Category Archives: Volunteers

Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project – Session Three

This blog is part of a mini-series of updates about the Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project. To keep up-to-date with all the latest programme activities, please visit the ‘Battle Bus’ section in London Transport Museum blog.

Session Three

Introduction to research

Volunteer Rhys Davies-Santibanez reflects on session three of the project, which introduced the volunteers to the resources available to help them start their research.

Having spent the previous week out and about visiting other museums, being back at the London Transport Museum was a welcome return to soft seats and having tea on tap. A quick recap of our impressions of the different ways other museums displayed their exhibits revealed many diverse opinions in the room. With that in mind, how were we going to agree on the direction of our research?

We split into two teams to discuss subject areas and approaches to researching the B-type buses. My group’s interests lay in the tales of the soldiers on board, together with the broader (and political) story of the First World War’s effect on women’s rights and on workers in general. Before we knew it, our guest speaker had arrived.

Andrew Robertshaw talk

Andrew Robertshaw is a man of boundless energy and passion. He introduced himself by rattling off a handful of impressive credentials (and a quick Google search easily doubled this list). Armed with just a USB stick and a boxful of trinkets, Andy effortlessly proved that curiosity and some online tools are all you need to start researching First World War military personnel. I thought he’d just briefly touch on the generalities of research, but by the time he left I had two pages packed full of notes. Lunch provided time to digest his many insights before the afternoon’s activity, our library induction!

Library induction

Caroline Warhurst, the Library and Information Services Manager, warned us it was normally pretty cosy with just two people working in the library. Nevertheless, ten of us managed to squeeze in to listen to her. Despite the crush, the short time we were in there proved fruitful.

One book in particular, ‘The London B-type motor omnibus’ by G J Robbins and J B Atkinson, 3rd ed. 1991, was packed with excerpts of soldiers’ letters about the B-type buses. They were originally published in ‘News of T.O.T’ (which stands for Train, Omnibus, Tram) a wartime newsletter produced by the transport companies, which the Museum has had digitised. A quick keyword search revealed a treasure trove of stories from the front line. I started following the adventures of W H Davis, a former signal repairman from south of the river who first popped up in T.O.T’s wounded list in December 1916, but by March 1918 was awarded a medal and promotion for his bravery and leadership. If I could find that snippet in just an hour, I wonder what might appear over the coming weeks…

Research

The day wound to a close with a group discussion revisiting the research interests we had explored. In contrast to my group’s focus on personal and social stories, the others had been thinking about the Battle Bus as an object in its own right: what the B-type buses had been used for during the Frist World War, and even the materials and process of production.

Plenty to think about between sessions! How do we tie our various interests into a single thematic thread? What do we look into next? Next week we start researching in earnest, thinking about what our Battle Bus exhibition might look like.

Comeback every week to read the latest instalment on how our volunteers are getting on with their Battle Bus project.

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Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project – Session Two

This blog is part of a mini-series of updates about the Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project. To keep up-to-date with all the latest programme activities, please visit the ‘Battle Bus’ section in London Transport Museum blog.

Session Two

Visit to the Imperial War Museum and the National Army Museum

This week the group visited the First World War galleries at Imperial War Museum and the Society and the War gallery at National Army Museum. Here, volunteer Eithne Cullen, talks about her experience of the day.

At the Imperial War Museum, the number of deaths and the awful conditions endured by the soldiers and civilians who lived through the First World War make visiting the exhibition an emotive and powerful experience. All the people in the group felt they had the chance to examine artefacts and get a sense of the sights and sounds of war, with sympathetic lighting and a variety of hands-on displays.

The opportunity to learn about individuals’ lives and see artefacts as varied as china and crockery, newspaper headlines of the day, propaganda posters, empty bullet shells, uniforms and a reconstructed trench – all made this come to life. Individual lives were opened up too, from Edith Cavell the heroic nurse, to Siegfreid Sassoon the officer-poet who spoke out about the conditions his men experienced. Other letters and diaries provide vivid records of individual service, like Gabrielle West whose diary tells of her role in a special police service set up to supervise women workers.

Museum visit

By way of contrast, the exhibition at the National Army Museum seems like an attractive cinema entrance, where there is generous use of colourful posters and bright display cases. We saw the cultural influence of the army on our lives in a display looking at everything from representations of the army in cinema to the way army language and slang has entered everyday speech. The use of a film about the conflict in Northern Ireland know as the Troubles made some of the group feel uncomfortable because it was unexpected and felt out of place in this gallery considering the other themes. The small exhibition about the symbol of the poppy was interesting and provoked some thought about how the poppy is used for Remembrance.

