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My favourite objects by Oliver Green

Oliver Green

I've had two lives at London Transport Museum. I was the first curator of the museum when it opened at Covent Garden in 1980, left to pursue my museum career outside London in 1989, and returned in 2001 to work on the major refurbishment project. The great thing for me about LTM is that it combines three of my personal interests: transport, 20th century design and the history of modern London.



Oliver Green's favourite objects

K2-class trolleybus No 1253, registration mark EXV253, 1939

K2-class trolleybus No 1253, registration mark EXV253, 1939

Trolleybuses are my earliest transport memory. When I first went to St Mary's primary school in Finchley my dad took me every morning on the 660 or 645. To a four year old those trolleys seemed huge. You had to hold on tight because it could take off like a rocket, but if the driver went too fast round Tally Ho Corner the poles would come off the wires!

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Poster artwork; The modern god of transport, by Lilian Dring, circa 1938

Poster artwork; The modern god of transport, by Lilian Dring, c1938

Lilian Dring's fabulous design for a triple poster was never printed, apparently because it would have been too expensive. Her style is classic art deco, portraying London Transport as the god-like power source and lifeblood of the city. Look closely at the details: each of the Mercury figure's senses is symbolised by an appropriate London building.

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Businessmen at Loughborough Junction Station, near Brixton, 1890s

This wonderful Victorian photograph appeals to me because it's so unusual. Group portraits of railway staff on a station platform are quite common but shots of the passengers are rare. Who are these men and why did they have their picture taken together in this formal way? Did they work together or just take the same train? Would a group of London commuters ever do this today?

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Show this object and other favourites from Katherine Hughes's favourites »


Preparatory drawing for diagrammatic map of the Paris Metro, by Henry C Beck, 1951

Preparatory drawing for diagrammatic map of the Paris Metro, by Henry C Beck, 1951

In 1951, 20 years after his brilliant redesign of the London Underground map as an easy to read diagram, Harry Beck applied the same principles to the Paris Metro. This is the simple design he came up with and submitted. No correspondence survives, but the Paris transport authority (RATP) presumably said 'non' and their Metro map continued to look like a tangle of coloured spaghetti.

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London Tramways Company double deck horse tram No 284, built by John Stephenson & Co, New York, USA, 1882

London Tramways Company double deck horse tram No 284, built by John Stephenson & Co, New York, USA, 1882

The strangest thing about this Victorian horse tram is that it was built in the USA and shipped across the Atlantic for service in south London. The builder's name, John Stephenson of New York, is clearly stamped on the wheel frames. The company had over 50 years' experience in building trams, but it is still surprising, that it could be cost effective to import vehicles even then.

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Show this object and other favourites from Graham Page's favourites »


View of now Neasden station, showing a Metropolitan Railway train hauled by Beyer Peacock Metropolitan A-class locomotive no 14 ("Dido"), c1890

When this picture was taken, Neasden station was still in open country. Today the photographer would be standing beside the North Circular Road and every blade of grass in this view has disappeared under buildings or tarmac. All this development followed the arrival of the Metropolitan Extension line from Baker Street in 1879.

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Tri-ang dolls' house,

Tri-ang dolls' house, "Metro-Land" suburban style, c1930

I suggested this doll's house as the centrepiece of the Museum's suburban gallery because it seemed the perfect symbol of outer London during the boom years of the 1920s and 30s. It is in typical half-timbered mock Tudor style, and was actually built in the south London suburbs at the giant Tri-ang toy factory in Merton, which was opened close to the new Morden Tube extension.

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London Underground 1938-tube stock driving motor car No. 11182, 1938

London Underground 1938-tube stock driving motor car No. 11182, 1938

I went to school on the Northern line in these trains every day in the 1960s, but at the time I didn't really appreciate their significance. They were probably the most advanced trains in the world when they first appeared in the 1930s, a brilliant combination of the latest electro-mechanical engineering with a stylish modern appearance and a high level of passenger comfort. The perfect Tube train!

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TF-type Leyland single deck motor coach fleet No TF77, registration mark FJJ 774, 1939

TF-type Leyland single deck motor coach fleet No TF77, registration mark FJJ 774, 1939

In the 1930s London Transport designed, developed and often built all its own vehicles and London's buses were the best in the world. My personal favourite is this streamlined TF type Green Line coach. It has a luxurious interior and an experimental body layout with the engine cleverly tucked under the floor. The sleek bodywork even incorporates the LT symbol in the design of the fuel cap.

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Presentation ink stand from Aldersgate station, Metropolitan Railway, April 1897

Presentation ink stand from Aldersgate station, Metropolitan Railway, April 1897

The 7/7 suicide bombings in 2005 were not the first terrorist attacks on London's transport systems. This bizarre souvenir model and inkstand is the only surviving physical evidence of a much earlier terrorist campaign of the 1880s when Irish nationalist supporters planted bombs on the underground. I don't really like it as an object at all but it's an important piece of social history.

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Show this object and other favourites from Katherine Hughes's favourites »


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