London Transport system usually takes a lot of knocks in the
press and media as being antiquated and unable to cope.
Yet for the oldest such system in the world, which has
received relatively small investment in recent decades
and handles many more people than it was designed to
deal with, it copes rather well.
We should glory in and be proud of the heritage and
history of our pioneering tube and bus systems, as well
as in their beauty. A key
ingredient in the story of London's transport has been
the signage - famously Harry Beck's tube map designs
have been copied on underground systems worldwide. The
deco-inspired symbols on the tubes and buses are iconic
pieces of British design, as is the Routemaster bus
Brand has a passion for London Transport memorabilia and
collectables which you can share via his website. On
offer are items of original paraphernalia from the bus
and tube networks and infrastructure, including station
name signs and roundels, indicator boards, directional
signs, bus and tube destination signs and many more.
asked Haydn about the inspiration for London Transport Original
Signs and found out more about what items Haydn has
Digger: Please tell us about the background to
London Transport Original Signs and how and why
you formed this enterprise?
Haydn: When I was about 11 or 12 a school pal took
me to an abandoned sign factory he'd discovered
near his house in North London. In those days
there was still a lot of dereliction and
bomb-sites to explore so we were spoilt for
choice. There were enamel signs strewn all over
the place. I later found out this was once the
factory of J Bruton & Sons, one of the sign
contractors to London Underground. We picked up
one or two each and my hobby began. With hindsight,
I should have hired a lorry! Decades passed and my
collecting continued to the point that storage
became a problem. Many of the items I'd accrued
started to become of interest to others and at
first my website was used to display them. I
started to be asked if I'd part with some signs
and the rest, as they say, is history.
Can you tell us a bit about the services you
provide and the items on offer?
Haydn: I will supply these lovely things to
anywhere in the world. Items range from bus blind
destinations, temporary station signs from London
Underground, Special Bus signs from London
Transport through to enamel platform signs.
There is a classic iconography relating to London
Tubes and Buses. The maps, the signage, the
buildings, the vehicle design and so on. Can you
tell us more about these?
history of London's Public Transport is truly
fascinating. I am in awe of the Underground. To
think that so much of it was dug out by hand and
funded by people of great vision is remarkable in
itself. London's suburbs arose around the Tube's
new lines which at first often traversed open
fields that were rapidly developed. The style of
the London Underground map [which dates back to
the 1930's, by draughtsman Harry Beck] has been
copied in many countries as no-one has come up
with anything more easy to read. The superb
Routemaster bus was built with the knowledge
gained when London Transport's workshops were
turned over to making aircraft during WW2. It was
the lightest, most economical bus in the world. I
had the great pleasure of speaking to Colin
Curtis. He was on the original design team way
back then. He still keeps his hand in. He told me
he was asked recently to design a fuel efficient
lightweight bus. His reply "I did that over
50 years ago!"
Many Underground stations are 'listed', and rightly
so due to their classic light and airy designs.
The signage again is of clear and purposeful
design which is recognised both in style and for
their famous place names that are recognised
throughout the world.
is retro and nostalgia so perennially popular?
to the future which is uncertain, looking back
into our own history can be a warm and cosy place
to dwell in for a while. In context we remember
favourite places, meeting friends and lovers,
happy times spent in London whether we were at
work, rest or play. When people look back I'd say
the majority would say that life seemed so much
less complicated and slower. These signs take
their new owners back to those times and create
marvellous pieces of artwork and stimulate
What sort of feedback do you get about your
products from customers?
now that's something that makes it all worth
while. Here are some very recent quotes:
you so much! We got it the beginning of last week
and it's perfect. Thank you, and thank you for
being so helpful as well'. 'The blind arrived
yesterday and it is fantastic. Certainly suitable
for framing! My other half will be thrilled.
Thanks for the prompt email responses it made the
buying process a pleasure'.
