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Traveling through London 1930s Art Deco style

What is it like to ride a train from yesteryear? To make the coronation of King Charles III, London Transport ran a 1938 train along the Picadilly Line. Digital Journal took a trip.

1938 London Underground tube train on the Picadilly Line at Acton in London.
1938 London Underground tube train on the Picadilly Line at Acton in London.

To celebrate the coronation of Charles III, London Transport Museum organised a series of rides on a bygone era on a 1938 Art Deco-style train (displaying some of the bold geometric forms of the modernist movement).

Comprising of four carriages, Digital Journal‘s London-based reporter went for a ride.

Carriage awaits. Tim Sandle in front of the 1938 train. Image (C) Tim Sandle.

The aim of the event, organised by the London Transport Museum, was to transport the passengers back to 2 June 1953, which was the last time that Britain crowned a new monarch. This included a Grenadier Guard, in the regalia of the time, preparing for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

The passengers wait, including a Grenadier Guard and a passenger waring a crown to celebrate the impending coronation of King Charles. Image (C) Tim Sandle.

The 1938 Stock was the first kind of tube train to have all of the electrical equipment underneath the floor, combining the latest technology of the era with quintessential late 1930s style.

Heritage in motion. Image (C) Tim Sandle.

The train is of a classic red livery. 1938 tube stock has appeared on a £1.28 British postage stamp (issued in 2013) as part of a set commemorating the 150th anniversary of the first London underground train journey.

A view into the next compartment and the Guard’s control system. Image (C) Tim Sandle.

This year saw the biggest increase to the London tube network, with a total of 1,121 cars built by Metro-Cammell and Birmingham RC&W, built as part of the London Passenger Transport Board’s New Works Programme 1935–1940.

Tim Sandle’s accompanying video the train ride. Video (C) Tim Sandle

These trains served London, on several deep-level tube lines, for half a century, working the Bakerloo, Northern, Piccadilly, East London and Central lines. The train travelled was a former Northern line one, and which was in active operation until the early 1980s.

Smoking was banned on trains close to the time the train was retired, hence the signage. Image (C) Tim Sandle

The beautifully restored electrified train was made up of four cars complete with green and red moquette seating, grab handles and distinctive Art Deco light fittings. The train ran along the Picadilly Line.

The train was remarkably comfortable – more so than the trains currently running on the London Underground. It was also in pristine condition, with its polished wooden floor, Bakelite (thermosetting phenol formaldehyde resin) ‘light bulbs’ for standing passengers, and replete with 1980s advertising.

Inside the train, with its original splendor. Image (C) Tim Sandle

Each motor car is fitted with two series DC motors, one on each of the two bogies and are designed to operate from the 630-volt traction supply. Each motor has an output of approximately 250 horsepower.

Ever wanted to drive a train? Close up of the Driver’s compartment. Image (C) Tim Sandle

The 1938 stock is also used for occasional filming work, including The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008).

The ride lasted around 30 minutes each way, transiting from Acton Town to Uxbridge and back. It was an enjoyable experience and an interesting way to celebrate London’s transport heritage.

A three-minute video of the trip can be found here.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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