What?: Not gonna lie, this was one of the shittest days out we’ve had in a long time. I’ve thought long and hard about why it was so shit and whether it was mostly to do with our personal circumstances, and in part it was: Babu isn’t particularly arsed about transport-themed activities; it’s a long old journey on the Piccadilly Line and I had to stand the whole way with a baby strapped to me, which made me grumpy; Babu fell asleep on the tube so I had to wake her when we got there, which made her grumpy; Bab Dad was at work and it was one of those ‘family’ days where literally everyone else is there with their entire extended family – grannies, uncles, stepdogs, etc; and it was – I thought – a bit on the expensive side for what it was, which always makes me vaguely bitter. So yes, it was an unfortunate set of circumstances, but it still had the potential to not be a total shitshow.
We got there a bit later than I’d have liked to find the depot absolutely rammed and consequently completely hideous to manoeuvre with a buggy. There was a makeshift buggy park/cloakroom situation but I was toting a very sleepy toddler and a bag full of crap for the baby, so I couldn’t really afford to part with it. There were a few old train carriages from various different decades parked at the back of the depot – some you could board and some that were too old and fragile. The LTM’s hilarious retro mannequins were largely absent from the trains, which somehow made them a million times less interesting, and I got really sick of attempting to push a buggy full of milk, nappies and indifferent child down the narrow platforms between them, so we swiftly gave up on that.
Next we decided to head for the family zone, which promised a lot but gave depressingly little: namely a few adult-sized conductor’s uniforms to try on, a big mat covered in Duplo that was being hogged by older children who were under no circumstances willing to share, and a really crap badge-making activity that was massively over-complicated and looked completely rubbish once it was finished, like a horrible rosette won by the worst horse at an amateur equestrian event. I figured that if the family zone was shit for families then there wasn’t much hope for the rest of the day, but we soldiered on regardless, stopping to take sad photos in front of old buses and marvel at the geekery of some of the stalls and the old blokes dorking out over vintage travel paraphernalia.
The queue for the heritage vehicle ride snaked down the lane and almost out onto the main road, and I didn’t really think a tootle around Acton on an old bus was worth that, so we settled for a miniature railway ride, only to be told it was £1 per person, cash only. I had no cash, and also you’d have thought they could chuck that in for free when the tickets are already £12 each right? I mean Jesus. I’d tell you more but the £1 miniature railway tickets were the final straw, and what could have been a really fun day out came to an abrupt end at that precise second, when Babu agreed that yes, we should absolutely go home now. So we got back on the Piccadilly Line. And I stood all the way home.
I’ve spoken to quite a few people about these open days and every single one of them had a really good time when they visited. Maybe it was just that our crappy moods put a downer on everything, or that we’re just not that into transport, but personally I just think £12 is a lot of money to ask for the privilege of trailing around a glorified shed full of old men who visibly resent you and your children’s existence, or riding an old bus around a pretty shitty pocket of West London. I know it must cost a lot of money to preserve all this old crap, but they could at least put some effort into making a half-decent event, because this was shoddy af.
Where and When?: Depot Open Weekends take place three times a year, typically in April, July and September (check the site for upcoming dates). The depot is located at 118-120 Gunnersbury Lane, Acton W3 9BQ and is a three-minute walk from Acton Town tube.
Best Bits: The gloomy-faced mannequin driving an early 20th century bus was me that day, and it made me chuckle even if nothing else did.
Worst Bits: Oh y’know, just everything. Actually the family zone was by far the worst bit. Absolute car crash.
Facilities: Toilets, food trucks, cloakroom with buggy parking.
Cost: adults £12, under-18s free.
Would We Come Back?: I might have slated this into the ground but I actually do kind of want to go to the specifically family-themed open day in July and take Bab Dad, just to check it’s definitely terrible and not just my imagination.
Babu looks bored shitless at the LTM Depot Open Day, Acton.