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Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 16:41 UK
Jubilee Line goes back to the future

The Heritage Train to mark the 30th anniversary of the Jubilee Line
Oliver Green, right, of the London Transport Museum on the 1938 Tube train

By Boc Ly
BBC London

Smiling passengers on the Tube? Rather than spending billions on creating an Underground system fit for the 21st century it turns out that all we need to do is bring back the 1930s...

An unusually large mid-afternoon crowd has gathered on the southbound platform at West Hampstead station.

Many of them are standing dangerously close to the edge, bending their backs and straining their necks to catch a glimpse of the train coming down the track towards them.

Onlookers at West Hampstead must be wondering what the hell is going on. They will not know that there are 150 passengers waiting for a special train that will take them not just to a different place, but to a different time altogether.

The Heritage Train
The train arrives at West Hampstead

The Heritage Train

This unique journey, onboard a 1938 train, has been organised by London Transport Museum to mark the 30th anniversary of the Jubilee Line.

It will travel non-stop through each station between West Hampstead and Stratford.

The train itself is the London Transport Museum's only working four-car unit of 1938 stock. The 38 stock is the immediate predecessor to the modern trains that are used on the Underground today.

"When they came out in the 1930s they were the most advanced trains in the world," says Oliver Green, a Research Fellow at the Transport Museum.

"They are semi-streamlined and the big innovation was that all the control equipment was put under the floor. It was extremely well designed. It has a brilliant interior with art deco lighting. It almost looks like a fashionable restaurant from the 1930s."

Remarkably, up until 1988 there was still a 38 train running on the Northern Line.

Inside the Heritage Train
It almost looks like a fashionable restaurant from the 1930s
Oliver Green
London Transport Museum

The Mongrel Line

Despite the occasion to mark its 30th anniversary, the Jubilee Line's history is a lot more complicated than that.

The northern section of the line was originally part of the Bakerloo Line and was built as far back as the 1870s.

The Jubilee Line from Baker Street to Charing Cross was created in 1979 and the incarnation that we know today, which runs through to the Docklands, was unveiled in 1999.

"So it has been built up over the years and changed quite dramatically," says Oliver Green.

"You can see it in stages if you look at the architecture of the stations because they are all of different periods. It is like a cross section through the history of the London Underground."

Some might argue that work on the Jubilee Line has yet to be finished even 30 years later.

The signalling upgrade, which has caused chronic weekend suspensions, is due to be finished at the end 2009. This should improve capacity but, sadly, it also means the 38 stock will no longer be able to run on it.

This will be the train's final journey on the line.

Five star travel

There are no passengers on board quibbling over the details and exact dates of the Jubilee's anniversary.

Inside the Heritage Train
Notice the art deco lights overhead

The varnish on the wooden floor and panels lends the carriage a luxurious smell and feel. The precise ticketing means that everyone has a seat, and therefore the train is not too busy and not too empty. Occasionally, the driver sounds his horn and everyone smiles.

Earlier this summer Boris Johnson made a big announcement about air conditioning arriving on Tube trains sometime in 2010. These old trains have open windows and there was a lovely cool breeze running throughout the carriage.

It wasn't just the passengers who seemed to be enjoying themselves.

As the heritage train slowed and passed through each station, people waiting for the regular Jubilee service look astonished as it goes by. Many, including some station staff, take photos.

Passenger satisfaction

Tube enthusiast, Max Goldstein, 13, came from Cambridge to ride the train.

"What makes the London Underground special for me is that it's the first underground system in the world. It's just a fascinating system with all the lines and different types of trains," says Max as the journey comes to an end at Stratford.

Max Goldstein
Max with his Tube Map shirt

As a special prize for wearing the most appropriate shirt of the day, Max had got to ride up front with the driver for part of the journey.

"It was like travelling in a piece of London's heritage," he exclaims.

Another passenger, Michael Dunham, 27, from London, had memories of travelling in the 1938 stock when he was a child.

"When I was growing up my mum used to take me on the Northern Line and there was only one of them running on there at the time. I really liked it because it was red and all the other trains were silver," says Michael.

"It's very surreal to travel on it after all these years."

Watch video footage on board the heritage train courtesy of Dave Hill's London Blog on guardian.co.uk

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