We can’t yet go to London Transport Museum, but the next best thing is now available. The museum’s famous depot in Acton has announced opening dates for August, and we can’t recommend it highly enough.
What is the Acton Depot?
It’s a series of sheds and outdoor spaces that house all the transport exhibits which won’t fit into the main Covent Garden Museum.
Ha, just the boring leftover stuff like old ticket stubs and railway sleepers, then?
Not at all. The depot is much larger than its central London sibling, and packed to the rafters with every imaginable facet of London transport history. They have lots more vehicles, for starters -- buses, trains, trams, trolleybuses. You name it. Elsewhere, you’ll find more signs, roundels, posters and pin badges than you could shake a pantograph at.
You know, the metal poles that stick up from trolleybuses and certain trains to connect with overhead power cables. You might spot one of those at the depot, too.
This sounds like it’s mostly for anoraks. Is it mostly for anoraks?
No way. The depot is very much geared up for families, with a kid-friendly trail around the exhibits. And listen to this: “Included in the children's ticket price is a a special, sealed pack including a fun craft kit to make during your visit and a take-home activity to support their learning in fun and curious ways.” You’ll also find crafting activities and other family distractions throughout the depot.
Oo, right. This is starting to sound interesting. What else will we see?
No shortage of wonders. The museum depot holds something like 320,000 objects, so you’re bound to stumble across something that intrigues. Last time I visited, they were showing off a spiral escalator that once graced Holloway Road station (but never saw passengers). It's shown in the photo above. Elsewhere, you’ll find an art deco tube carriage from 1938, a Lego tube map, relics from abandoned (ghost) tube stations, and the museum’s very own miniature railway.
Did you say miniature railway?
Yes. You can ride it, too. And it has fantasy tube roundels like this one:
OK, you’ve won me round. When does it open?
The depot normally only opens a handful of times a year, but this August sees 10 whole days of action. Booking is open now for spaces on 19-23 August and 26-30 August.
And where is the Acton Depot?
In Acton, obviously. It’s a doddle to get there. Just head to Acton Town station and you’ll find the depot just across the road. No parking is available, but if you’re coming to a museum of public transport, then that’s really the only way to travel.
Great! Is it all Covid-safe and everything?
You betcha. You’ll be allocated a timed ticket so the depot can keep an eye on numbers and ensure social distancing. Face masks are advised for over-11s. Hand sanitiser can be found throughout the depot… the now-familiar set up. Actually, this is a great time to see the depot. With fewer visitors cramming in, you’ll be able to appreciate the exhibits all the better… and get plenty of selfies without anybody photobombing you.
What else do parents need to know?
The depot has toilet facilities (including baby change). Light snacks and hot and cold drinks are available. A limited space for buggy parking is available, at the owner’s risk.
Tickets are £15 (adults), £7.50 (children), with children aged 3 and under going free.
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