1910

In addition to the District line, Yerkes’ Underground Electric Railways Company of London (UERL) owned many other underground railways, including the Bakerloo, Piccadilly, Hampstead (now part of the Northern line) and Central lines. To encourage off-peak travel the UERL used posters to promote destinations which could be reached by their expanding network. For the western section of the District line this meant attractions which are still popular today, such as Richmond and Kew Gardens. At the time Sudbury Town and South Harrow were promoted as rural destinations, easily reached in time to see a gorgeous sunset. Though originally served by the District line, these stations were transferred to the Piccadilly line in 1932.

Kew Gardens, by Irene Fawkes, 1923

At the eastern end of the District line, services from Whitechapel to Upminster opened in June 1902. The District Railway also ran through trains to the popular seaside resort of Southend. The Upminster Windmill and the Canvey Lady in Southend were both familiar local landmarks at the time, and whilst the Canvey Lady was pulled down after the Second World War, the windmill survives and is now a listed building. The process of electrification was slower at this end with Upminster served by steam until 1932, and Southend until after the Second World War.

Upminster The mill, by M A Carter, 1924

Today the District line is being transformed once again, with air-conditioned, walk-through trains introduced on the line in 2014, and the Four Lines Modernisation programme due to deliver a new signalling system by 2023.

Check out our online exhibit on Google Arts & Culture to learn more about the history of the District line, and visit the Poster Parade (28 June – 19 September 2019) at the Museum to see our stunning posters up close.

Commissioning art posters for the Underground

By Michael Walton, Poster Art Commissioner for Transport for London and London Transport Museum since 1998. Michael was one of the judges for 2019’s Poster Prize for Illustration competition.

Transport for London and its predecessor organisations have been commissioning art posters since 1908, the first acknowledged art image being No need to ask a P’liceman by John Hassall.

No need to ask a p’liceman, by John Hassall, 1908

Frank Pick, appointed Publicity Manager for the Underground Group of companies in 1908, quickly set about applying high standards of advertising content, presentation and display on the stations. Pick recognised that low standards of adult literacy, static passenger revenue and station environments overcrowded with poor quality signage and advertising were destroying clarity. Good design in all its forms would help build a brand that symbolised quality and reliability, and of course stimulate more passenger usage.

Pick presided over commissioning art and design posters for use on London Underground and (from the formation of London Transport in 1933) on buses and trams. The images commissioned were primarily intended to inform passengers of events, places to visit, safety and behaviour messages as well as sometimes to add interest and intrigue to entertain and educate the travelling public.

Say it Underground with a poster, by Christopher Greaves, 1933

The variety of artists and designers commissioned, their artistic style, their experience, their gender and their reputation were of lesser importance than their response to the brief they were set. In a period where the only accessible media were posters, newspapers and magazines, the poster reigned supreme as a mean of mass communication and there was nowhere better for posters to be displayed and their simple messages understood by millions than on Underground stations.

It is acknowledged that the ‘golden age’ of posters ran between 1920 and 1939 (the period between the First and Second World Wars) and so many fantastic images by internationally renowned artists such as Man Ray, Graham Sutherland, Freda Lingstrom, Abram Games and Edward McKnight Kauffer were posted on the Underground.

Power – the nerve centre of London’s Underground, by Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1931

During the 1960s the importance of the art poster declined.  More people owned cars and televisions which in their different ways replaced the use of public transport for visiting cinemas, dance halls, shopping and days out in London or the countryside. There were more pressing priorities for the use of funds than producing ‘pretty’ images.

The art poster largely fell out of use from 1976 until 1986, when a new and enlightened Director of Marketing, Dr Henry Fitzhugh, was appointed and he revived the art programme with some stunning commissions including Tate Gallery by Tube and Highgate Ponds.

The Tate Gallery by Tube, by David Booth of the agency Fine White Line, 1987

With various intervening twists and turns of fortune, I was invited to carry on the tradition in 1998. I am a passionate believer in great poster art and its power to please, annoy or be hated, but never to be ignored!

