Acton Up

Friday night was a night of great enjoyment in Brixton. Now, nights out in Brixton tend to be a bit fifty-fifty, I find. I tend to either have an incredible time with lots of fun people, or some guy tries to beat me up in order to get bus fare home. Fortunately, this was the former.

A friend of mine was having a birthday bash, which started at the Tooting Tram and Social. This is an excellent pub, having previously been a Yellowcard bar called the Tramshed. I have yet to visit a Yellowcard bar that was less than sticky, and in the case of the Tramshed, the stabbings were a little offputting. Under the new ownership, it’s… well, see the following review for a pretty good description:

As you might have guessed, it used to be a tram shed, and still has a number of old London Transport fittings. And some armchairs nailed to the walls, for some reason. Thankfully, stabbings are now confined to the dark alley next door, as a journalistic chum was delighted to discover last time we went.

Then the evening moved on to this night:

at the Canterbury Arms in Brixton. I was slightly depressed to discover that my terrible dress sense is actually on the verge of becoming fashionable among the groovy kids of Brixton. I did meet a sort of piratical 1980s woman whose name I forget, and we spent time debating whether it is acceptable to refer to mentally ill people as “mad”. I also forget which side I was taking. I’ve become such a lightweight recently.

The following morning I was reminded that I am no longer a student, and should not treat my renal system as if I am. So I had to go to Acton hungover for the London Transport Museum’s twice-annual opening of the Reserve Collection. The Museum, which thankfully seems to have stopped using the awkward and unnecessary “London’s Transport Museum” title, has part of the Tube depot at Acton for the storage of some of their artefacts for which there isn’t space at the main Covent Garden museum.

I love this place, it has that whole Grandmother’s attic feel where you can find just about anything. Unrestored tube trains, bits of obscure machinery, ticket booths, tunnel lining, station signs – anything that doesn’t quite merit a full display but is too important or interesting to be chucked. When I arrived, they were giving rides in RM1, the prototype Routemaster.


As an example of the sort of thing on show, here’s a mock-up of the proposed Cross River Tram. img_02541

This, Wikipedia informs me, was a plan to improve transport links in badly-served areas of London and to take some of the strain off the Underground. I would imagine the designers of this were very Cross indeed when the project was shelved (Geddit?! “Cross” River Tram!!!!!!!!!).

img_0255I am not clear why these photos are coming out so tiny, but on the right is a tractor with a huge great pushing-type thing on the front used for shunting in Tube depots. The reason I took a photo of this is because I would like a similar device for occasions when I need to get down Oxford Street in a hurry.

img_0258This here is a Feltham-type tram, one of the few good things in the world to bear the name Feltham. It actually links to an entry I keep meaning to write about the Kingsway Subway, so you may see this photo again.


This is the last surviving remnant of a brave experiment from the 1930s. The idea was that, to relieve overcrowding on the Northern Line, London Transport would set up giant cannons at Kennington and Camden Town. Passengers would be locked into one of these grey projectiles and fired towards their destination as a kind of “express service”. The experiment was abandoned due to difficulties with aiming, the lack of cost-effectiveness and the hundred per cent mortality rate.

Actually, I’m lying, it’s an air raid shelter.


This is an old Waterloo and City Line carriage. These were built in the 1930s, and I just about remember them still being in service when I were a nipper. Until 1994, the Waterloo and City Line was actually separate from London Underground, hence the British Rail colours. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to get in, otherwise I’d have taken some photos of the rather lovely art deco fittings.


An authentic LOUDAPHONE. I assume this is either a public address system for trains or the most annoying instrument in the world.


A bus from Paris. I don’t know why the London Transport Museum has it, I can only assume it’s to mess with our heads in some way.


This picture shows that discipline for workers on London Transport could be especially harsh. The signs above depict three methods of punishment used on employees who stepped out of line, namely prosecution, electrocution and hanging. London Transport would often psych employees out by putting up signs warning them of their impending fate. Bill Stickers is believed to have been a cleaner at Neasden.

NOTE: Some or all of the previous paragraph may be a lie.

I also saw a couple of chaps operating a model railway built entirely out of Lego. I wish I’d got some photos of this, as it was possibly the most awesome thing in the world, ever. Like, more awesome than the Pyramids. Fortunately, I’ve found a link to the builder’s work

Excellent stuff. Why didn’t I keep my Lego?



Filed under Bloomsbury, Brixton, History, Lies, London, London Underground, Museums, Photos, Transport

2 responses to “Acton Up

  1. Pingback: Sell out and stay classy | London Particulars

  2. Paul Kidger

    The Loudaphone was an industrial telephone system used especially in noisy and often dirty environments. Often they were used on the railways to provide communication between the driver (motorman) and the guard. On the Manchester Sheffield (Woodhead) line, they were used by drivers in the lead locos to communicate with those in the banking locos at the rear.
    The key to the Woodhead phones was that they used the Overhead supply lines to transmit the signals with capacitors to block out the 1500 V DC . This may also have been similar to their use on London Underground and possibly the SR as well, by using the positive supply rail as the link

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