Skip to main content

Every kid (and most grownups) know that the seats at the front of a commuter train are the best. You get an uninterrupted view of the world going by. And you can even pretend you are driving the entire thing. Well, it looks like the city of London is growing wise to our make-believe game. And they are all about it.

London is expanding its “Docklands Light Railway” system with automated trains. With no driver up front, the Transport For London department decided to make sure the very front seats faced forward. Then it was struck by a genius idea: install make-believe train control panels in front of those seats.

The pretend driver consoles on self-driving London trains.
DLR train | Transport for London

These panels have a series of stickers that look like monitors and gauges. They even have pretend control buttons, that of course don’t control anything. The four big buttons are labeled as follows.

  • Mind the Gap
  • Woolwich Ferry horn
  • Bow Church Bells
  • Turbo Charge

For grownups, these consoles have QR codes that direct you to info on the rail system or an Instagram filter you can use to tag photos of yourself at the console.

A little girl and her mother sit at the pretend driver console of a self-driving London train.
London train consols | Transport for London

Londoners of all walks of life love the train’s front seat. Mayor Sadiq Khan admits that as a child he always tried to call “bagsies” on the front seat (I guess that’s British for “shotgun”). So of the new generation of trains he said, “We have made sure we’ve got a front seat on the new DLR trains as well, because I know what a prize that is.”

The front seats, always a preferred spot, must be in high demand now! TFL has built play panels into the 10 newest trains on the line. Depending on the popularity of these make-believe consoles, it might add them to older trains. The department is even considering mounting some kind of pretend steering wheels! If they do, I might just have to take a trip to London.

Check out a day in the life of a (real) London tube operator in the video below: