Category Archives: Project 353

Project 353 – Learning – Acton High School’s Story

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Acton High School is a close neighbour of the Museum Depot at Acton, just a couple of minutes walk up the Gunnersbury Lane, so it’s perhaps not surprising that it has a long history of supporting the museum. The most recent example was through Project 353’s learning programme.

As Project 353 includes a major restoration project, with strong elements of research, craft skills and reproduction, it seemed natural to involve pupils with an aptitude for Art and Design Technology subjects.

Fifteen year 7 pupils found themselves in Covent Garden and London Transport Museum, with ‘Access All Areas’ for a day and a brief to pull together an exhibition that could be mounted in the school. Those involved from the museum included the Head of Marketing and the Curators of the carriage, posters and exhibitions. They willingly submitted to detailed questioning from the young participants on topics such as exhibition staging, poster design, marketing and curating.  Additionally the activities of the day were filmed by the students, giving them valuable experience and exposure to sophisticated techniques.

A Museum Learning professional then supported the group weekly over 10 weeks within the school. Facilitating workshops where the group created pieces to exhibit. Posters were produced, using a wide range of skills from painting to desktop publishing via collage. A video loop was also created and edited. Finally the whole exhibition was mounted in the foyer of Acton High, where it entertained and educated students and parents over a number of weeks before going on tour to Acton Library on the High Street.

All this hard work deserved a reward, and it came on 13th January this year when the team were invited to travel on 353 as part of the ‘Steam on the Met’ day, forming part of the Underground 150 celebrations. They were delighted to see the carriage in active use in all its glory, and be involved in such a prestigious event.

What about the benefits for Acton High? Simone Stocks, their Community Outreach Manager, told me that the project was a great opportunity to reinforce the school’s relationship with the Museum. The involvement of parents in the foyer exhibition had helped bring in local communities too. The students had been stretched; the museum had treated them as responsible adults, and they responded well to this. The access to experts working in a professional environment was a rare opportunity for many students, and as such an invaluable resource for the school.

Would Simone encourage others to get involved with Project 353’s Learning Programme? “Absolutely, it is so worthwhile, giving rare access to real-life situations for the students.”
The students, in their feedback, highlighted the benefits for them: “Opportunities based on what I’m good at, and a lot of collaboration”; “Good to get involved and have a new experience”; “It was fun and it challenged my learning”.

So I think we can safely say that everyone involved came away appreciating the great opportunity that they’d had and very grateful that they had participated!

Project 353 Community Learning Programme – Introduction

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As part of its celebration of the 150th anniversary of the London Underground and in addition to the wonderful restoration of Metropolitan Jubilee Carriage 353, London Transport Museum is running a series of creative learning projects with community groups across London. These projects support their participants to undertake creative activities, inspired by the carriage and its heritage, which culminate in the display of a public exhibition. As well as discovering London Underground’s unique history and heritage, the volunteers also have the opportunity to undertake a relevant piece of accredited learning through the National Open College Network or Arts Award.

All of the projects are inspired by the history & restoration of Metropolitan Jubilee carriage No. 353 and our volunteers have created a range of interpretative exhibitions based on what they have discovered which have included photographs, story-telling, film, posters, songs and a huge ‘carriage through time’ installation. The exhibitions have enthused local people to find out more about the story of carriage No. 353, London Transport Museum, the 150th anniversary of the London Underground and their own local heritage. The project has been made possible thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and London Transport Museum Friends.

Over the course of the project, the blog will reflect the stories and achievements of some of our participants.

Project 353 Learning – Helen’s Story

helen blog pic

Helen C has lived in Bromley since a very young age, and became involved in London Transport Museum’s Project 353 through a partnership with housing association, Affinity Sutton. The project used the story of the restoration of Metropolitan Jubilee Carriage 353 as inspiration for a creative digital project supporting both digital inclusion and employment skills.

A single mum, Helen is interested in getting back into work now that her children are growing older. As the daughter of a transport enthusiast and someone very interested in history, Helen saw Project 353 as an ideal opportunity to learn more about the museum, improve her skills and to meet new people.