We have a limited budget for poster commissioning, so it is with great care that we choose artists and subjects. The annual list of subjects reflects what are important objectives for London Transport Museum, Transport for London and the Mayor of London. Artists and designers we employ are drawn from the huge array of illustrative and design talent that London hosts. Photographic commissions are largely avoided to differentiate the overwhelming output of that medium from the far less used illustrative approach.

Once a topic and appropriate artist is agreed, meetings take place to explore ideas, formats, budgets and timescales for delivery and display and a full written brief is issued. The chosen artist is invited to submit a series of rough sketches and suggested colour palette and a further meeting takes place to explore the final options for production. When the artwork has been delivered, the next steps are to employ in-house designers to format the artwork into a poster with the approved text and logos ready to submit to Transport for London and City Hall in time for approval.

Continuing the great tradition of commissioning art posters, we also host the biennial Poster Prize for Illustration exhibition, in parternship with the AOI. This year’s exhibition, London Stories, is on display at the Museum until 14 July 2019. The winning poster, London is the Place for Me by Eliza Southwood, will be displayed across the Underground network.

London is the Place for Me by Eliza Southwood

Art posters still engage millions of London Underground customers and doubtless persuade some to take additional journeys to featured destinations. These posters are sold in London Transport Museum’s shop to raise revenue to support its charitable objectives, and as we purchase appropriate copyright in perpetuity, we can assure these images will be available for the public to enjoy, and the Museum to use, for ever.

I am so proud to help maintain this ancient, honourable, but still wonderfully relevant job!

Poster Parade – Literary London

29 January – 29 April 2016

Fox

Every three months a new Poster Parade is installed for visitors to enjoy at London Transport Museum (LTM).  The themes of the poster parades are often selected to either showcase a particular strength of the LTM poster collection, coincide with an exhibition or celebrate national or international events such as the Olympic Games. The poster parades are usually curated by young museum professionals such SOCL trainee curators or University of Leicester Museum Studies Interns. A SOCL trainee curator is a traineeship position provided by Cultural Cooperation in partnership with London Transport Museum through their Strengthening Our Common Life (SOCL) programme which encourages greater diversity in the Museum workforce.

House

As a current SOCL trainee at LTM I had the privilege of curating the current Poster Parade, Literary London, which explores the ways in which designers have engaged with the subject of literature in posters commissioned by London Transport and Transport for London. The display also celebrates National Storytelling Week (30 January – 6 February 2016) and World Book Day (3 March 2016).

Book illustration

Selection and Design Process

Posters

The theme for the exhibition was chosen because literary references are a recurring theme in London’s transport posters, from the early 20th century to the present day. The posters displayed in the exhibition were chosen because they are prime examples of four ways posters engage with books and literature and they are arranged in four sections to reflect this. The sections are called Country Walks, Children’s Book Illustrators, Poems and Prose and Today’s Commute – Read all about it.  Posters from the Country Walks series were chosen because they are an example of a London Transport publication. A section about children’s book illustrators was chosen because many poster designers in the collection were also children’s book illustrators or come from an illustration or graphic design background. Poems were an important addition to the Poster Parade because the Museum holds a large collection of posters from the Poems on the Underground series. The last section Today’s Commute – Read all about it contains posters with literary references from the contemporary poster collection.

contemporary

The order of the posters was chosen to reflect the sections and look visually appealing. This process was aided by a creation of a virtual model on SketchUp Make software which allows Curators to move the posters around and visualise what they would look like once they were installed without the physical objects. This was advantageous in regard to selecting the best posters and order for the display. Please see below for an example of a mock up:

Mock up

Interpretation material

Interpretation material was written in accordance with the Museum’s editorial guidelines which detail for example, how TfL and its predecessor institutions should be referred to and that written material should provide neutral accounts of historical or political events. The curator writes the introduction panel and labels. The interpretation material is edited by the senior curator and librarian to ensure the guidelines are adhered to and the text is written to the best standard possible. Once the editing process has been completed it is given to the design department for formatting and printing.  The labels are printed in NJ TfL Book (16 point) typeface which is the house style and digital version of the Johnston typeface which is used across TfL from signage to publications. This is a clear san-serif font like Helvetica which is favoured by publishers and designers for its clarity which makes it suitable for a museum audience to read.

