Monday, 12 March 2012

Acton Depot: window onto the past

A map displaying Shepherd's Bush from 1901
Acton Transport Museum Depot is a stone's throw from the Bush, just up the Uxbridge Road (Actonians call this road "The Vale" for some reason) and turn left by Morrisons - opposite Acton Town tube. The Depot is a branch of the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden and is the home for all kinds of relics of London's journeying past.

It opens twice a year and welcomes a flood of people through its doors who seem to be either transport geeks or families on a day out. You can spot the geeks because they helpfully sport huge bushy beards and wear lots of metal badges on their hats and coats.

But who am I to mock - I'm a geek when it comes to history and this place takes you into the very earliest years of the 19th century, with real life horse drawn omnibuses that Dickens would have seen trundling over the cobbles but it also lets you re-make old acquaintances that you'd long forgotten or only hazily remember - such as the red and green old Northern line trains I remember on one of my first visits to London in the mid 1990s before they were taken out of service.

It reminded me heavily of the dramatic scenes that were recreated when I visited Aldwych disused train station in 2010, populated by superb actors and which recreated the lives of Londoners sheltering down there as the German bombs rained down death and destruction during the blitz. And provoked thoughts of the people working down there, as has been excellently presented by the BBC's Tube series currently on air.

Even the "old" Victoria line train, only withdrawn last year, now sits in a Depot berth, having proudly joined the ranks of Tube grandees.

So after climbing on a couple of old trains and buses the kids start to get fidgety. Just as well there is a miniature steam train to ride up and down on then, as well as a miniature tram! There were also numerous train sets to play with and some heavily over-priced trinkets (£7 for a tube map mousemat - it's almost as expensive as Boris has made the tube!)

In some ways this is a hopelessly out of date article since the doors hiding these gems away are now closed until the colder months and darker nights draw in again - but I first found this place after reading and article like this and just putting a reminder in my diary for nearer the time. And I strongly recommend you do the same.

Details here.

You may wish to buy a ticket online - the queue was substantial!


  1. Sounds like a fabulous day out. I recall the old derelict Wood Lane tube station years ago, was demolished to make way for the Westfield.

    Another great day out yesterday was heading to King Street to watch the parade of the London Yeomanry who paraded down King Street with a regimental band and tracked vehicles! It was quite a site, and was a wonderful opportunity to show our appreciation for the incredibly difficult work these guys undertake for our benefit. It was not a huge turn out, which was disappointing given how densly populated the borough is, and the fact it was such a beautiful day. Maybe it just wasn't very well publicised, certainly a lot of people I know never knew it was on. Nik

    Anyway, maybe some other readers have some pics they could ping to Chris?

  2. Arrrggghhhh. I've wanted to go to this every year for four years, but completely fail to remember about it until a couple of days after it's already happened.

    Could you post a heads-up before the October one, to keep us all on our toes? :-D