London Transport Museum Acton Depot

On Sunday I went to visit the London Transport Museum's Acton Depot open day, to while away a few hours whilst Fiona got on with writing her final year university dissertation.

The London Transport Museum is currently closed for refurbishment until Spring 2007, and so some of their collections have been temporarily moved to their Acton Town depot, to join some of their other objects in storage there. Museums typically have only a small portion of their collection on display, and so their storage locations are an Aladdin's cave of objects. The Science Museum has two storage facilities: Wroughton for big stuff and Blythe House for small stuff - more of which another time.

The open weekend at the Acton Town depot last weekend was partly to host a model trains exhibition. This seemed to translate to a few stalls where beardy old men hunched over scenes of rural country stations, picking up the model trains every time they derailed and muttering about 'shorts' (of the circuit-shorting variety). A few of the layouts were genuinely impressive though, such as a really-really mini scale (probably not the technical term) model of somewhere in London.

Of much more interest, at least to me, were some of the old tube trains, trams and bits of old signage sitting around. One of the oldest tube trains is all burnt-out having suffered an arson attack many years ago, but the carriage from the old City & South London Railway (the first 'tube' railway) is pretty impressive.

Some of the train carriages were open for you to walk into. Outside one in particular, a 'Q-stock carriage', the Friends of the London Transport Museum were handing out questionnaires about the proposed restoration of the carriage. I thought this was quite an interesting way of answering some of the question that conservators face all the time, such as whether it's acceptable to expose the collections to an increased risk of vandalism or damage by allowing people better access, or whether it's okay to replace worn-out original parts with brand new replacements. The Friends are proposing to restore four 'Q-stock' carriages to working condition, so that they can be put into occassional service on special weekend days on the District or Metropolitan line. I really like this idea - the carriages are so evocative, actually travelling in them through parts of the underground, perhaps with actors in period dress and period music playing, would be a pretty cool experience.

Other stuff I liked in the Depot were the old tube maps, station signs, ticket barriers, ticket machines, adverts and architechtural models.

More photos are on Flickr.