In 1938, a new modern tube train was introduced on London Underground – with the radical change in that it abolished the front locomotive which used to pull tube trains.

In 1998, the 1938 stock made its final trip on the Northern Line.

In 2008 – I made a trip on a restored 1938 tube train.

Occasionally, the London Transport museum run special heritage trains, and as this is the 70th anniversary of the 1938 stock being introduced onto London Underground there are a few runs taking place. Today was the first and I managed to get a ticket for the last run of the day. Made my way over to Ealing Common and collected my tickets for the special trip.

They were also handing out a short leaflet about the train and a map/folder which was issued in the run up to the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. Nothing to do with the train itself, but incredibly fascinating to read.

We waited on the platform and as the train finally arrived, we rushed to the platform edge to get a decent view and take photos, then after a short delay, we were off on a trip up to Uxbridge Station and back again.

Stand behind the yellow line

The trip itself was uneventful – just a normal trip along the line, although without stops. I correct that – there was one stop as someone had got on the train thinking it was a normal trip and had to be evicted!

Inside the carriages - 2

It was quite nice though to trundle along the line, admiring the interior and as we went through the stations, there were looks of astonishment from some of the waiting passengers as this “odd looking” train went running past the platforms with passengers on board. Was quite a smug feeling to be honest 😉

What is that - 1

One thing which I was not aware of was an early experiment in aerodynamics – and the early models of the trains were fitted with a sloping front which would presumably improve airflow when in tunnels. It was shortly found out that they made absolutely no difference whatsoever and were removed – which is a pity as a b&w photo which they give us of one looks quite amazing.

The experimental tube train front

After a while we eventually pulled into Uxbridge station and there was plenty of time to take loads of photos – and as the driver prepared to use the other end to drive back, some of us could play at being a driver by sitting in the (now) rear drivers carriage for a moment.

The cost was quite steep to be honest, for what was just a trip there and back again, but the funds go to the museum so I am quite content with that. It was a nice experience though, and a couple of people turned up in period costume (maybe I will for the next trip!).

In a way, I think the bystanders on the stations we went past got a bit of a special day as well judging by the looks on some of their faces – and as the route times were publicized – there were obvious fans on most of the stations taking photos as well.

More photos on my usual Flicker photostream

As a final note – I got on the tube at Hammersmith at 2:30, and according to my Oyster card, would have got off at Canary Wharf at 5pm. I bet that trip will cause a bit of computer head-scratching 🙂


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  1. Rob says:

    Have to take issue with you on one point I’m afraid. The 1938 stock was by no means the first tube stock not to use a separate locomotive. That was years earlier. It was however the first to have the entire length of the train available for passenger accomodation. Earlier trains had part of the first carriage given over to electrical control equipment but the motors were still under the carriages (on some of the bogies) as they are today.
    The streamlined train you show was known as 1935 stock and was really a prototype of the widely produced 1938 stock and technologically much the same. I suspect the streamlined design owed more to contemporary fashion than science no matter what the “spin” given at the time.
    1938 stock still runs albeit in Fluorescently lit modernised form on the Isle of Wight. These are the oldest trains on the National Network and won’t be there much longer. Enjoy it while it is still there!

  2. Kelvin says:

    Thanks for showing the picture of the ‘streamlined’ tube. My father put its failure down to a slightly different point. He reckoned that the rounded end failed to act as a piston to push the air along the tube and so ventilate it properly. Who knows now? Rob is absolutely right about streamlining being the craze at the time it is worth comparing this train with the GWR diesel railcars (the ‘flying bananas’) of the same decade

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