Helen, together with her group, had a tour from museum staff of both the  Covent Garden museum site and the museum depot at Acton, where they learnt all about the history and restoration of the carriage. Back in Bromley, the group were then asked to imagine themselves being given the task of marketing the Underground when it first started, and Helen was involved in producing the presentation and posters that resulted.

Through this contribution Helen was able to develop her computer skills, especially using PowerPoint. She had never used it before getting involved in the project, but became something of an expert in it through producing the content that the group used to develop their thoughts. Posters were a major part of this. Helen also used it to deliver a presentation to the group, for which she received very positive feedback. Helen was proud to exhibit her work to friends, guests and staff from both Affinity Sutton and London Transport Museum, showing off all she had learnt and achieved!

Helen particularly enjoyed the opportunity to visit the two museum sites, and in her own words, the Acton Depot was a “huge find”. She can’t wait to take her father to see it at the next open day, and her eight year-old son, Ben, is hugely jealous that he hasn’t been able to see it yet. However, there is no doubt in Helen’s mind that the icing on the cake was an opportunity to take a ride on Carriage 353 on the 13th January when it was hauled by Metropolitan Railway locomotive number 1 as part of the Underground 150 celebrations. She didn’t take her passenger wristband off for weeks afterwards! Helen loved the whole air of celebration, and was delighted to be part of an event that gave so much enjoyment to so many people.

What of the future? Helen told me that the 353 project “got her going” and “inspired her to get into new things”.  She would dearly like to be a Classroom Assistant, and has now applied for a local vacancy. The skills and approach that she learnt have reinvigorated her self-confidence. What would Helen say to others in a similar situation to herself, considering involvement in a similar project? “It’s a very positive thing to do if you want to grow your confidence, learn, have some new experiences and meet new people from different backgrounds. We weren’t thrown in at the deep end, everything was taken gradually, and it wasn’t in the least bit overwhelming.” She also commented on how supportive the museum staff were.

Probably the last word should also go to Helen: “It gave me a good kick up the bum!”

London Underground Testing of Met 1 and Coach 353: The Director’s Perspective

Test train at Moorgate, 16th December 2012

Back in December, we tested Met 1 and coach 353 from Earls Court to Moorgate to prepare for the celebration. For me, it was a remarkable experience to see both our restored vehicles arrive under steam at Earls Court early in the morning of 16 December. The unlined maroon Met 1 pulled quietly into the platform, the varnished coach glinting in the lights behind, cameras were deployed and then followed the cry of ‘All aboard’. We climbed into the plush red seats of one of the four compartments, lit by the Pintsch patent gas lights (LEDs actually), and the doors were slammed shut. With  journalists, and our donors and trustees, I sat expectantly on the plush bench seat and noted the gilded mirrors, buttoned leather door panels, string net luggage racks and rich lettering. Richard Jones opined that this was one of the best restorations he had ever seen. The guard blew his whistle, was answered by the engine whistle and we lurched forwards as the coupling slack was snatched up. The loud beat of the engine quickened and echoed off the tunnel roof as we pulled away, the view on both sides being obscured by smoke and steam. We let one window down on its notched leather strap to get the full effect of steam coal into the compartment. The engine worked quite hard as it tackled the gradient up to Kensington Church Street. For the first time, we began to get just a hint of what travelling on the Victorian Underground might have felt like, the noise of the engine, the movement of the carriage and the swirl of the steam outside the window. We passed through modern stations such as King’s Cross/St Pancras, a rather  surreal experience looking out from a varnished teak upholstered interior onto a modern functional platform with its bright roundels. Orange-clad station staff and contractors smiled and took pictures as we rattled through brightly lit but empty platforms. An unexpected red signal at Baker Street led to the engine blowing off and bringing down the accumulated dust, soot and dead pigeons of the past 150 years onto the pristine carriage and loco. We nosed into the bay platform at Moorgate to take on water before making the return journey to Edgware Road.