National Army Museum Visit

These two contrasting displays gave us lots to think about when considering how we react to the way information is presented to us and the way we respond to it.

I was very taken by the stories of the women who worked in the munitions factories, the munitionettes. I wrote this poem in response.

Munitionette        

On Monday she’s a  munitionette

packing shells and placing wicks

the powder makes her hair and skin  yellow.

Canary girl in an opera of canaries.

 

On Monday she’s in drab brown clothes

mob cap on her head, trousers like a man

she’s not allowed a buckle or a badge

one spark and they’d be off, all blown away.

 

The men look at them, with contempt

they’ll cut our wages, take away our jobs

no place for a woman in our   factory…

but the women fill the orders in this

hour of need send plenty to the front to

beat the Hun.

 

The men look down on their yellow faces

their tunics a mockery of battledress and frontline uniforms.

 

But on Sunday she puts on a dress

it’s white and it’s embroidered at the front

her sash of green and purple like her hat

and the metal brooch she wears a badge of honour

a medal for her service at the front and times in Holloway.

 

On Sunday in the park with crowds of women just like her

The explosives in this case are powerful words –

speeches and glorious cries of ‘Votes for Women!’

and the songs they sing block the awful factory sounds.

 

The men look at them, with contempt

they’ll cut our wages-take away our power

the ballot box is not the place

Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project – Session One

This blog is part of a mini-series of updates about the Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project. To keep up-to-date with all the latest programme activities, please visit the ‘Battle Bus’ section in London Transport Museum blog.

Session One

This year the Battle Bus project is focussing on ‘London’s Memories’. We are starting the programme of activities with a research volunteer project, to uncover stories of transport workers involved in the First World War.

Marta Kronberga, one of our research volunteers, describes what happened in the project’s first session:

This week we were based at the Museum Depot at Acton. We started the morning with some group activities to get to know each other better and discussed what makes good presentation skills. We then went to explore the famous Battle Bus, with curator Katariina Mauranen, who worked on the bus restoration project.

Battle Bus group activity

This amazing B-type bus was introduced in London in 1910, and was operated by the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC). More than 1,000 of these buses were sent to war, many with their bus drivers. They were used to transport troops to and from the front lines. After the war, only around 400 buses came back to London and many were in such bad condition they were just used for parts.

It was such an interesting experience. We got to hear about the story of the Battle Bus, sit on the top deck, see all the little details and some of us even got a chance to sit in the driver’s seat!

Behind the wheel of Battle Bus

After lunch it was time for some more group activities. This time each group created a presentation from documents we were given, to get us in the mood to start thinking about the Battle Bus research project. We discussed the First World War in general, remembrance of the war and stories of individual transport workers. Everybody was really interested in the postcards and letters sent from or to soldiers, and the personal stories they showed.

Battle Bus group activity

At the end of the day we were given a tour of the Depot by Keith Raeburn, the Depot Supervisor. It was a great chance to see the development of London buses. We saw everything from horse-drawn omnibuses to ones that are almost the same as the buses on London streets today. We also saw posters and objects from the collection and of course Underground trains that were used throughout the 20th century.

At the end of the day it was clear that we have a great group of volunteers with different interests and backgrounds. Hopefully this will give us some fascinating outcomes at the end of the project. Let’s see where this research will take us!

Comeback every week to read the latest instalment on how our volunteers are getting on with their Battle Bus project.

A Driving Force

Alongside the restoration and conservation of Battle Bus (B-type B2737) London Transport Museum is also running an in-depth learning and engagement programme. Throughout the centenaries of the First World War, the programme will work with different groups of volunteers to investigate new perspectives of the Battle Bus and bring to life the stories of those affected by war and the role of transport within it.

In 2015 our focus was the experiences of women. At the outbreak of war in 1914 thousands of men from the transport industry volunteered to take on military roles. The industry lost a significant proportion of its workforce, and it wasn’t long before women were called upon to fill the roles that men had left behind.  In the bus industry, one of the roles undertaken by women was as conductors, ‘clippies’ or ‘conductorettes’ as they were sometimes called. They received mixed reactions from the public, simultaneously a symbol of women’s important contribution to the war effort as well as a target for derision by those who felt that women were not capable of carrying out such responsible jobs.

Working with over 40 female professionals currently employed in the transport industry we explored the stories of these first ‘conductorettes’ in more detail. We looked at the experiences of these women and how they contrast to that of women working in the bus industry today, how the role of women has changed over time, as well as asking if women today still face the same prejudices as counterparts from 100 years ago.

This film is taken from the exhibition. Sarah Liles, a Bus Driver, and Liza Maddocks, an Employee Relations Assistant, talk about their experience of working in the bus industry today. 

