What Happens To Retired Tube Trains?

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 81 months ago
What Happens To Retired Tube Trains?
D Stock put out to pasture. Image: TfL

Tube stock is like an old warhorse. Some of the trains we're still riding beneath the streets of London were in operation while US troops were being withdrawn from Vietnam.

But there comes the time in the life of every tube train when it must be put out to pasture. So where do they go? The good news is that there's light at the end of the tunnel for many.

A limited supply of decommissioned stock ends up in the hands of private buyers; most Londoners are familiar with the Jubilee line cabs and carriages perched on the roof of Village Underground in Shoreditch. Used as spaces for freelance creatives, this is surely the tube stock that offers the best views in London.

A handful of stock has finds its way to museums; London Transport Museum and their Acton depot are the obvious ones — and thank goodness they had the foresight to preserve some of the unctuous oxblood coloured 1938 stock — but there's also a 1968 Victoria Line tube car at Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum. When you see a tube carriage in a film or TV show, it may well have been shot here. The same carriage is also used to host a monthly supper club (this is one carriage on which you won't be scowled at for consuming hot food).

1930s tube stock now in operation on the Isle of Wight

Many trains keep on rolling, albeit elsewhere in the UK. When holidaying in the Isle of Wight, we found you could ride 1938 tube stock to the coast — something you can only dream of doing in London. It sends a shiver down the spine to know that when these trains were still new, Londoners on board them would have been reading the headlines about Hitler's latest evildoing. It's not the only island that's snapped up TfL's leftovers; go to Alderney in the Channel Islands, and you'll discover 1959 tube stock — pulled in this case by an old diesel train.

Vivarail does more than give old tube stock a lick of paint. Image: Vivarail

As for the 1980s D Stock that was decommissioned from the District line in April 2017 — much of that was sold onto Vivarail, who'll put the trains back into action on the National Grid. Says Sean Colfer from TfL, "that involves changing some of the bodywork and installing motors (either diesel or battery powered) so that they can operate on non-electrified rails."

A couple of the old D Stock, however, refuse to leave the Underground point blank. These will become rail adhesion trains, spreading sandite on the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines, to help avoid any train wheel issues. They are, almost literally, paving the way for the new S Stock — a rather fitting semi-retirement.

Last Updated 05 May 2017