A little while ago, I finally got a chance to visit the London Transport Museum Depot which houses lots of items, trains, buses and other London Transport related paraphernalia that can’t be housed at the Covent Garden site.
I did warn you I was a bit of a tube geek!
The Depot is open one weekend a month (accessed via the Piccadilly Line to Acton Town), and is pre-bookable on the London Transport Museum wesbite for £12 per person. They also host super special open weekends with all sorts of events and it is a great way to get under the skin of London’s tube system. Despite its faults, it is the oldest in the world and is the blue print for many other systems such as the New York Subway and Paris Metro. Now THERE is a fact you can take into your next pub quiz!
According to the website, the London Transport Museum Depot houses over 370,000 items and is designed to be a working museum store, where they ensure the collection is looked after to preserve our transport heritage. I was lucky enough to grab a 2 hour guided tour around the collection, led by one of the many “Friends” of the London Transport Museum. These guys are completely knowledgeable, have lots of hilarious anecdotes and give up their time to share their passion for transport. Awesome.
There were three main areas to the large shed type part of the depot – random bits and bobs and signage, tube and train stock and buses. On top of these there were some smaller collection stores of uniforms, posters etc where photography was not allowed. I really enjoyed looking around all the signs, particularly looking at the changes between original tube signs, and then the gradual introduction of the roundel once TfL came into being and took over the running of lines from all the other companies. And if you think a tube map is complicated now, it was far worse back in the day:
Then we got onto the good stuff – tube stock! I was totally shocked to find out a number of little facts about the tube which I didn’t already know (I read a lot of books on this subject)
- The Isle of Wight uses old tube stock (I think from Piccadilly or Victoria line?) on their railway lines, painted in British Transport colours.
- The Metropolitan Line current stock is about 50 years old. FACT.
- At the depot the tube trains are on tracks which lead out the Piccadilly/District line so they can take the old working stock out and about.
There were a range of trains/tube on show. The 1938 stock (as above), as well as original Metropolitan, old Jubiliee lines and old steam pull alongs. It was fascinating seeing them all lined up alongside each other and seeing how design has changed over the years.
Then we moved on to the buses – to be fair, I’ve never really been into buses, but it was interesting nonetheless – particularly looking at how uncomfortable some of them were!
Overall, I really enjoyed my afternoon on the tour. Whilst this might be one of the more unusual ways to spend an afternoon in London, The London Transport Museum Depot really does shed light on how London has developed as a city – it’s not just for tube geeks like me!
One last point – wrap up warm. I was colder in the depot stores than outside and I have never felt so cold through to my bones in my life.
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