Tag Archives: Museum Depot

Opening the Museum Depot for a new summer season

By Fenella Goodhart, Head of Learning, and Matt Brosnan, Head Curator

Planning is now underway to get the London Transport Museum’s Depot in Acton open in August.  We can’t wait to welcome visitors and staff back and to unlock this treasure trove of London’s transport history.

We are planning a family experience at the Depot for two weeks  from 19-23 and 26-30 August 2020.  It will be a timed ticket offer so that we can control numbers and ensure a safe and relaxing experience for visitors.  We will create a trail of the Depot vehicle sheds which will not only reveal some of the stories of this rarely seen collection but also keep those Maths and Literacy neurons for firing over the summer holidays!

View overlooking train shed inside Museum Depot in Acton

Our vehicles are some of the crown jewels in our rich collection. We care for 85 vehicles including buses, trains, trams, taxis and even a tractor. Some are on display at the Museum in Covent Garden, but opening our much larger Depot gives visitors a detailed insight into how travel in London has changed since the nineteenth century. It is also an impressive sight to stand in the space and take in a bus and tram shed packed full of vehicles and row upon row of Underground trains.

Some of the many buses at the Depot – from right to left, a ‘garden seat’ horse bus, a B type motorbus, a K type motorbus and an NS type motorbus

On their trail in August, visitors can encounter a beautiful ‘garden seat’ horse bus dating from 1881, a time when London’s streets were filled with horse-drawn traffic. Immediately alongside is a handsome red B type bus from 1911, the very first mass produced type of motorbus in the world. Visitors will see for themselves that not all London buses were red, with brown, green and even gold examples at the Depot.

A view along one of the walkways between rail vehicles, including a Metropolitan Railway wagon (right) that was in service from 1897 to 1970

Visitors will also be able to weave their way around an array of trains that have served London’s commuters since the early days of the Underground. They range from the functional to the beautiful. Practical vehicles like an 1897 ballast wagon and a 1939 sleet locomotive share rails with a shiny red 1938 Stock Tube train filled with stylish Art Deco touches.

Inspired by the collection, we will be providing family visitors with their very own sealed, activity pack to use on site or take home.  We will be making use of the large outdoor area behind the Depot to allow families time to rest and relax in the fresh air and dip into their activity packs.  Hopefully snacks and hot drinks will also be available for visitors.

Green Routemaster bus outside Museum Depot

And to top it off,  the London Transport Miniature Railway will be up and running, completing the Depot experience with this much loved attraction.

London Transport Museum Miniature Railway. Driver is facing away from camera with three passengers on board behind him

Foremost in our minds in planning the reopening of the Museum Depot is creating a safe, welcoming and enjoyable experience for visitors and staff.  Managing numbers and social distancing, a robust cleaning regime for all, friendly and knowledgeable staff and clearly planned and signposted one way routes are top of our list of priorities.  We look forward to keeping you posted on our planning and welcoming you to the Depot for our summer season from the 19 August 2020.

Celebrating 20 years of our Museum Depot

by Keith Raeburn, Depot Logistics Supervisor and Mike Dipre, Depot Manager

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the opening of London Transport Museum’s remarkable store, our Acton Depot in west London.

When the Museum Depot first opened on its rail-connected site on 14 October 1999, it was pioneering – the first museum store in the UK to be specifically designed with regular public access in mind. Part warehouse, part rail depot, part workshop, part education space, the Depot is home to over 90% of our vast and diverse collections. For anyone wanting to dig a little deeper into London’s rich transport and design heritage, a visit to the Depot is a must!

Trains in Acton Depot
Some of the trains in the Depot

In the 20 years since we opened, we have continued to expand the work we do at the Depot. Acton Depot is much more than a static store, it’s a working building where our curators, conservators and volunteers record, manage and restore our collections.

Maintenance and restoration of our historic vehicles, both road and rail, also takes place here – the Depot plays a vital role in ensuring that London Transport Museum’s visitors can not only see historic buses and underground trains, but experience the sights and sounds of riding on them as well!

Volunteers working on the Q stock at the depot

In the past year alone, the Museum has brought steam trains back to the District line, Art Deco heritage tube stock to Central London, as well as a 99-year-old London bus (and bus shelter) to Salisbury Plain.

