3 min read

Conserving the old Q Cars of the London Underground

a photo of a faded and slightly peeled transport map on the inside of a tube carriage

Q stock 1950s map. Courtesy London Transport Museum

Katariina Mauranen, Project Manager of Vehicle Restoration at London Transport Museum on how the Museum is restoring the last three remaining 1930s Q stock Underground cars

A dedicated team of volunteers from all walks of life – from retired London Underground engineers and carpenters, to engineering and history students – is carrying out work at Acton Depot, alongside restoration experts.

Q stock trains ran on the District line from the dark days of the Second World War through to the swinging sixties before being retired from service. Unlike modern-day Underground trains with identical carriages, Q stock trains were made from a mix of cars with different styles, so passengers would never know which formation would pull into their platform.

Q stock trains first entered service on the District line in 1938. Built in the same year, the newer Q stock cars were strikingly modern with sleek flared sides and smooth, curved roofs. These were purpose-built to be compatible with a range of older converted cars, with American design features, such as clerestory roofs. Dating as far back as 1923, these older cars were originally designated as either N, M, L, K or G stock. Running together, the different cars revealed the evolution of train design through the 1920s and 1930s.

One of the older Q stock car dating from 1923 is on display at London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, preserved exactly as it was when it came out of service in September 1971.

a black and white photo of people stepping onto a platform from an arriving tube train

Q38 stock at Earls Court in 1939 © London Transport Museum collection

a photo of a red railway carriage in a depot

1938 Q stock car at London Transport Museum’s Depot in Acton. © London Transport Museum collection

a photo of the wooden interior of an underground carriage

The beautiful interior of the Q stock car. © London Transport Museum collection

a photo of a drivers cab with ceramic switches and narrow window looking out onto a transport depot

Inside the driver’s cab. © London Transport Museum collection

To tell the many stories of the Q stock trains, London Transport Museum decided to restore each car to a different moment in time, exploring different themes. One car will illustrate wartime Britain, and the evacuation of school children from London in September 1939 at the start of the Second World War.

The second will reflect life during the post-war years of austerity as London was being rebuilt in the 1940s. In stark contrast, the final car will show the growing prosperity of the 1950s, when people travelled for pleasure, taking trips to Theatreland in the West End and out to Kew Gardens and Richmond Park.

The aim of this ambitious project is to restore the three 1930s Q stock cars into an operational heritage train, formed from a 1935 trailer car and two 1938 driving motor cars. The project is part of TfL’s programme of celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the District line, which first opened on 24 December 1868.

London Transport Museum needs your help to preserve this unique piece of transport heritage and is currently raising funds to keep the Q stock restoration project on track. Visit the Museum’s website to see how you can help.


London Transport Museum

London, Greater London

London Transport Museum explores the story of London and its transport system over the last 200 years, highlighting the powerful link between transport and the growth of modern London, culture and society since 1800. We care for over 450,000 items - preserving, researching and acquiring objects to use in our…

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