I finally got to go to Tube Mecca.
On November 3rd, 2013 I visited the holy land for tube geeks, and it was wonderful.
The London Transport Museum Depot at Acton is – as the name suggests- an extension of the excellent London Transport Museum. It hosts extra objects that are not always on display in the main collection, as well as an incredible amount of vintage stock, signs, and artefacts.
According to their website, they have over 370,000 items in the museum. There’s no way to see them all, but what they do have on display makes up a wonderful look into London transport of the present and the past.
You can access the depot in two ways – by taking a monthly guided tour, or by visiting on an open day. Be warned – there are a LOT of children on the open days, and you may accidentally shove a toddler over to get to sit in a train cab- but having said that, there were so many activities for kids and no one was crying so it was great.
Here’s what we saw there:
There is an incredible collection of signage which date throughout the tube’s history. There are examples of different styles of roundel, changes to branches and stops on tube maps, and lots of recent pieces- including a route map of the former East London line (now London Overground, unless you head to Highbury & Islington where they still constantly refer to it by its former name.)
Above: Strand station is now Charing Cross (Northern Line), making this sign quite unique!
There’s a wonderful collection of maps and journey planners to look at.
Above: Northern Line with the aforementioned Strand station and no Embankment.
One of the most endearing things about the collection is how delightfully random it is. Here’s a selection of individual pieces that I loved.
Above: The typeface drawers holding the London Underground font letters.
Above: Old and modern announcement boards.
Above: I’m under the impression that there are two of these that ran on the inagural Victoria line run – one Northbound and one Southbound. The second one is housed in the Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum, which is odd and still under construction (in a sense) but really worth checking out!
Above: A spiral escalator, which was trialled but never publicly used.
My favourite, favourite bit of the Depot – the vintage trains. Rather depressingly, even at 27 I remember riding on a lot of the stock on display. Admittedly, in the case of the Victoria and Met line trains, it was rather recently, but it’s still unnerving to see your childhood in a museum. If you notice any mistakes in my identification, please correct me!
Below: Northern Line, from 1938. I didn’t take a lot of pictures of this one as I recognised it from a previous vintage adventure, which you can read about here.
Below: Central line, Standard Stock.
Above: 1959 Northern Line stock
Above: 1967 Victoria line stock, with its last day of service sign on the front (compare to its first day of service wooden sign, above!)
Below: Central line – 1959 or 1962 Stock, which would have remained in service for approximately 30 years.
The entire collection, viewed from above.
Below: A gorgeous mystery train. There was a burnt out but insanely beautiful train with no information near it. I would guess that it was a District line Car that would have been in service in the 1920s- and maybe of Q stock (as they vary quite a bit in characteristics), but what’s left of the inside of the car has some strong Met line characteristics from a similar time period. If someone could help me solve this mystery, the comments section below is crying out for you!
UPDATE : I wasn’t too far off – it’s electric Met stock that was in use in 1904. Wow! More info in the comments section, and thank you to the mysterious Chris!
Below: Older Met Carriages – including the lovingly and painstakingly restored Coach 353. You can read about one of its outings here. It’s one of the (if not the) oldest tube coach in the collection, and dates from 1898-1900.
There’s a lot to see at the Depot. There’s also a wonderful collection of buses and trolleybuses, but for me I’m all over the Underground, so that was what I mainly went to see. You can find out more about opportunities to visit the Depot here.