Tag Archives: 2012

Aldwych Goes Public

I arrived at Aldwych on another bitterly cold Friday in good time for the final briefing and safety check; as a disused station is not maintained as a public environment, so every eventuality has to be anticipated and planned for.  Arrival of the first public visitors immediately confirmed the great enjoyment these visits give people: a row of 40 smiling faces, drinking in the sight and ambience of the station booking hall (and probably also warming up, truth be told).

First things first, the visitors have to be fully safety-briefed before being given an overview of the station’s history by their volunteer tour guide.  Then, in line with the standard pattern of the tour, a couple of minutes for personal exploration and photos before moving to the next site – which involves descending 161 stairs to the lower level of the station. Keeping to time is a major consideration:  there are a number of tours on a given day, and these are tightly timed to a length of 45 minutes so as to offer as many tours as possible to the public. Next it’s the lower lift landings, followed by the two platforms. The western one was in public use until closure of the station in 1994, and was complete with a train of 1972 Northern Line stock.

From there it’s smartly over to the eastern platform (decommissioned in 1914) all the while watching for trip hazards.  This platform features a stretch of track laid in 1907. Note how there’s no suicide pit, a 1920’s innovation. Throughout the benefit of the careful preparation by the volunteers pays off, not just in their set pieces but in answering the many questions, covering every conceivable aspect of the station and much else about the underground system.

Finally, all photos taken and every question answered, we set off for the surface again, up the 161 steps (being so many, one is apt to count!).

Dave Olney, Volunteer

Preparing to Deliver Tours at Aldwych Station

Every year the London Transport Museum with the help of Transport for London runs a short programme of public tours of the disused Underground station at Aldwych. Originally opened as Strand station in 1907, it closed in 1994, never having achieved the passenger numbers expected. Of the entire facility as originally constructed, about one third of it was never commissioned at opening in 1907, and roughly another third closed as an economy measure in 1914. So for the largest part of its life it was 2/3rds shut. Its sleepy life at the end of a short branch line ensured a lack of investment and refurbishment, as a result of which it’s as good a remnant of the original Edwardian tube as one could hope to find anywhere. Consequently it’s a grade 2 listed monument.

Hence the limited annual opening is a great draw – this year it was sold out on the day that tickets were made available. As you can imagine, opening a closed Underground facility to the public is a major undertaking, so all visitors are guided by museum volunteers. On a cold Friday morning I found myself joining a small group of volunteers planning for the event. Despite its relatively short life the station has a rich history, and it’s a challenge to do it justice in a 45 minute tour.

Just to confuse, some of the features that appear historical are misleading, thanks to the use of the station as a set for films. There’s an example in the photos with this post: can you spot it? We spent a couple of hours checking the tour plan and verifying the contents of the guides’ notes. These are researched and scripted by the volunteers themselves, and evidenced a fund of knowledge of lesser known facts. Inevitably the station’s role as a shelter for both people and the nation’s heritage during both world wars featured large. By lunch all the loose ends had been tied down and we were tour ready. Let’s hope there’s no tricky questions!

Dave Olney, Volunteer

So That’s How they Keep Them So Clean: Working Party at Acton Depot

Roughly every month there is a volunteers’ working party at Acton Depot, so with keen anticipation I made my way to the depot on the 23rd October to see what one involves. On arrival I tracked down Robert Excell, the Curator in charge of the day’s event. Vehicle cleaning was the order of the day, and I found Grey Green Volvo Ailsa VA115 ready for a thorough sprucing up. Upstairs wielding an expert mop and brush was Jerry Pratchett, burnishing a floor that you could eat your lunch from.

Jerry has been a volunteer for more than 15 years, his interest in transport being sparked by his father who worked on the buses at Hendon. Conversely, downstairs I found a volunteer who had a long career on the buses: Malcolm Bowers, who started his career with London Transport and finished with Arriva. I found Malcolm busy giving the downstairs seats a thorough hoovering.

A clean interior demands a clean exterior. At Acton washing is done by hand as there’s no drive-through washer. Whilst I was inside VA115, Ron Bristow had arrived, and was preparing to start the external clean. A volunteer for 20 years, Ron has been involved with many activities, such as guiding and museum moves. I can tell you that I was starting to feel a bit of a novice at one month’s service.

To prove that it isn’t just about the buses, Robert Bedford was found busy with the vacuum cleaner inside the recently acquired A60 stock car. After 51 years in service it probably needs a good clean! Robert has been a volunteer for about a year, and already has a varied list of interesting activities.  Once again I came away from the depot very impressed by the volunteers’ contribution.

