The 5 Geekiest Things I Found at the London Transport Museum Depot
Can you even call yourself a tube geek if you haven’t visited the London Transport Museum Depot in Acton?
Last weekend I finally managed to go along to their Open Weekend and it’s fair to say there was A LOT of geekiness. There are over 320,000 objects relating to London Transportation held across 6,000 sq metres including maps, rare vehicles, signage, tunnelling machinery and posters.
These were my 5 favourite finds…
1. Time Capsule Tube Carriages
It’s a weird thing really, that Londoners would voluntarily pay to go and stand in tube carriages during their precious weekend. But these were worth the trip to Acton.
This one is a “Metropolitan Cammell Carriage & Wagon Co. Ltd” from 1938!
Step inside these carriages (which feel tiny by the way) and you’re transported back in time. I just about remember the days of wooden floors, and standing on them again was a lovely bit of nostalgia. They do feel more ‘proper’ than their plastic replacements.
But it’s also the dated adverts that add to the experience.
Here’s two more of my favourites…
2. Mind Boggling Controls
These panels are part of the Control Board at Wood Green Substation Control Room. Substations are placed at intervals along railways providing power and in the early days, these would’ve been manned continuously. Now, however, they’re controlled remotely.
Each of these control handles are used to operate a switch at Manor House substation. Confusingly, the red lamp to the right shows the switch is closed (on) and the green one shows it’s open (off).
3. Ghost Stations
Of the many tube roundels in storage here, one in particular caught my eye.
I’ve never heard of Ongar before, a station in Chipping Ongar, Essex, which opened in 1865. It became part of London Transport by 1949 but mainly used to transport goods. The single track loop of the Epping to Ongar branch was eventually closed on 30 September 1994. It’s one of London’s mysterious ghost stations that appear all over the city.
Aldwych is probably more familiar, and you may have spotted the entrance to this ghost station on the Strand. In fact the station originally opened under the name Strand but changed it 10 years later to Aldwych.
One of the most famous ghost stations used predominantly for filming, it’s also one where London Transport Museum runs tours.
You can read about the tour of Down Street Ghost Station – including lots of creepy photos – here.
You’ll might be pleased to hear that The Epping Ongar Heritage Line has been given a new lease of life too and reopened as a tourist attraction in 2012 (more info here).
An extra bit of trivia which might help in a pub quiz one day… You never know!
The only tube station named after a football club, Arsenal originally opened as Gillespie Street in 1906 but was renamed in 1932 following a campaign by the club. Ironically since the stadium moved to the Emirates in 2006 the closest station is now Holloway Road.
4. Architectural Models
It’s easy to forget quite what an achievement the London Underground was at the time. Even today I have to remind myself about all the things that are happening below my feet in the city.
So these architectural models give a nice little insight into the complexity of designs that we rarely spare a thought for.
Sectional Model of Oxford Circus tube station
Architectural model showing Westminster in relation to Parliament Square
As well as the architectural and engineering aspects of TFL, as Londoners – who see this signage everyday – we often underestimate the elements of design; colour, font and typography, that make London Underground a world-recognised brand.
Firstly there’s the map, which I’m sure you all know was the brainchild of Harry Beck, the draughtsmen who created the iconic design in 1931.
But there’s also the font, known as Johnston Sans which was designed by Edward Johnston in 1913. Frank Pick – then the Commercial Manager of ‘The Underground Group’ commissioned Johnston to create a font to strengthen the corporate identity of what eventually became TFL.
For some more specific tube typography instances, you can head to my post all about it here.
Visiting the Museum Depot
As well as Open Weekends which run twice a year, you can also book on to regular guided tours of the depot (costing around £10) all year round.