Museum #4 London Transport Museum

After failed attempts of entry at The Sherlock Holmes Museum (too busy) and London Film Museum (too closed) we headed to the London Transport Museum.

It’s pretty pricey at £15 a head, but it’s hugely impressive and worth every penny in my view.
You could say that I, Ant John Harris, was pretty keen on it, but not as keen as John Harris of Marylebone.

In fact – London transport seems to have had lots of admirers over the years, inspiring plenty of toys and games for the hordes of children that dreamed of becoming bus conductors and train drivers.

I found it interesting that people used to use postcards in a similar (slower) way that we use text and email: short sharp messages sent in their millions everyday. There’s probably an interesting project in there somewhere.

There was a fair bit on Metroland – a subject I’ve seen Craig Mawdsley speak about before.
Advertising a better life in the suburbs – it was a strategic masterpiece: Stop advertising the trains, start advertising the destination.
Booklets, postcards, posters, luggage labels, tickets, even door handles were used to spread the idea.

In fact, this strategy seems to have informed a great number of their posters.
One poster may as well be the manifesto: The Underground brings all good things nearer.

The copy on some of the posters they had on display was tonally brilliant.
I particularly like this poster about the Zoo from 1965 – especially the honesty of a line like ‘unconventional new Aviary (not quite finished)’.

The words ‘quite the worst’ and ‘doze off’ on the following posters are also funny, I think.

Both MinaLima Design ( and Anthony Burrill seem to have taken huge influence from early era transport posters – here’s a couple I liked.

Perhaps my favourite posters were these two though – released within six months of each other (as the weather changed funnily enough). It’s almost like they were lying to try and get people to use the underground. It’s cooler below. I mean warmer below. I mean cooler.

I thought this photo was interesting – I’ve never seen them rolling the stop names into a bus before.

The dangly things that you can hold onto on buses (not so much on the tube anymore) are called a straphanger. At one point, they toyed with the odd idea of using the strap hangers to advertise products.

Underlying all of the great designs (from carriages to posters) seems to be the work and legacy of one man – Frank Pick. He really sounds like the perfect client, believing that good design gave order, style, and efficiency to everything that an organisation did, making it ‘fit for purpose’. When made CEO of London Transport, he said ‘Underneath all of its engineering and operation, there is the revelation and realisation of something which is in the nature of a work of art.’

Interestingly, he was another scrapbook keeper – compiling archives of postcards and photographs he liked. His notes were written in distinctive green ink.


#1. The changeover from horse power to mechanical power in London at the start of the 20th century was astonishingly fast. In 1900 there were only a few, short lived experimental motorised vehicals. By 1915, horse-drawn buses and trams had vanished and motorised taxis heavily outnumbered horse-drawn cabs.

#2. In 1901, when nearly all traffic was horse drawn, there were 186 fatal road accidents in the London County Council area. By 1929, when motor vehicles dominated, there were 1362 deaths and 55,000 injuries. This was down to the fact no private motorists had been trained – and driving tests, the highway code and speed limits were hastily introduced.

#3. The first escalator was invented by Jesse W Reno – an electrically driven angled belt of wooden pallets with no steps. The first was built for an amusement park at Coney Island NY in 1895. The first in London was installed in Harrods in 1898. The Reno company built a spiral version of an escalator in a lift shaft at Holloway Road Station in 1906 for the new Piccadilly line. It never opened for public use, and there is only one known photograph of it.

#4. Flashing lights in large yellow globes on striped poles were first put up to mark pedestrian crossings in 1934. They were named ‘Belisha beacons’ after the Minister of Transport Leslie Hore-Belisha.

#5. An electric vehicle was developed and used only 11 years after the invention of the traditional motorcar. Nicknamed the Hummingbird (after the sound of their motors) they didn’t catch on due to reliability issues. Here’s a pic:

1. Cartoon Museum 

2. Churchill War Rooms 
3. Cinema Museum 
4. Dennis Sever’s House 
5. Dr Johnson’s house 
6. Design Museum 
7. Down House 
8. The Geffrye Museum 
9. London Film Museum 
10. London Transport Museum 
11. Mansion House 
12. Brunel Museum 
13. Museum of the Order of St John 
14. Musical Museum 
15. Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret
16. Pollock’s Toy Museum 
17. Rose Theatre exhibition 
18. Fashion and Textile Museum 
19. Royal College of Music Archives and Museum of Instruments 
20. Sherlock Holmes Museum 
21. Twinings Museum 
22. V&A Museum of Childhood 
23. Bank of England museum 
24. The Stephens Museum 

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