The Poster Parade can be found on Mezzanine Level 1 of the Museum and is on display from 29 January – 29 April 2016.

Many of the posters on display are available to buy in the museum shop and online at http://www.ltmuseumshop.co.uk

For more information on the SOCL Trainee program and the University of Leicester Museum Studies course please see the links below.*

http://www.culturalco-operation.org/education_and_training
http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museumstudies

*Links to external websites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by London Transport Museum of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation or organisation or individual. London Transport Museum bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of the external website or for that of subsequent links. 

How to Curate a Poster Parade

As we all (hopefully) should know by now, this is the Year of the Bus. It’s also the theme for the Museum’s next Poster Parade; a temporary museum exhibit showcasing posters from our collection. Normally, the curators choose the posters for each of these exhibits. However for this Poster Parade we want you to help us make our selection, in celebration of the London Bus! A simple search of the collection’s database reveals over 5000 potential choices. We’ve  narrowed this down to 30 and we need your help to reach the final 15 that will go on display.

You can vote by ‘Liking’ your favourite in our
Poster Parade Facebook Album

books_bw

Our extensive research (and much coffee!) resulted in a selection of posters which reveal some interesting historical developments and consistent themes in the life of the London bus. You might notice Shillibeer’s Omnibus and the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) – the first reliable motorised bus – as well as the B-type, appear in several of our choices. The discontinuation of the Routemaster in 2005 and the introduction of low emission fuel buses also feature, to name but a few. Bus posters do not necessarily reflect all these changes, however there were a number of themes emerging.

omnibus
Shillibeer’s Omnibus c.1829
routemaster
Two RM-type Routemaster c.1972

Themes include recruitment, leisure trips and sightseeing as well as competition between bus, taxi and tube travel. There are also a range of stylist differences across the decades. The eighties posters might ring a few bells for you; from a decade in transport which saw the introduction of night buses and bus passes! If you prefer bright, animated images, vote for ‘Hop on a bus’ or ‘The motor omnibus for all ages’. The colourful London General posters from the 1920’s might catch you eye; or you might prefer the mixed media styles such as ‘Busabout’ and Eckersley’s ‘See London by Bus’.

Either way, we hope you like the selection and vote for your favourite!

The Day Before the War

image 1
Underground Day, Charles Sharland, 1914

The brightly coloured poster above by Charles Sharland was issued to promote the August bank holiday of 1914. It declares 3 August as ‘Underground day’ and encourages passengers to make their choice of what to do and where to go from the many destinations available by tube and bus.

However, when the day came, festivities were overshadowed by the threat of Britain becoming involved in the war on the Continent. By the end of the following day, on 4 August 1914, Britain had declared war on Germany.

image 2
Bank Holiday, artist unknown, 1919

The poster for the 1919 bank holiday reflects on the changed circumstances. The ‘short’ war had turned into a four year conflict with millions of lives lost, and many more changed forever. For the first time there had been a home front, with Londoners at risk from aerial bombardment.

The subdued design gently invites passengers to enjoy holidays once more. The emphasis of the trains, buses and trams being at the service of Londoners reminds us of the important role that London transport staff and vehicles played in the war.

Did you know: Originally the bank holiday in August was the first Monday of the month, as dictated by the Bank Holiday Act (1871). This was until the Banking and Financial Dealings Act (1971) decreed a century later that it would fall, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, on the last Monday of the month. Why? One suggestion was that as the latter half of August is cooler the roads would be less busy with the crowds that thronged to the seaside, getting drunk and causing all sorts of mid-Summer mischief!

Find out more about London and World War 1 at London Transport Museum’s current exhibition Goodbye Piccadilly: From Homefront to Western Front