If you have a train-crazy child like mine, then they will love a day out at the Acton Depot. Just think London Transport Museum but bigger, and more like a secret behind-the-scenes treasure trove. The depot is open to the public only 3 times a year, and last weekend we went to the first ever ‘Kids Only’ event – which was brilliant as it was much less crowded with just parents and train-mad kids.
The depot is just across the road from Acton Town tube station – you’ll see this giant cream coloured warehouse. The ticket for the open day was £12 for me, and children were free. I had booked online, so just had to show the e-ticket on my phone before we were let in.
As soon as you step in, you see all sorts of vintage train paraphernalia (yep I had to google how to spell that – sounds better than ‘train stuff’!) Shelves of stuff that goes up to the ceiling. And then as you come around the corner, you walk into a huge train shed. There are old vintage trains, some 100 years old. Some trains in the middle of a restoration. It was great to walk along and look at them, and even go inside and see the vintage interiors and moquettes.
We went inside a 1972 Northern Line train, which was rather grey, it had wooden floors, the old tube maps. In these trains, there were guards on each carriage who controlled the doors from these controls.
We joined a family train mini-tour which was 10 minutes. We were shown around a few trains, and taken inside a 1980s trial Central line train that was neon green, with green seats and white handrails inside. The talk was totally aimed at the kids, letting them ask and answer questions – and it was nice to see other mini train-enthusiasts like Tyler. These kids know their stuff!
Upstairs on the mezzanine level was a family fun area, with tables set up for badge-making and colouring. Tyler coloured a bus badge, which the staff turned into an actual pin badge.
On another upstairs level is the land of old tube signs. This is my favourite bit! I could wander around all day looking at them, finding old stations that don’t exist anymore, looking at old maps. The area is huge, I call it tube sign heaven!
Back downstairs, there is also the museum shop, which is amazing. We bought wooden tube train toys, a teatowel with vintage tube signs, a tube map poster, a mini tube map from 1997 and one from 2002. Tyler was very excited for these as they show Thameslink, he took it to school this week to show everyone.
There are lots of vintage buses past the museum shop, and tables with model trains set up. We had a walk though these, but not spending too long as we are more into trains than buses.
There was the most incredible model 1930s/40s town with model heritage trains running through the town. The little boys were mad for this. The detail on the model town was incredible, so tiny yet so real. This is a photo of the tube station.
Outside there were old buses you could walk on to, and there were food stalls, seating to have lunch, and a tube-themed bouncy castle. We found some seating in the shade and ate our sandwiches.
We spent a good 3 hours at this depot. With Lily being babysat by Nana, this meant Tyler and I could take our time and look at everything properly. At the end of the day, Tyler had a go at the track-building activity upstairs, where you built a lego track and launched a train down it.
The depot closed at 5pm and all in all, we had a really enjoyable day. Tyler says his favourite bit was the train shed, and I found the family train tour the best bit.
Before we left, we popped to the loos, which I must say were really clean – thumbs up. Outside the depot was a track for a miniature locomotive that wasn’t running that day, to Tyler’s disappointment. Next time!
If you have a child who loves the London Underground, or indeed if you love it, then I can highly recommend a visit to the Acton depot. It is open to the public 3 times a year, and this July was the first time they had a kids weekend. The next open weekend is on 22-23 September – expect the crowds and the adult train-spotters to be at this one, as it’s open to everyone! There are also Guided Tours happening – we might check out one of the family ones in August.
Acton Depot Address:
118-120 Gunnersbury Lane
I hope you found this useful, and let us know if you have visited the depot, or have been to any of the other events. What did you think?