The Depot has played its role as the operations base for these specialist operations, allowing us to reach new audiences far beyond our Covent Garden home.

As we look to the future, the experiences that London Transport Museum offer are becoming more numerous and varied every year – and the Depot plays its part. We’ve always offered guided tours to dig deeper into our collection – these have grown in number and diversity and we now offer five different options, including one for younger visitors and families. 2020 will see over 40 days dedicated to the various guided tours, which run alongside group visits and the Learning sessions Mind the Gap and Inspire Engineering.

Primary school pupils discovering the world of transport at one of our Mind the Gap sessions

Our popular Open Weekends allow visitors to truly explore according to their own agenda. They have grown so popular that as of 2017 we have added a third weekend to the programme, and we now welcome 15,000 visitors each year.

While our 2019 Open Weekends are now over, we have a great programme planned for next year. Sign up to our enewsletter to find out when new Open Weekends is available.

Also at the depot is the London Transport Miniature Railway, a working miniature railway based on real London Underground locomotives, carriages, signals and signs. Maintained and run by volunteers, you can take a ride on it during the Open Weekends. On 26 October, we’re running a family volunteering session. Find out more on our Volunteers webpage.

We are certain that the next twenty years will see our Acton Depot playing an even more central part in the Museum’s programme!

To celebrate the Depot’s birthday, we’ve pulled together 20 of our favourite objects at the Depot. Check them out on our Google Arts & Culture story!

A Big Day at the Depot – Part One

Open Weekends at the Acton Depot of the LTM –  held twice a year, they are a fabulous opportunity for the public to see “behind the scenes” of the Museum. It would be true to say that the vast majority of the museum’s collection is actually held at Acton. To some extent this is down to space available in the main Covent Garden building; there are also considerations of restoration, preparation and overhaul of exhibits, all of which are done at the Depot. So it’s a treasure trove!

As the sharper-eyed amongst you may have spotted, this year is the 150th anniversary of the opening of the world’s first underground railway, from Edgware Road to Farringdon. Inevitably this meant that the open weekend had an “Underground 150” theme. In the yard at the rear of the Depot could be found Metropolitan Railway No. 1, stationary but in steam, together with recently restored Metropolitan Carriage No. 353 and a milk van. Joining No. 1 on a short stretch of 1 foot 11½ inches gauge track laid especially for the event was Ffestiniog Railway steam loco number 2 “Prince” providing engine rides.

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Depot Open Days could not function without a tremendous amount of support from the museum’s volunteers. Many of them were to be found in the yard helping with stewarding the huge numbers of visitors wanting to get “up close and personal” with the special displays. My photos were taken on the Sunday of the event, which was busy enough, but I’m told that the Saturday was the busiest open day ever.

You can also see that Metropolitan Electric Loco No. 12 ”Sarah Siddons” was on display, and while not as popular as the steam locos the opportunity to visit the driver’s cab was still quite a draw. Again, volunteers were to the fore in helping the public get the best from their visit.

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Finally, as part of the 150 theme, a number of London-themed model railway layouts were on display. Who would have thought it would be possible to model Metropolitan No. 1 or “standard” tube stock so accurately from the ubiquitous bricks?

Dave Olney, Volunteer

New Digital Learners Explore the Museum Depot

This week saw the start of a new project with a group from Oaktree Community Centre on the South Acton estate.  Over the next 5 weeks we’re going to be exploring the museum’s collections online and at the Museum Depot in Acton. The group will be learning new digital skills and we’ll be finding out what they think of the collections. We’re doing it in partnership with Acton Community Forum who are part of a national “Community Capacity Builders” project which helps get local people online.

For our first session we headed to the Museum Depot for a tour by volunteers Jon and Richard. We had lots of postitive feedback from the group. One person described the tour as ‘an absolute joy and treat. There was so much to absorb. A real history of London and the suburbs.’  Another person said ‘I found it very interesting as it was my first time at a museum and I really enjoyed it.’  The volunteer guides enjoyed it too,  Jon told me ‘it was fun to be a part of a project for the local community.’