Tag Archives: underground

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


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.

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.


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


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.


Map as Inspiration – Orchard Hill College

Orchard Hill is a special needs college cased in Carshalton, south-east London. The college caters for students with a range of needs, and has fantastic staff and facilities. Up until a couple of years ago though, the names of the classrooms and floors of the college were confusing and hard to remember, so the staff and students decided to take action. After a brainstorm with the students, it was decided that each floor should be named and colour coded as one of the Underground lines, with each room being renamed after a station on chosen line. The new scheme has been a great success – hear all about it from the students and teachers themselves:


Collecting for 2013 – The end of the A Stock

Over the past couple of years, brand new snazzy trains have begun to appear on the Metropolitan Line. These S Stock trains are gradually being added to the London Underground system, replacing the 50 year old A Stock trains. The A Stock are being removed from the network at a rate of two trains per week, and by the end of 2012 will be no more.

The transition from A Stock to S Stock has been an exciting turning point for some drivers, but the end of an era for others. Capturing the workings of the old trains in operation was identified as a priority for the LU150 anniversary project, so yesterday myself and film-maker Geoff Marshall boarded an A Stock at Harrow-on-the-Hill and accompanied driver Richard Griffin on his journey up and down the Metropolitan line for the day

Having never had the opportunity to ride in a Tube cab before, the experience was incredibly exciting! Stations, tracks and other vehicles look so different from the front of the train, and is was fascinating to see Richard operating the train, stopping at signals, making announcements and following the timetable.

Geoff captured lots of footage on camera, which will be edited into a short film and added to the Museum’s collection. As soon as it’s done I will share it up here, but for now here are a few pictures from my ride!


Collecting for 2013 – Caledonian Road station’s whiteboard artist



It’s not every London Underground worker who has a song written and recorded about her, but that’s what has happened to Kim Kalan.

The bubbly customer service assistant at Caledonian Road station, on the Piccadilly line, has been brightening up the ticket hall with her intricate whiteboard drawings  – with an accompanying cheerful message for passengers.

As well as being praised by customers, Kim’s colourful drawings were noticed by local musician Eoin Quiery. He was so impressed he decided a write a song about her, which has been recorded on the latest album made by his acoustic rock band, Burning Wheel.

Called Kimmie Song, it can also be found on YouTube and other social networking sites.

It all began in a small way,” said self-taught artist Kim. “When we used to display notices to the public about delays or other problems, I started to put little drawings on them to brighten them up.”

She then moved on to the whiteboard drawings, working on them in her breaks and often coming in early before her shift begins.

Using white board markers she covers a wide range of subjects, ranging from the Mona Lisa to the World Cup and Armistice Day, always coming up with something special to mark Christmas, Easter and other seasonal occasions.

“I do it purely to make the day better for my customers,” said Kim, who affectionately refers to them as “my lovelies.”

She added: “What’s important to me is the positive effect my drawings and messages have on people; I’m not after any sort of recognition.”

Passengers regularly praise her drawings, including a local professional artist who said he could not do what she does with the white board markers. Other passengers have asked her to draw portraits of them.

Asked what she thought when she found out that Eoin Quiery had written a song about her, she said: “I was very surprised. How often do people get a song written about them?”

Kim, whose mother Sandra works in the station’s ticket office, also writes science fiction in her spare time. Her first fantasy book is complete and Kim is currently waiting for an agent.

My ambition is to become a full-time writer,” she said. “In the meantime I will continue with my ticket hall drawings and am so glad that they have met with such a brilliant response from customers.”

You can check out more of Kims work at www.kimistic.co.uk

Words and photos by Stephen Barry, Museum Friend


Collecting for 2013 – Women and the Tube

The role that women play at Transport for London, and in particular London Underground, was one of the themes the Museum wanted to explore during this year’s collaborative collecting project. TfL graduate trainee Laura Sullivan, who currently works in the planning department at London Underground, signed up to be one of the Museum’s community collectors for the LU150 project. Laura is a member of the TfL Women’s Staff Network Group and was keen to explore the ways in which the other members could contribute to the LU150 contemporary story for the Museum. We decided that attending the International Women’s Day celebrations on March 8th was an ideal opportunity to meet lots of the women, allowing us to capture their experiences of working for TfL.

