Tag Archives: London Transport Museum

In the depot

I finally made it to one of the London Transport Museum’s twice-early weekend openings at their Acton depot. where they store the buses, trams and train carriages they can’t exhibit in Covent Garden.

It was brilliant. If you like that kind of thing.

(I wouldn’t like to say the event attracts a certain type, but these were the longest queues for the gents I’ve ever seen outside a football ground.)

I could have spent hours browsing the specialist books for sale, while the kids loved the model railways.

The following pictures are via @callyorange. And go to the next one in September.




















Mind The Map at the London Transport Museum

Ever since the British Library’s London map exhibition in 2007, London museums have learnt to love cartography. The Museum of London’s Hand-Drawn London was a highlight of 2011, and now the London Transport Museum has joined the cool kids with a brilliant new Mind The Map exhibition.

This traces the relationship between transport and maps over the past 150 years or so and offers a brilliantly edited selection of material from the archives. The exhibition space at the museum isn’t vast, but the way it has been used here is superb. The twin focus is on the work of McDonald Gill and Harry Beck. Gill created the Wonderland map, a gorgeous, highly detailed map of London aimed at transport users. Here’s one of his, for Hyde Park.

The exhibition features a number of maps created by Gill – the brother of sculptor Eric Gill – and also this fascinating unfinished map of Temple, showing his working method. He begins with a serious flat plan of the city, before building up layers of impeccably detailed architectural illustration. Then on top of that go the speech bubbles, puns and references that make his maps so fascinating. Please excuse my poor photography.

In this section there are other decorative maps that were used by LT to promote different areas of London. Here is one featuring Cheam, where I grew up.

The Beck part of the exhibition is also brilliantly done given how much has already been done on the man who created the modern tube map. A personal highlight was this sketch from the London Transport staff newspaper in 1933, in which Beck gently mocks the popular notion that he got the idea for his diagrammatic map from a circuit board. He has redrawn his tube map as the interior of a transistor radio, thus creating the first mash-up/spoof of his iconic design and pre-dating The Great Bear by several decades.

Speaking of which, the LT Museum have commissioned six new pieces of art for the exhibition, and they are all great, which is quite unusual for these things. Simon Patterson has updated The Great Bear as Saptarishi, Jeremy Wood has created a new ghost map, tracing his movements through GPS and there’s a marvellous ‘Proustian’ map of London by Agnes Poitevin-Navarra.

My Ghost

Most exciting of all is Stephen (The Island) Walter’s new epic undertaking, London Subterranea, a stunningly detailed map of the London beneath our feet, executed in stark black and white and crammed with information and folklore.

When I talked to Walter a few years ago, he expressed a keenness to put The Island behind him despite some interesting related projects that had been suggested to him. I’m delighted that he has since decided to return to London mapping, as he is a master at it. I’m told he’s now working on an A-Z, which will incorporate The Island and London Subterranea.

Other highlights include a copy of the infamous 2009 tube map that omitted the Thames, a gorgeous 1932 enamel map from a station wall and a copy of Finchley Central by The New Vaudeville Band. There’s also a brilliant book by curator Claire Dobbin that accompanies the exhibition. Go see it!

Mind The Map opens 18 May until 28 October 2012. 

Underground again at Aldwych


Transport for London allowed Aldwych station one of its periodic reopenings this weekend, with 1940-themed tours of the station and platform to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Blitz.

The tours – which are completely sold out so don’t even try – were arranged to complement the Under Attack exhibition at the London Transport Museum, as explained by museum director Sam Mullins in this BBC clip.

As a part-time moleman who has never been inside Aldwych, I was down there like a greedy ferret in a goldmine. Aldwych, a pointless spur on the Piccadilly Line, closed in 1994 and its history can be read at the wonderful Subterranea Britannica or Abandoned Stations. Ian Visits and Diamond Geezer also have posts about the station.

I’ve wanted to get inside it for ever such a time.

The tours begin in the neat but spartan ticket office, which is decorated with a number of wartime posters giving instruction about shelters and the blackout. You are greeted by an actor playing an Air Raid Precautions officer, whose monologue is interrupted by the forbidding wail of an air raid shelter. You meet three more such actors in the course of the tour, the best being the 1940s housewife who sits in the train down on the platform and can be quite saucy if you ask the right sort of questions.

The chance to poke around the station and listen to actors recreating 1940s stereotypes is all well and good, but the star of the show is undoubtedly the 1938 train that has been brought out of retirement for the occasion.


I’m no train nerd, but this one is a beauty, as I’m sure better photographers than I will record this weekend.

The other highlight is this cracking little souvenir book about Aldwych and the Blitz that is given to everybody who goes on the tour.

The tour ends with a deafening reconstruction of an aerial bombardment, with impressive sound and light, before the all-clear sounds and allows you to climb the steps back to the surface (no lifts or escalators, so prepare for a walk).

A recreation of the ‘Blitz experience’ is an almost impossible thing to pull off for obvious reason and this is neatly done in the circumstances, although it might have been nice to have bunks on the platform to give more of a flavour of what it was like to cower down there for a night.

Interest in the tours have been so great – an estimated 3,000 people will take part this weekend – that the London Transport Museum believe public tours of Aldwych will be reintroduced on an irregular basis in the future.

So that’s one ambition sated, only for another to take its place. Earlier this week I was talking to a curator at the LTM, who told me of his recent tour round Down Street, another abandoned station with wartime connections. It is, he told me, in ‘fabulous condition’. Anybody interested?