This is the experience I hope many of you have been able to taste on the January commemorative runs. Tickets have inevitably been limited and expensive but this is a one-off event, expensive to mount and unlikely to be repeated. To run a  steam hauled service of original carriages within the normal Met timetable has been a huge privilege and a great event to lead off the celebration of the Underground’s profound influence on the capital over the past 150 years. There will be further opportunities throughout the year to ride behind Met 1; from Harrow to Amersham in May and September, at Quainton Road in August and at Epping-Ongar in June and even a Santa Special in December. Negotiations are in hand to hire the loco and coach to heritage railways in the coming years and spread the Museum’s message through a volunteer supporters group to explain them and illustrate the restoration process to a wider public.

Our two projects for 2013 have been the most significant we have undertaken since the 38-stock restoration nearly ten years ago. It’s the first time we have ventured into steam overhaul and operation and we have the eight to ten year life of the boiler certificate to carry the story of the Met and the world’s first underground railway to locations and audiences within and beyond London. We hope to pair it as much as possible with Met 353, our first Met carriage and seen on the test night as one of the highest quality  restorations of its type. Great tribute is owed to the Friends for backing this work from the offset two years ago, to our contractors at the Ffestiniog  and for the excellent and thoughtful direction of the project by Tim Shields. If you are one of over two hundred individual donors, many thanks from the board and myself.

Dynamic testing of Met 353 – November 2012

As recently restored 353 had not previously run in its current form (using a modified PMV underframe), it was necessary to bed in the suspension and brakes; and to build confidence in the performance and dynamic behaviour of the vehicle. The tests were undertaken on the Great Central Railway over a three day period, with mileage accumulation carried out on day 1 (Monday 19th November). For the initial test runs the carriage was sandwiched between two locomotives (Cl45 D123 and Cl20 D8098 ) to enable rapid reversals at the possession limits and build up mileage as quickly as possible.

Once safe operation at 25 mph had been demonstrated on the first day, the carriage was tested to 40 mph, then to a maximum higher speed of 50mph on day 2 (Tuesday 20th November). The Class 20 locomotive provided the motive power for the high speed test, and with the light load of the carriage was very quick in reaching the desired speed. Day 3 (Wednesday 21st November) was booked as spare in case there were any issues earlier in the week. In the event this was used for additional mileage accumulation.

The following amateur footage shows the test train leaving the outskirts of Loughborough during one of the high speed runs.

The GCR was chosen as it has relatively straight and even track; ideal conditions for undertaking brake calculations and measuring vertical and lateral accelerations. The railway had been granted a derogation from the Office of Rail Regulation  for undertaking the high speed test. The Institute of Railway Research carried out the safety assurance work for the carriage and conducted the instrumentation and testing of the vehicle with support from London Underground and Festiniog Railway representatives.

Met 353 – Completion of restoration

The gleaming carriage, finished with gold leaf and carrying no fewer than ten coats of varnish, bears little resemblance to the sorry-looking hulk which arrived at Porthmadog, North Wales in August 2011 after being used as a garden shed.

Craftsmen at the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway this week completed to schedule the 15-month, £200,000 restoration. The carriage travelled from Boston Lodge Works and over Britannia Bridge in Porthmadog before being loaded onto a waiting lorry for transport to the Great Central Railway in Loughborough. Next week the carriage will undergo dynamic testing on the GCR as it is too large to be tested on the narrow gauge F&WHR.

Project 353 restoration update – October 2012

Excellent progress has been made on the carriage restoration over the summer months. As with most projects of this type there is huge pressure between planned cost, available time and the resulting quality. Whilst the approaching LU150 anniversary has constrained the timetable for completion, the quality of craftsmanship going into rebuilding the carriage has remained at the highest standard and is a credit to Festiniog Railway staff.

The interior compartments are currently being fitted out with red plush seating and leather door panels, which together with the completed ceiling panels give a good impression of how the carriage will eventually look. Where practically possible the few original interior fixtures surviving from when the carriage was first built have been grouped together and fitted inside one compartment.

Externally, work on the roof apparatus is starting to take shape with the fitting of wooden blocks to support the replica gas light copper piping. Unfortunately after researching railway heritage organisations and museums up and down the country, no original ‘Pintsch’ gas lamps of the type used on Met353 have been found. However, through studying a combination of historical photographs and archival drawings, eight replica gas lamps has been fabricated by Festinog Railways contracted specialist lamp company. Following the original design they are made from tin plated steel and of traditional soldered construction. Whilst we want the restoration to be as accurate and faithful as possible, we don’t want passengers to have Victorian accidents. Hence the lighting will be powered by low voltage LEDs, whilst the ‘Wethered Patent’ style door locks will be modified so they cannot be accidently opened from inside the carriage when carrying passengers on the London Underground.

