Lights! Camera! Acton!

The defining moment when you finally realise you’re a grown-up is when you see a miniature railway and realise with a lurch that you’re too old and too big to have a go on it without at best looking stupid, at worst looking like a paedophile and in the nightmare scenario just knocking the train clean off the tracks by sitting down slightly to one side.

I hit this watershed this morning, while visiting the only tourist attraction within easy walking distance of where I live – and even that’s only open twice a year. The London Transport Museum has a depot full of stuff that won’t fit in the main museum at Acton, and from the sheer amount of stuff in there I do wonder what’s actually left over to go in the Covent Garden site.

The tube is a defining part of London life for me, although I know some people who avoid it when it’s possible and grumble like billy-o when it’s not. The fact that it’s self-contained, and has had a continuity of use that means that a lot of it looks and functions much as it did 50 or 100 years ago rather intrigues me. The depot has a range of trains from the last century of the network’s history, and even on the oldest what struck me was, frankly, how similar they are to today: the seats might look a bit more plush, but the carriages feel basically the same. They’re the same size, after all – for obvious reasons, really.

The crowd was interesting: family outings with small children in part, but in larger part… a lot of middle-aged men. Some of whom did indeed have a go on the miniature railway.

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