The stories all contributed to a final exhibition, ‘A Driving Force: 100 years of women in transport’. As well as the film shown above the exhibition included oral history interviews, artwork and a timeline of key milestones in the story of women in transport from 1915-2015. In the Summer and Autumn the exhibition toured cultural and community venues throughout London, including Catford Bus Garage, London Transport Museum Depot in Acton, Westminster Music Library and Victoria Coach Station.

Bustastic – Volunteers Please!

So, it’s official, 2014 is the Year of the Bus (in London anyway). There’s at least three reasons: it’s 100 years since B-types took troops to the Western Front, 75 years since the RT first appeared on the streets of London, and 60 years since the first Routemaster made its debut at the Commercial Motor Show. As you can imagine, a significant programme of major events is planned to celebrate.

LTM_Volunteer_day_March_2014_008_1Amongst many other things we can look forward to a number of Bus Garage Open Days through the summer, a major two day Routemaster rally in July, a restored B-type being adapted as if going to France in 1914 and a unique bus rally in Central London, also in June. The programme is noteworthy for being delivered by the many different organisations and individuals which either own heritage London buses or are involved in providing services today. Inevitably this means a major contribution from the Museum, owning as it does many historic buses. If the Museum is to make the fullest contribution to the Year of the Bus a significant volunteer effort will be required to support event delivery.

LTM_Volunteer_day_March_2014_012_2To help muster the necessary forces, the museum and the Friends of the Museum held a joint volunteer recruitment event at the Acton Depot at the end of March. I went along to cast a discerning eye over the opportunities available – and there are some good ones! Before events buses need cleaning, preparing and driving (only by the properly qualified, of course). At the events there’s a lot of stewarding of people and vehicles required, a large element of which concerns providing context and history to the public.

LTM_Volunteer_day_March_2014_006_3The Underground hasn’t been forgotten: following the hugely successful Underground 150 anniversary celebrations in 2013, a small number of steam outings are planned on the network for 2014, requiring volunteer support. The architectural and design legacy hasn’t been forgotten either in the public programme, for example with further tours of Aldwych station. You’ll be delighted to know that I put my hand up for a number of activities!

Post Written by Dave Olney, Volunteer

To get in touch with London Transport Museum about volunteer opportunities this year contact opportunities@ltmuseum.co.uk

Volunteer Thank You Event

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Written by Dave Olney, Volunteer

Station Staff Make Wood Green Open Day A Success

To add to the many special events taking place this year to mark the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, staff at Wood Green station on the Piccadilly Line organised a highly successful Open Day on Saturday, August 31.

The Open Day, the first to be held at the north London station, proved extremely popular with visitors of all ages who were taken by staff on an hourly guided tour covering both the outside and inside of the building.

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Designed by Charles Holden, Wood Green station was opened on September 19, 1932 as part of the first section of the Cockfosters extension from Finsbury Park to Arnos Grove. It is now a Grade II listed building.

After learning about the design features of the exterior facade and the spacious booking hall, visitors went down to the platforms and then into restricted areas not normally open to the public. These included a narrow maintenance tunnel which runs between the Eastbound and Westbound platforms and the machine room housing the vital escalator mechanisms.

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At the end of the tour visitors were treated to coffee and biscuits in an upstairs rest room, where staff had displayed old photographs showing the construction and development of the station. They were also given an illustrated book on the history of the Piccadilly Line extension.

The success of the Open Day was due to all the enthusiasm and hard work shown by the station staff team consisting of supervisor Ombretta Riu-Tubl and customer services assistants Nigel Buckmire and Jane Bennett. They were assisted by Steve Dagsland, supervisor at nearby Manor House station which held its Open Day – believed to be the first on the Underground network – earlier in the year.

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“We decided to hold the Open Day because we wanted to show off all parts of this historic station to our many customers who regularly use it,” said Ombretta. “The staff were very keen on the idea and on the day Nigel turned out to be a first class tour guide despite his initial nervousness.”

Following the popularity of the Wood Green and Manor House Open Days similar events may now be held at other stations along the Piccadilly Line.

Written by Stephen Barry, Volunteer

353 Goes Far East!

353 goes far East? Well certainly about as far East as it could and still claim London Underground legitimacy. The restoration of Metropolitan carriage no.353 to its former glory was a significant investment, and the Museum was helped out by a generous grant from the Lottery Heritage Fund. In recognition of this help, the carriage has been used at a number of events in 2013 at which the public can both see it and take a ride in its stunning first class interior.

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Hence on an early Saturday morning in July I found myself stood next to 353 on the platform of North Weald station of the heritage Epping and Ongar Railway, which was until 1994 part of London Transport’s Central Line. The Epping and Ongar Railway had organised an Underground 150 event as its contribution to this year’s celebrations.

