Following on from my previous post about this fantastic London Transport sculpture, I have a development. Firstly, to recap, I went to London as a child and one of the highlights for me was picking up a London Transport leaflet which had a photo of an incredible statue on the front. It was like a caricature of London itself. That image was one of the images that burned itself onto my brain during my youth, I used to stare at it that much.

I finally found the image online a few weeks ago and that allowed me to search and try to find out more about it. I managed to find a leaflet on eBay which was similar to the one I had back in the day but it wasn’t very good quality and it wasn’t the one I had as a child. I then, however, contacted Transport for London and that lead to some extremely interesting information. TfL responded extremely quickly and suggested I contacted the London Transport Museum. I did so, and got an automated reply saying that they would reply within 20 days. I imagined that they might be very slow and not very willing to help me with my small random request, but to my pleasant surprise they replied within about a day and couldn’t have been more helpful!

They did indeed know the sculpture that I was referring to. They had this link to it in their collections…

Below is a low res screen grab of the version on their website from that link above, which is free for the public to view online.

Sadly, although they have hundreds of old London Transport posters available for sale, they didn’t have this one for sale as a poster. But I was able to pay for a higher resolution JPG image of the poster. I’m not allowed to post that hi-res version here though, due to licenses. I’m going to print out for my personal use on my wall though.

I was also wondering if they had any information about the actual sculpture, who made it, how it was made and where it might be today. They did indeed have most of this information and it was very interesting indeed, albeit with a sad ending!

The sculpture was made by model makers Robin Bouttell and Ray Campbell in 1979. I’ve been trying to track them down. I think Robin Bouttell might be this sculptor here at this Pink Foot Gallery but I haven’t managed to make contact yet.

They also told me that apparently the model was in fact a plasticine model, sculpted over a wire mesh and cardboard. It was 14 inches high and the makers created unique, miniature, tools that were small enough for detail and to create certain textures. It was painted in gouache and the makers developed a method of using varnish to create a “glossy” finish.

Here comes the sad bit. My contact at the London Transport Museum had done seem research and found that it seems the model was destroyed, accidentally, on the route from the studio where it was photographed for publicity material. According to the model makers, they had to brake suddenly and the model went flying through the vehicle and hit the windshield!! Not what I wanted to hear. I was hoping it was either going to be in someone’s loft who would sell it to me (unlikely I know) or be housed in the museum and I could see it in person. Although by the sounds of it, being made from plasticine, I’m not sure if it was meant to last for decades anyway.

Here is the full account on the page about Robin Bouttell from the Transport Museum website…

“Robin Bouttell worked with Ray Campbell freelance illustrators/model makers during the 70’s. Known, unimaginatively as Robin and Ray Partners. The ‘London : how to go about it’ job was commissioned through their agent Archer Art. The plasticine model not long after the Morgate tube train crash in the 70’s. What originally was the front of the train, had to be made the rear with a guard so as not to look like the vehicles were about to collide. The image was used on publicity material for more than 17 years. Robin and Ray started their careers working for an illustration studio ‘Head Office’ in 1973. The studio was in the basement of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden (when the area was still a fruit and veg market). James Marsh and John Farman, their bosses had become well known for their plasticine models, especially a poster campaign for British airways, ‘Earth Shrinkers’. Robin and Ray perfected the technique and formed Ray and Robin Partners. They made models for advertising and editorial for the next 5 years. The model for the London Transport commission was around 14 inches high made with white plasticine built mainly on a wire and cardboard structure. Miniature tools were made as ‘over the counter’ tools are about 4 times too large. They also developed texturing tools to imitate various materials. The model was then painted with gouache and with the vital ingredient, washing up liquid. Anything wet or glossy, eyes, lips, teeth, metal etc. is glossed with picture varnish. In order to get the very smooth surface the plasticine was worked with talc powder. These models are like wild west stage sets. Look slightly to the left or right and the structure is visible. They were made to be photographed so any unnecessary work was avoided. It also made them easier to handle. When the photographic shoot was over, they drove the model back to their North London studio. It sat on the back seat of the car but when Ray had to do an emergency stop, the dome of St. Paul flew from it’s base and splatted on the windscreen. Transporting these models was a nightmare. People often tried to pick up the elements, unaware how soft and delicate they were. The original visual produced by the ad. Agency, showed the telecom tower, high rise offices etc. and was very crowded.”

So, not quite the happy ending that I had hoped, but it was still fantastic to learn so much about the model and also gain a higher resolution picture of it. Many thanks to the London Transport Museum for all their help.