Designology at London Transport Museum

me-at-the-london-transport-museumA few weekends ago, Mum came to stay and I decided to take her to London Transport Museum. I’ve visited the Museum a few times (and wrote a blog about it once upon a time) but it was so exciting to be back! All the red shiny vehicles, signs in the distinctive New Johnston font and moving models are engrossing, and I wore my metaphorical anorak with pride and a broad grin throughout the visit!

Designology Exhibition

The present temporary display is all about London Transport Design. The upper floor has a series of objects on display, from bus stop flags to handrails and ticket barriers, a favourite exhibit being a collection of seat moquette and a video about how they are made. If you are interested in that too, there should a number of free drop in events as part of ‘Weaving Futures’ pop-up studio which will run 21st November to 18th February 2017.

Down the spiral stairs takes you to a ‘design studio’ of sorts which attempts to explain the design process for projects both realised, scrapped and for the future. I particularly enjoyed learning about how designers tested the effectiveness of the wayfinding mini- and monoliths (Legible London) using a full scale mdf and paper replica. I remember the real things being installed in Worcester Park and then Kingston a few years ago, a sort of proof that we are in London, despite what my ‘city’ friends might say about us ‘suburbians’!  The other half of downstairs is a space dedicated to designing, where a large table invites you to get stuck in and where the drop-in events are held.

This exhibition emphasises how integrated good design is with our everyday lives: ‘design that is often hidden by its familiarity’. It therefore connects quite well to my own interest in transport – the potential connections between place, heritage and everyday life – with these themes touched upon and celebrated in the display.

Designology is part of a wider project called ‘Transported by Design’ being run jointly by the Museum and TfL.

Gallery Activities

The design theme continued in a variety of wonderful gallery and visitor activities including: The Unfinished Bus, Make your own Oyster Card, Design your Own station and Create your own Bus! Definitely worth a visit, something fun for everyone and one of my favourite museums.

 

 

 

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2014: The Year of the Bus

Did you know that 2014 is the Year of the Bus?

Year of the Bus

The London Transport Museum and Transport for London are working together this year to promote London’s bus network and ‘remind the world of the incredible role it plays in this great city’ (TfL). They’ve painted one of Boris’s Buses silver for the occasion and are running a variety of events throughout the year including talks, garage open days, exhibitions and more. Most exciting (probably) is the logo which features on a pin badge issued to all London Bus drivers and a special edition Oyster card. I also really enjoyed these videos about people’s personal experiences of buses, produced for the project on TfL’s website. You can submit your own reasons for loving your bus by emailing: LoveYourBus@tfl.gov.uk.

Why buses? Why 2014?

  • 60 years since iconic Routemaster ‘RM’ first introduced
  • 75 years since Regent Three ‘RT’ first introduced
  • 100 years since innovative ‘B’ type buses were used at the Front during the First World War

What TfL think about buses:

Our buses are the arteries of the capital, moving large numbers of people around the city – across the centre and to the extremities. They have affected great social change and continue to offer a lifeline to a diverse range of Londoners. Buses also support the needs of our growing city and in turn help London to function as the engine room of the UK’s economy

Meanwhile, the London Transport Museum wants to explore 3 themes: Heritage (as per the anniversaries above), People (everyone involved in delivery the bus service in London) and Economy and Innovation ( the economic contribution of buses). Their website lists some interesting ‘bus facts’, my favourite fact being that 96% of London households are within a 400m / 5 minute walk of their local bus service. At the centre of their celebrations will be the restoration of a B-Type bus in khaki livery to commemorate the First World War Centenary. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Friends of London Transport Museum, the project ‘Battle Bus’ will deliver the restored vehicle for use in various events later in the year.

London Transport Museum

Today I went to the London Transport Museum at Covent Garden. I’ve been in touch with their curatorial team already and hope to search their database once I can get some time to visit the library. Before that, I wanted to dedicate a few hours to looking around the museum itself, and there is certainly a lot to see!