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Truth be told, in my concern not to be late, I actually arrived a bit too early, just as the station was opening. Consequently I was treated to a happy hour or so watching while the trains for the day were formed up; it was a highly nostalgic image of what I would imagine a sleepy early morning in the summer on a steam secondary line must have been like.

The nostalgia quotient was piled on as a brace of Country Area RTs and a couple of RFs arrived on the apron outside the station, ready to run the shuttles bringing passengers from Epping station.

However, I wasn’t in deepest Essex to wallow in the past. For a change I was actually making myself useful and I spent the day acting as the steward on 353. This meant looking after the carriage, to make sure that nothing untoward happened to it. Just as importantly, I was also on hand to ensure that the public safely enjoyed their day and were able to understand a little bit about the history and restoration of 353. At this point I also have to mention the Epping and Ongar’s volunteers, who I found to be immensely friendly and helpful.

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So I spent a very happy day trundling to and fro through the summer countryside, in a train consisting of Metropolitan loco no. 1, carriage 353 and a “Dreadnought” carriage. I think it would be a fair reflection to say that a good time was had by all! (But especially me……)

Dave Olney, Volunteer

Royal Academy at the Depot

It will be apparent to most of you familiar with the Museum and this blog that posters are an important part of the Underground150 celebrations. It will also be apparent to regular readers of the volunteers’ blog that the vast majority of the Museum’s collection is actually kept at the Acton Depot. This is especially true for posters, with tens of thousands dating back over 100 years or so to the early part of the 20th century. Also at Acton Depot is a smaller collection of original artworks that were created in the production of the posters; however this numbers in the hundreds rather than the thousands.

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Recently I was lucky enough to join a private tour of the two collections organised for the Friends of the Royal Academy, guided by two of the Museum’s volunteers, Tom Cavanagh and John Dodd. I had keenly anticipated the event, being very interested in the poster collection myself. I also expected some illuminating questions and conversation, given the knowledge and interests of our guests.

I wasn’t disappointed on either count. Both John and Tom gave well informed and interesting tours of both collections, visiting them in turn with a group of ten or so. They entertained us with an excellent knowledge and understanding of the collection, and were able to pull out relevant and interesting items that engaged the groups. I was particularly impressed with John’s discourse on lithography! Not all the original artwork is painted – the collection includes collage, mosaic and stencil as well as the water colours, oils, etc. that one might expect.

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It was also interesting to note that none of the visitors had a particular interest in transport; proof (if it were needed) that the Museum’s collections can appeal to a surprisingly wide audience. And what better way to learn about it than in the hands of an enthusiastic volunteer?

Dave Olney, Volunteer

Riding Shotgun on Met 353

The more observant amongst you will have noticed that the restoration of Metropolitan Railway carriage no. 353 by the Museum has been one of the highlights of the Underground 150 celebrations. Dating from 1892, 353 has been the centrepiece of the show, and has appeared a number of times on the recent steam runs on the Underground.

Late in May came the ‘Steam on the Met’ event (if you missed it there’s another similar run in September!), giving the opportunity for members of the public to ride behind a steam loco on the main line in a variety of old rolling stock, hauled by a steam engine. A British Rail 0-6-0 pannier tank built in the early 1950s, 9466, did the honours. No. 353 formed part of the train, and museum volunteers were fully involved with Underground staff in stewarding the event and making sure that all passed off well for the customers.

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Electric loco ‘Sarah Siddons’ and diesel 20 189 in its London Transport red livery were also in the train – no way were we going to be allowed to breakdown and block the line! Your humble scribe was pressed into action as a steward, and very enjoyable it was too. A freezing cold day found me joining the team at Harrow-on-the-Hill station for a full briefing prior to doing two round trips to Amersham. After joining the train our customers got on as well, and we were treated to a surprisingly fast run out to Amersham.

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The atmosphere in the carriage was wonderful, with steam pouring past the windows, the Victorian ambience and the shared enjoyment of travelling first class in deep red plush seats on the Metropolitan Line.

Everything passed off smoothly, other than the cold, wet weather: time was kept, and all passengers thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They also had the opportunity to chat about the history of 353 with the volunteers, who had received background notes from Dave Taylor (volunteer). Between the two trips we had a chance to retire to a pub in Harrow for a very late lunch, which was very welcome; strictly no alcohol though.

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353 will be out and about quite a bit in 2013, and not just on London Underground lines, so there will be a chance to sample its delights at a number of different heritage railway events. Keep a lookout on the Museum’s Vehicles on the Move page!

Dave Olney, Volunteer