Transport for London (‘TfL’) has two museums: Covent Garden, which is ‘hands on’ and great for people of all ages, and the frequently forgotten museum depot in Acton, west London. Everyone – rightly – makes a beeline for Covent Garden, but I visited the huge Acton site recently and had a hugely enjoyable couple of hours. It’s not really for kids, aside from an annual open day, and operates only guided tours (of varying flavours) on a very limited number of days in the year.
I think it is primarily aimed at Londoners of a certain age – the sort who can remember the rolling stock before the ones just replaced on the Circle line, who remember (or remember their parents talking about) trolley buses, and who can still recall with unremitting hatred those wretched free-standing and very unreliable tube ticket machines. That’ll be me then. I can guarantee that the memories (and nightmares – like trying to squeeze on to the ancient and tiny Waterloo & City line trains that operated until the 1990s) will come flooding back. There are also loads of buses, and luckily our knowledgeable guide was a former bus driver who still drives the museum pieces to different exhibitions and events and so could answer even the most obscure question.
And there were masses of old signs, maps and samples of moquette, and even whole kiosks. What’s not to love? A complete wow for us older folk. Thoroughly recommended.
NB The strange green train in the featured photo is a Central Line prototype from the early 1990s.
← They have exhibits to appeal to all tastes. Here’s a unit from the control room at the Piccadilly Line station Manor House.
→ A horse-drawn omnibus. Nestlé’s may still be with us (tho’ with added acute), but Hudson? This was a brand of soap flakes for washing clothes. Bought out by Lever Brothers in 1908, the name disappeared in 1935.
← A stylish 1930s station kiosk. Judging by the worn sticker announcing the ‘new’ Banjo bar (reintroduced in 1976), this must have been taken out of service in the late 1970s.
→ Not one of London’s great success stories: All that remains of an experimental spiral escalator of 1902.
Nearest Station: Acton Town
Credits: All Photographs © Mark Pessell 2020