'The bus blind arrived today. It looks
great. Thanks for such an efficient
I meant to email you on Saturday, thank you so
much for the Aldwych sign it is fantastic, even
better than i expected.
It is going to be a gift for my Son for his
opening night in" Oliver "the Musical in
London, as his team are called " Aldwych
" I thought it would be a great keepsake,
cant wait to give it to him.
Thank you for your speedy delivery also.
I will recommend you to many people.
I received my order today! Thank you so much!
You’ve been such a help throughout the process,
so easy to work with, nothing was too much trouble
and I LOVE THEM.
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!
I can find many many more!
Digger: What sort of a relationship do you have
with the LT museum and others?
enjoy the LT museum a great deal. Their
achievements in preserving so many historic
vehicles [and one complete 1938 tube train] is
remarkable, and so much of it done by volunteers.
Future generations will owe them a great debt.
After all, would a modern day child really believe
that bus drivers worked from an open cab with no
windscreen or heater and that the stairs were also
open to the elements without actually seeing an
original vehicle? I also attend meetings where one
can see even more superbly restored vehicles
are the most enjoyable aspects of what you do?
get the chance to thumb through these wonderful
items finding items to match customers
requirements from all over the world. I hear their
interesting stories and learn how a particular
part of London became so special to them. In
addition to that it's great to 're-home' these
signs where they'll be appreciated for years to
come rather than being stored. As said previously,
the feedback really makes my day.
What are your best sellers and who are your
is no particular item that is a favourite and no
'typical' customers. Every request is different in
every way. I have supplied TV personalities and
newsreaders, doctors, professors, homemakers
looking for something to 'set a room off', to kids
looking for some signs to decorate their bedrooms
and firms looking for retirement presents. I was
particularly chuffed to supply an office within
London Transport's H.Q. with a London Transport
sign for a leaving gift! I even made a fold-up Bus
Stop for a chap who used it as a prop for his
one-hour stint on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar
Square! That was shown on television.
What plans do you have for the future of London
Transport Original Signs?
be happy to keep it running for as long as I
possibly can. I've still a great deal of
cataloguing to do if anyone wants to help!
London Transport Bus Blinds, Football Club Signs &
Sporting Event Signs, London Tube Station Temporary Signs,
London Underground Roundel, Enamel Signs & Hardware,
London Transport Notices Direction Signs Old Maps, Books &
Posters, London Underground Train Destination Signs, London
Underground Line Car Diagrams, London Transport Special Bus
This site enables me to share with you the truly evocative
and iconic signs from London's famous transport system that I
grew up with and depended on. Then, a few real copper coins
bought a bus ticket that was reeled off by hand. You entered
and left a tube station passing a uniformed inspector who
checked your ticket. No electronic barriers to negotiate, no
cameras watching your every move and the trains bore no
mindless graffiti. Self-serve ticket machines only took
coins and worked via simple buttons. No 'ology' in computer
science was required. Unlike now, knife-carrying passengers
were almost exclusively Boy Scouts or chefs harmlessly
transporting the tools of their trade.
I expect you can remember those days too, of open platform
buses with conductors and tube trains with guards. These often
very extrovert people gave passengers a much more secure
feeling, - often with some amusing banter as they dealt with
'Joe Public'. Upstairs on a bus or in some tube train
carriages you could legitimately light up a cigarette or
participate in the then unrecognised dangerous sport now known
as 'passive smoking' as your clothes and hair soaked up the
pong of tobacco. With no ashtrays you were invited to throw
cigarette ends on the floor. Now discarded free
newspapers, junk food wrappers and plastic bottles have
replaced them. Conversation has also been either replaced by
'leaky' earphones pumping music directly into people's heads
or is interrupted by a sometimes menacing beggar thrusting a
crying baby in your face.
Enjoy a trip down your own 'memory lane' with me going back
to what seemed like a much simpler world.
None of these signs are in use today, many go back to the late
1960's and some of the maps way, way back to the 1920's.
These make superb and entirely unique gifts that will last a