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The Acton London Transport Museum Depot

Updated: Oct 20, 2021

The Museum Depot in Acton is any vintage urban transport enthusiast’s dream, with probably the world’s richest collection of rare signs, ceramic tiles, ephemera, original posters, ticket machines, road and rail vehicles spanning over 100 years, and beyond.

Three times a year, typically in April, July, and September, the Acton Depot opens its door wide open to welcome visitors to festival-style events that include guided tours and exciting activities for all ages. A wonderful occasion for us all to enjoy, celebrate, and learn more about our heritage. Discover a transport treasure trove of over 320,000 objects, wisely catalogued, preserved, and displayed across a massive 6000 square metres of storage space.

The Oldest Metro System in the World

With services operating from 1863, the London Underground was the world's first underground railway, built to reduce street congestion. The idea was initially proposed in the 1830s, but it took around 20 years for the Metropolitan Railway to receive permission to build it.

The first line was inaugurated on 10 January 1863, connecting Paddington (known as Bishop's Road back then) to Farringdon Street, now part of the Metropolitan and Circle, Hammersmith and City lines and using gas-lit wooden carriages pulled by steam locomotives.

On the opening day alone, more than 38,000 passengers boarded on what the Times hailed as “the great engineering triumph of the day.” Five years later (in 1868), the first section of the Metropolitan District Railway opens, connecting Westminster (now part of the District and Circle lines) to South Kensington.

The first Tube tunnel opens in 1880, running from Bermondsey to the Tower of London, while the Circle line is completed four years later. In 1884, after 21 years, Central London already had over 800 trains connecting its Inner Circle tube lines every day.

Between 1891 and 1893 five more London underground lines were approved by the British Parliament. Queen Elizabeth II was the first reigning royalty to use the Tube, taking the initial ride on the Victoria line from Green Park station.

Why is the London Underground called the Tube?

In the 1890s, the development of deep-level lines that resembled round tunnelled-tubes running through the ground and the fact that a journey was two pennies, London Underground was nicknamed the "Two-penny Tube." In the early 1900s, simply “the Tube” gained more traction and remained a slang name for the London metro.

Design Milestones

In the 1860s only basic signage like the exit and station name and were seen on the Underground. In 1892 one of the first rail maps was designed for the District line, with the slogan “Time Is Money” on the front cover.

The first official diagrammatic-style London Underground Tube Map was produced by Harry Beck and it was initially rejected and considered too radical by the publicity department. Londoners loved its simplicity and adopted it without hesitations, right from the beginning.

1908 was the year when the first “roundel” - the Tube’s world-famous red circle logo, originally known as “the bar and circle” – was put in use on station platforms.

During the 1930s, architect Charles Holden begins to integrate the logo into station interiors, platform furniture, and even on bus stop shelters and flags.

The Underground Johnston Sans font was created by Edward Johnston in 1916 and it’s still used across all the Tube’s design materials and posters under an adaptation for the digitally-friendly world called "Johnston100."

The subtle changes make it fit for the 21st century while preserving the soul of the original lettering. "Johnston Sans combined readability, simplicity, and beauty." (Donna Steel, art curator at the Ditchling Museum of Arts and Crafts).

The Legendary Double-Decker Busses

The Acton transport museum also preserves a selection of old horse busses, carriages, stagecoaches, and double-decker busses. The bus was London’s first means of public transport. Initially operated by the coachbuilder George Shillibeer, the service began in 1829, linking Paddington to Bank. Although the word “bus” is rooted in the Latin translation of “for all” - “omnibus” - the vehicle was anything but since it wasn’t affordable for much of the working class at the time.

The most recognizable version of the London double-decker bus is the Routemaster and it was designed in 1956. The big red double-decker bus we all know and love today went through many radical changes over time. It has been pulled by horses, it featured simple wooden open-topped vehicles, and it was gradually powered by steam, petrol, electricity, diesel oil, to nowadays’ eco-friendly, pollution-free hydrogen fuel cells.

Did you know that…?

  • London Tube is the world's 12th busiest metro system.

  • 55 per cent of the network is actually over ground.

  • Baker Street station has the most platforms: 10.

  • TFL trains serve 270 stations connected by 12 lines.

  • London Tube stations have a total of 426 escalators and Waterloo leads with 23.

  • The busiest London station is Waterloo, with 82 million passengers every year.

  • The total length of the London Tube network is 249 miles (402km).

  • The average speed of a London underground train is 20.5 miles (33km) per hour.

  • The fastest trains run on the Metropolitan line (60mph) and on the Victoria line where the stations are further apart and allow speeds of up to 50mph.

  • Every year 1.357 billion passenger journeys are completed via all London Underground’s lines.

  • The deepest station in central London is Bank and goes 41.4m below street level.

  • The longest direct journey is from Epping to West Ruislip on the Central line: 59.4km.

  • The longest network escalator is at Angel: 26.5m vertical rise and 60m long.

  • The shortest distance between two London underground stations is 300m and it’s from Covent Garden to Leicester Square via the Piccadilly line.

📍 London Transport Museum Depot Address: 2, 118-120 Museum Way, Gunnersbury Ln, Acton, London W3 9BQ

🚇 The closest London Underground Station to London Transport Museum Depot is Acton Town, on the District and Piccadilly Lines.

📌 Nearby London Attractions:

  • Gunnersbury Park & Museum (804 m).


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