My first experience of the LTM was nearly 2 months ago when I found myself with an hour spare in town and went to see the  ‘Poster Art 150’ exhibition. This is a great collection of posters advertising the Underground from way back in the late 19th century to present day. There are some beautiful designs and the graphic style varies greatly even when keeping distinctive elements such as the ‘Underground’ lettering and symbol, so everyone should find a few to be particular favourites.

The admission charge for the Museum is quite steep at £15 but the great thing for Londoners (and repeat visitors to London) is that the ticket allows entry for a year. So I rocked up today and went straight in. My major piece of advice is follow the chronological sequence laid out for you, the museum displays make a lot more sense this way! I’m not sure if there is an adults’ map for the museum, but I was using ‘The Stamper Trail’ to do so and it was fun punching holes in cardboard like a Clippie (Female bus conductor).

The permanent displays begin at the top floor. These detail the initial development of the railways, the decline of water travel, and the development in the 19th century of horse drawn buses and trams. There are three vehicles on this level: an omnibus (horse drawn, single deck bus), a horse bus (double deck, upper level exposed), and a horse drawn tram. Bus travel in the early days was pretty expensive, and not in high demand as most of London’s population lived within walking distance of work. However, ‘Omnibus’ is Latin for ‘for all’ and this development in transport really was the beginning of what is now a very impressive public service – the London Transport Network.

The major restriction on bus development was that is relied upon horse power. Increased bus use led directly to demand for horses, leading also to the need for horse feed, which was finite. By the mid 19th century, Parisian bus companies had merged to reduce prices, London followed and by late 1856 the ‘London General Omnibus Company’ (LGOC) had acquired 75% of London’s buses, becoming the largest bus company in the world.

The middle level is about the early Underground and the railway network, with full scale locomotives and carriages to sit in. There are also drawers with ephemera such as tickets, leaflets and postcards which are fascinating. It details the basically uncontrolled development of the suburbs in the 1920s which was part driven by, part facilitated by the rise in public transport, and only ceased by the Second World War. This is also the floor where you start the Posters exhibition, and the library and an interactive zone are also located here.

My favourite objects were the unfurled bus ‘blinds’, the things buses use to display where they are going to. I hope to reconstruct one for the 213, or ask Sutton Bus Garage whether they can show me what destinations it should have (It needs Kingston, Sutton Bus Garage, North Cheam, New Malden The Fountain, Norbiton, the one it uses when it terminates next to Coombe Girls ??, and ??? you tell me!).

The ground floor is vast, illustrating the development of the Underground to the present day, and the change in bus design over the 20th century. There are lots of historic bus types, but the main builder was the AEC (Associated Equipment Company). London Transport began existence in 1933, and at that time inherited 6,000 buses and coaches from LGOC (above) which had been operating 95% of London bus routes. There is an RT type bus, a Routemaster and a number of earlier types too to which vistiors have limited on board access.

Some bus-y facts for you: on average, one bus can transport 95 passengers (imagine the lack of traffic if people didn’t use cars!), the bus is the most used form of transport in London, there are 6 million passenger journeys a day on over 700 bus routes, and the London bus network is the greenest in the UK.

First World War bus use: buses were used to transport troops to and from the battlefield. They originally retained their livery and signage but were later painted khaki green. Some buses were rebuilt as lorries, ambulances and mobile carrier pigeon lofts due to the massive shortage of function vehicles.

Second World War buses: still no women drivers (indeed none until 1974 equality legislation), the key bus travel accessories were gas masks, and something white to be seen in the black outs when waiting at your stop. Transport was in high demand during the war and apparently services were very overcrowded.  Windows were fitted with anti-blast netting, blacked out and vehicle lights dimmed or shaded at night.

My bathroom break was delightfully accompanied by wallpaper based on 1940’s moquette from an RT-type bus. I am currently making a cardboard person-sized RT which were used on the 213 route from 1963 to 1972. The easiest way I’ve found to tell RTs from Routemasters it to look at the radiator grills on the front, the former are taller and thinner, the later squatter and wider. My boyfriend is now convinced I have become an anorak, and to be honest, I probably am.