Acton Depot – London Transport Museum’s hidden gem!

Estimated time to read this article: 5 minutes

As mentioned in my previous article, the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden is an amazing museum, and makes good use of the relatively limited space available inside. However, there’s so much more in the Museum’s collection that there’s simply not the space for in Covent Garden, and a large proportion of this is stored and maintained in their depot near Acton Town station. Three weekends a year, the Depot opens to the public and what lies within offers a real insight into the history of London’s transport system.

A picture tells a thousand words with showing what’s on offer here, so this article is going to be fairly image-heavy – I’ve deliberately kept the image sizes down on this page so the page doesn’t take too long to load on slower connections, but just tap/click on any image to view it in more detail.

Signalling

Perhaps my favourite exhibit on display is the signalling demonstration – a simulated version of the system in place on the London Underground for around 60 years, from the 1920s to the 1980s.

Signalling board for Marble Arch

Slightly newer example from Elephant & Castle…

Signalling relay

Tape-driven programme machine

The ‘nerve centre’ of the simulator, effectively acting as the analogue to digital interface (the simulator is controlled by a standard desktop computer tucked behind this box)

 

Ticket machines

Several types of ticket machine used by London Transport over the years are evidenced at the Museum.

An authority to travel machine, used to be used on the Undergroud network, similar to the PERTIS machines you see on the national network (even today)

Fixed-fare ticket machines

Rolling stock

An example of virtually every type of stock that has run on the Tube network has been retained by the Museum, and is nearly all on display either here or at the main Covent Garden site (though anything undergoing renovation or maintenance work is stored at the Depot).

The stripped-down cab of a Q stock, currently being restored using original parts

An ex-District line D stock – some of these have been sold to Vivarail and will live on as mainline stock

A 1986 prototype of what eventually became the 1992 stock (currently used on the Central line)

Signs

The Acton depot has possibly the biggest collection of signs I’ve ever seen, both older and more modern signs that are evidently surplus to requirements. The below pictures show just a small selection of the signs in the collection.

An aisle full of old-style Tube station signs, the precursor to the modern day LU roundel

A ‘Way Out’ sign from the old Kings Cross Thameslink exit of King’s Cross St Pancras tube station (closed 2007)

A Jubilee line platform sign from just after the extension to Stratford opened in 1999. The old Jubilee line station at Charing Cross still exists, and is frequently used for filming. You can visit the disused station as part of the Hidden London tour programme organised by the Museum.

An older style of platform sign which likely dates from the 1930s, note the Northern line being green and the highlights for line changes, imagine how multicoloured some of those highlights would be today!

Precursor to the modern platform information screens, these platform signs were used to show where the next train was headed. There are still working examples of these at Earl’s Court station on the District line platforms.

Heritage Buses

An example of virtually every type of bus (both conventional and trolleybus) that’s run in London up until the late 1980s is stored at the Depot.

A green early example of a Routemaster

A Leyland bus run by London Northern

An early example of a Bristol (the manufacturer not the city!) bus

A 1950s London Trolleybus

Food/Drink/Shops

Whilst it’s primarily a working depot for the Museum to carry out their restoration work within and use as a storage area, they’ve put extensive thought into facilities for these open events – out the back (next to the D-Stock pictured above) there’s a whole array of food outlets & a fully licensed bar (the latter being in a converted old Routemaster!) along with indoor seating areas in case the weather is a bit British (though was gloriously sunny when I visited). There’s also an excellent range of stalls selling everything from old station signage to posters, and a small branch of the official Museum shop by the entrance.

In summary…

Yesterday was my first time visiting the depot at Acton and I absolutely fell in love with it (the self-confessed rail geek I am!). Well worth a visit – as noted in the introduction, it’s open 3 times a year and details on future dates can be found on the Museum’s website. There’s so much more there that I couldn’t fit into this article whilst keeping it down to a reasonable size – so definitely go and see it all for yourself!

Oh… and finally…. I spotted this little bus tucked away next to the District line stock from their event that inspired the name for this blog!

(All photos in this article are mine – please don’t reproduce elsewhere without asking me first!)

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