Photographers Heather McDonough and Rod Morris came along, capturing beautiful portraits of around 30 members of staff. Everyone who took part was also asked two questions:

– what does working for Transport for London mean to you?

– what are your hopes for the future with regards to women’s roles at Transport for London?

The responses were varied and very interesting. They included:

” I love being part of something everyone in London has an opinion about – whether positive or negative – it means I am working on a railway that people care about, and I can make a difference.”

” TfL is such a key part of London and it makes me proud to be working for the organisation. I see myself as an ambassador for the organisation and if anybody criticises its services I give them the facts and figures, to make them understand the enormity of what we do.”

” I feel like I am part of something important. How rare is it that millions of people see the result of your hard work every day?”

” I think the future is very bright for women at TfL. We have the opportunity to contribute to making TfL a world class organisation that we can all be proud of.”

” That there will be no barriers, perceived or otherwise, to doing any job at TfL. I’m looking forward to the first female managing director!”

The Museum is going to add the portraits along with the responses to our permanent collection, as a record of what it’s like to be a woman at the Tube at 150 years.


Collecting for 2013 – Oyster card holder swap shop

What does your Oyster card holder mean to you? Did you get it for free, buy it especially, or receive it as a gift? Do you use it as a wallet or just to keep your Oyster card safe?

Oyster wallets come in all colours, patterns and styles, from simple plastic holders to fancy leather and fabric cases. Companies across the capital have created their own holders as forms of advertising, with wallets being handed out all over the city every week.

As part of the LU150 celebrations, and in partnership with Andy Wallace from Transport for London, we went out to Acton Town earlier in March to find out more about what people store their Oyster cards in. If they were willing, we asked members of the public to swap their current holders for a new one, collecting the story behind the significance of the ones they donated.

Some of the stories were great, from wallets people have had since Oyster started in 2001, to pretty ones given as gifts, as well as holders purchased overseas. We’ve so far collected around 70 wallets for the Museum’s collection, all with their own great stories and anecdotes attached.

If you’d like to donate your Oyster card holder to the Museum, get in touch!


Collecting for 2013 – North Acton’s Station Garden

Two supervisors at North Acton station have created an award-winning garden that provides all-year-round colour to the delight of passengers.

The Central Line station’s glorious displays scooped first place in the Cultivated Garden category, as well as coming runner-up in the Best Overall Garden section, in last year’s annual Underground in Bloom contest hosted by TfL.

The man-made flower beds are the work of supervisors Terry Murrell and Bharat Vagani, built with the help from other station staff including contract cleaner Abraham Soubair.

It all began in a small way back in 2005 when Bharat, a veteran of 22 years with London Underground, put up some hanging baskets on the platforms to brighten up the dingy surroundings.

When Terry Murrell, with London Underground for five years, transferred to North Acton from Embankment, Bharat persuaded him to share in his vision of bringing a lot more natural colour to the station forecourt.

Months of hard work followed. Working by hand, they brought in around 15 tons of soil to create the extensive raised beds, which are edged with railway sleepers. All of the work was done in their spare time, including days off and during annual leave.

It was a true labour of love as the station has no vehicle access and all the soil had to be brought down a long slope from the nearby road.

As well as nurturing the flower beds and hanging baskets, Terry and Bharat grow up to 24 different varieties of vegetables in pots.

They receive a small annual ‘gardening’ grant from London Underground but contribute their own money to buy additional plants and garden tools.

Their hard work has not gone unnoticed. As well as winning numerous Underground in Bloom awards the green-fingered duo has received several commendations on the TfL website.

They have also been filmed for The Tube, a six-part documentary on the activities of London Underground staff, being shown on BBC Television.

Passenger response has been extremely positive. “Customers often take photos of the gardens, while one woman recently offered us a job looking after her garden,” said Terry.

“Another elderly lady, who uses the station twice a week, said the flowers reminded her of the displays she saw at suburban stations 40 years ago, and has helped make her feel safer when travelling.”

He added that their efforts have spurred one regular customer to tackle his own small garden, which he had neglected for years.

“It has been very satisfying to plan and create the gardens and to know that our customers appreciate all our efforts,” said Bharat.

“We are doing it for them, so that they feel happy when they come through every day and see splashes of colour, whatever the season.”

Words and photograph by Stephen Barry, Museum Friend