On a humid summer night on the platforms of Northfields station, with the last Piccadilly and District line services faithfully plying the tracks, we waited with excitement.
We were waiting for the reassuring ‘chuffing’ sound of a steam train in the distance. As it came closer the sound grew louder until, at 23.38, we witnessed the arrival of Met 1 accompanied by her familiar whistle and plume of steam for the first time since the 150th anniversary celebrations of the London Underground in 2013.
The train, comprising the now familiar line up of Met 1, the Milkvan, Carriage 353, the Chesham set of coaches and Sarah Siddons, was being tested during engineering hours ahead of the Museum’s summer programme of heritage train outings taking place throughout August.
Following its prompt departure from Northfields the train, hauled by Met 1, made its way along the District and Circle lines up to Moorgate, surprising unsuspecting late night travellers as it slowly progressed along the line and through near empty stations.
Without a glitch the train soon reached Edgware Road, quickly filling the tunnels of the oldest part of the London Underground with steam, while the unmistakable smell of the coals delighted the senses of everyone who had the opportunity to travel on the train on this warm July morning.
After refilling at Moorgate, it was the turn of Sarah Siddons to haul the train, now with a free reign following the shutdown of the system all the way to Hammersmith. The journey was repeated for a second time before the arrival of the dawn chorus and the start of another working day.
We hope you’ll join us on these historic and memorable journeys with Met 1 on Saturday 2 and 9 August. For more information go to: Heritage Vehicle Outings
Inevitably there was so much going on at the recent Acton Depot open day that I couldn’t fit it all in to one post. Last time I covered the “outdoor” activity, so now it’s time to move indoors. A popular feature of the open days is that many activities are laid on, both to bring the exhibits to life and also provide the opportunity for visitors of all ages to interact with the exhibits and people who know a bit about them. Often this can work both ways, as inevitably some visitors are able to add to the understanding of a particular object or its history.
Readers of this blog will know by now that object handling is always a popular activity at the Covent Garden site, so it’s no surprise that it also featured at the open day. Over the course of the Sunday I found various volunteers such as Ash Ketchum and Peter Brown helping out at the object handling stall, Gibson ticket machines racing away.
I have blogged previously on the work of the signals team in restoring old Underground signalling control panels. The value of their painstaking work was brought home to me by the amount of interest in their work at the open day. It would be no exaggeration to say that they were besieged by interested visitors at times through the day, as can be seen in the photos. Somewhere in the scrum is Peter Smith, explaining the finer points of the Elephant and Castle station control panel.
It’s always great to see the sheer variety of people that attend the open days. The cloakroom is always well-used, and I think the number of buggies shows just how many children were present. A demonstration to the contribution of the museum’s volunteers to the open days is the fact that there were some 14 different activities that they were responsible for over the course of the day, not to mention the activity of your humble scribe – although whether I contributed to anyone’s enjoyment might be a moot point!
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.
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.
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?