After a considerable amount of time inverted (to aid the fitting of braking components) within the workshop, the underframe is now the right way up and almost complete. As I write the only parts remaining to be fitted are the step boards and ‘Swan neck’ section of vacuum piping. Once the carriage body is complete it will be mounted onto the underframe and the heating pipes and emergency stop system connected together.

If all goes to plan static testing will be undertaken at Boston Lodge in the first week of November, followed by dynamic testing on a standard gauge heritage railway line soon after. This will be the first time the carriage has operated on a railway line in over 70 years and a sight eagerly anticipated. Needless to say the completion of the carriage forms just one element of a much larger event currently being developed, to bring the return of a passenger steam train under the streets of London as part of LU150 in January 2013.

Restoring Met 353 – LTM Director’s perspective

Carriage 353

My first visit to the Boston Lodge works of the Ffestiniog Railway to see our restoration in progress. The carriage body is now nearly complete, with the teak panelling restored and revarnished. Work has started on fitting out the four compartments with their bench seats. The repairs and filling of gaps and holes has been beautifully done, just discernible from close up but not from  a distance. It is already hard to reconcile the carriage in its present state with the tired body removed from our store at the start of the Project. The two holes for the Pintsch patent gas lights to be dropped into the ceilings can be seen in each compartment. The wooden strakes, window corners and mirror surrounds were seen in the varnish shop ready for addition to the body.

Much work has recently been undertaken on cutting down the ex-BR under frame to fit the body. The Ffestiniog guys have resisted the temptation to go for the 2ft and I can report the under frame is definitely standard gauge! We came away most impressed with the knowledge and workmanship of Norman’s team and our apprentice. Work is on programme and we look forward to 353 taking its place behind Met 1 later in the autumn for running in.

Restoring Met 353 – Testing of safety critical components

Wheel Sets

During May safety critical components such as the draw hooks and wheelsets were carefully cleaned and NDT tested (Non Destructive Testing). This important procedure highlights any defects within metalwork that could later lead to failure of the part in service. Thankfully the majority of components passed the examination, however a number of brake block carriers failed and replacements duly sourced. When complete the carriage will have a dual (air and vacuum) braking system fitted, allowing it to be compatible with a range of heritage rolling stock. Interestingly, a number of ex London Underground A-Stock components have been recovered for re-use on the carriage braking system. Items include an auxiliary reservoir tank and two pressure gauges formally fitted to 6136 and 5136.

The profile of the wheels was checked last year and the shape found to be fairly good – A moderate amount of wear was discovered but well within intervention limits. There are currently no plans to re-profile the wheels (now close to P8) and they should be good for another 100,000 miles!

Restoring Met 353 – Loan of carriage door

Carriage Door

It can be very difficult to undertake an accurate and faithful restoration if original components are missing, or the information required to reproduce them unknown. One such challenge has been to identify the type of door latches once fitted to Met353. As none of the originals survived it was most fortuitous to recently find a complete door from another early Metropolitan Railway carriage, Met212 built by Ashbury in 1881. This has been kindly loaned to the project team by the Quainton Railway Society (QRS) and the detailed information gained from inspecting this example is proving invaluable to the build. After some careful cleaning and dismantling, it quickly became apparent the lock mechanism was designed by Edwin Robert Wethered, an inventor once based in Woolwich, London. It closely matches his patent: 407,268 submitted in 1889.

Met212 at Aylesbury © Albin J. Reed

Notes: Met212 was one of the last 8-wheeled stock carriages to be operated by the Metropolitan Railway. It was later modified for use as a sleet clearing vehicle and survived into London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) ownership in 1933. Once withdrawn from railway use, the carriage body was grounded next to staff allotments alongside Aylesbury train station. A door was rescued by QRS before the carriage was finally broken up in 1967.