Dave Olney, Volunteer

Acton Depot Open Weekend Oct 2012 – It Couldn’t Happen Without Them

As promised I’m returning to the topic of the Acton Depot Open Weekend, but this time concentrating on some of the volunteer activities. Well, where better place to start than meeting and greeting? Maintaining a steady flow of new LTM Friends and volunteers is essential to the continuing work of the museum. So, strategically placed at the entrance to the Depot, I found volunteers Paul Fox and Eva-Maria Lauenstein giving no guest the opportunity to get in without understanding the many benefits of being more closely involved with the LTM. Before you run away with the impression of “running the gauntlet”, let me reassure you that it was done with great skill and the best humour, making for a very friendly welcome to the event.

Inside the Depot, having deposited bags and coats at the cloakroom, one of the first teams that one encountered was the signalling team, proudly demonstrating the newly completed Marble Arch signal frame installation. Whilst no expert, I think I can safely say from observation that our visitors tested to destruction the failsafe nature of the interlocking system.

Moving on, the handling trolley in the bus exhibits area soon came into sight, where volunteers Ken Healey, Ash Ketchum and David Berwick looked to be having a great time, with the Tickets Please! theme proving very popular with our younger visitors. The opportunity to have a genuine Gibson or Bell Punch ticket was obviously an immense draw…

Of course, an important role for volunteers on an open day is straightforward answering of visitor questions (most vital of all “Where are the toilets?”) and ensuring that guests respect the exhibits and cordoned off areas. Keeping an eye on the buses were Ian Dolby and Norman Argent, both long standing volunteers.

James keeping an eye on RM1’s timekeeping

Staying with buses, I mentioned last week that the opportunity to ride on RM1 was very popular. Helping the crew to marshal visitors at the rear platform I found James Wake, who was expertly handling of the crowds, who were, dare I say, not as skilled at boarding back loaders as Londoners were when RM1 first graced the capital’s streets.

I also found these volunteers lurking at the back of the depot, looking very preoccupied…

Dave Olney, Volunteer

Acton Depot Open Weekend Oct 2012 – First impressions of a new volunteer

As Sam Clift (Volunteer Coordinator) put it to me, what better way to ease my way into writing the volunteer blog than to attend the Acton Depot on the first day of the Open Weekend in October? So on Saturday 6th I reported at 10:30am sharp (having spectacularly underestimated how long it would take the Piccadilly line to deliver me to Acton Town), just in time for the volunteers’ briefing by Barry Le Jeune (Friends Chairman). I was surprised by the number of visitors already waiting for entry when I arrived, probably more than 50.

The amount of care and effort that had gone into the organisation of the event was impressive. I understand that these open days have been running for a few years now, which must help in their planning and execution. A large level of high quality volunteer activity was very obviously essential to the successful delivery of the Open Weekend, to the extent that this first blog post will concentrate on the overall feeling of the Open Weekend and next week’s will look more closely at some of the individual activities and contributions.

  

At 11 o’clock the doors opened, and immediately there was a rush on the LTM stand, not to mention the Friends’ stand and also quite a few of the other stalls as well. The better organised visitors obviously like to get their purchasing done early in order not to miss any rare items. Most noticeable was the large selection of A60/A62 stock artefacts and memorabilia for sale, and in the course of the day I saw many people carrying around luggage racks. Speaking for myself, I very nearly bought a destination screen unit, but consideration of how this might be received when I proudly unveiled it once back at home weighed against it in the end.

The depot soon started filling up with visitors, and by 12 o’clock it was looking really busy in some of the more popular areas. Obvious crowd pleasers were the bus rides, particularly (but not surprisingly) RM1, although RT1700 from London Bus Company also did sterling service; the taxi display and cab rides organised thanks to the significant presence and contribution of the London Vintage Taxi Association; the Acton Model Railway attracted a long queue of passengers as the day progressed, and the children’s activities on the mezzanine area was also noticeably busy.

  

Walking around the depot site I had the opportunity to speak to a number of volunteers and it immediately became apparent that they all have a great interest in the work of the museum, and a deep commitment to it. All were busy cheerfully dealing with the public, answering questions on every imaginable topic (I certainly surprised myself when I was able to help one man with his question about a Gardner bus engine). I’m quite sure that the unfailing helpfulness of the volunteers contributed greatly to giving the whole event its friendly and welcoming feeling – there was a great buzz in the air from start to finish.

Saturday was blessed with blue skies and warm sunshine, so many visitors ate outside at the back of the depot building in the rear yard, and a long queue soon developed at the hot snack van. I also saw several volunteers grabbing a quick tray of chips…!

Our visitors covered a diverse range, and a gratifyingly high number of families with children were present. It was very noticeable that in some the older family members were busy reminiscing, whilst in others, a youngster would be explaining an arcane point of detail to a bemused adult!

From about 4pm onwards visitors started to make their way home, the view along the entry road resembling the retreat of a victorious army as people carried home their prized purchases of all sorts, shapes and sizes. I had to remind myself that for many of the volunteers, the show would happen all over again tomorrow.

Dave Olney, LTM Volunteer

Celebrating the Olympics

Have you been to the Olympics yet? Come visit our current Poster Parade display! This display celebrates the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics by reflecting on the history and tradition of London’s sporting life. There’s some fantastic posters on display, from football and horse riding through to athletics and swimming. Also on display is the one poster commissioned by London Transport during the London 1948 Olympics, also known as the ‘Austerity Olympics’ during the tough economic times after World War II.

Posters have been used since the early 1900s to encourage travel to sporting events and activities. They also assisted in promoting off-peak sales on London’s public transport network, particularly as the popularity of mass spectator sports grew. Special events such as Wimbledon and cup finals bring the additional challenge of transporting thousands of extra passengers. TfL is currently facing one of its biggest challenges – informing and assisting spectators and participants in their experience of the London 2012 Olympics.

Map as Inspiration – Undergrounding London

In 2009, Antonio Cortés, an English language teacher from Colegio Cardenal Spínola school in Spain, got in touch with the Museum to tell us about his project ‘Undergrounding London’. Since our first contact, the Museum has kept in touch with Antonio and his students, working together to develop new themes for the ‘Undergrounding London’ project. So when we started developing our collection in preparation for the Mind the Map exhibition, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for Antonio’s story to be captured for our collection. Hear all about the project and see some of the activities in action in their fantastic film:

Since taking part in the Map as Inspiration project, Antonio has continued to work with the Museum, including most recently when he and his students wrote some new labels for our upcoming poster parade ‘What is a Map’. We hope to continue working with Colegio Cardenal Spínola school into the future!

Map as Inspiration – ThinkQuest Japan

Another of the brilliant projects who took part in our Map as Inspiration project was that of Shota Kuroki and the ThinkQuest team from Kanagawa University High School in Japan. Shota and his team are interested in information graphics, and use Beck’s map as an example of how such a simple idea can have a massive impact on how information is communicated around the world. Their project won the ThinkQuest Japan award in 2011, and the Museum was delighted to have been able to work with the group.

Here’s their video:

After winning the competition, the team sent us some messages:

Hello, I’m Yuki Hirotsu and I took charge of the animation on the top page of our website. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to display our website and video at your exhibition in 2012.

We have been working on this project since last April and we managed to make a good website thanks to your cooperation.

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The global exchange between you and us led to the championship.

We hope we go to London where is a beautiful city sometime in the near future.

Thank you very much!

Chiaki Matsumoto

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My name is Ryosuke Matsuoka. We sent a video letter to your museum in December.

Thank you for sending ours various kinds of material such as the book, the poster, and so on for my preparation of website. This was the first time for ours to communicate with people in foreign countries without interpreter. I’m glad to send a mail to you again, because I want to let you know about my website. With your help, we won the highest award in the website.

Thank you so much and I`m looking forward to visiting the museum one day.

Preparing for ‘Mind the Map’ at LTM Depot – by Peter Crump Young Consultant

On Saturday 7th January the Young Consultants took a trip to the London Transport Museum Depot.

We had the amazing opportunity to work with curator Claire Dobbin, and we were luckily granted the chance to help select the pocket maps to appear in the upcoming exhibition “Mind the Map”.

The Depot, based in Acton Town holds the history of London Transport from pocket maps & posters to the last buses and trains of their kind, which eventually receive funding for repair and gets used as exhibits in places like the LTM.

During my action packed day at the Depot I learnt a lot of information on the history of transport which gave me the answers to many unanswered questions.; such as how the underground map we use today was created.

I explored the different types of pockets maps from the past 200 years, looking at various different designers and how and why they have changed.

I’d say the LTM Depot is a mind-blowing environment for transport fans everywhere and would definitely advice you to attend the public open days. For information on these days check out http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/museum-depot/events.

Volunteers launch tours on the Art and Poster collection

On Saturday 19th November two of our volunteers, Tom Cavanagh and John Dodd, delivered the first official tours to the public on the museum’s art and poster collection at the Acton Depot.  Visitors had the opportunity to take a peek at the extensive collection of works held in the art and poster stores, and learn all about how many of the works were made, why they were commissioned and how they came to be in the London Transport Museum’s collection.  The art and poster stores are usually closed off to the public, and can only be accessed whilst either being supervised by staff or as part of a tour.  Access to the Museum’s art and poster collection has been growing steadily this year, with a number of Poster Parade exhibitions at the museum in Covent Garden and regular features on the museum’s blog.  And now we have tours of the collection too!

Throughout this year a number of our volunteers have spent many days being trained by our Safety and Citizenship, Visitor Services and Curatorial staff.  One of the great things about volunteering with London Transport Museum is that our staff have a very hands on attitude, which allows our volunteers the opportunity to work closely alongside staff giving them a great insight into any tasks and projects they get involved with.  Our volunteers have worked very hard researching their content, practising delivering and ironing out any small creases to the point they are feeling very comfortable with giving tours to willing visitors.  Our next scheduled tours will be in January 2012, so make sure to book a ticket while you still can!