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This week we have another eclectic mixture of projects, all of which have been progressing within the Regional Heritage Engineering Centre (RHEC) or which will become part of the facility (namely the new vehicle workshop within the bus depot).

RHEC

Below: We start with a sequence of photos showing the transformation of the fairground packing truck, which has been enhanced to provide better storage for the gallopers’ horses.  What started as a quick improvement has now become a rather more impressive piece of work – Rebecca, the RHEC painter, using tracings from the gallopers rounding boards to reproduce the signwriting on the side of the vehicle.  The rest of the RHEC team has repaired and painted the truck, fitted a permanent roof and improved the interior as well as manufacturing steps for fairground staff to safely access the truck.  The plan is to position this truck, and one other, so as to screen the gallopers and fairground area from the wind, which blows hard across the events field.  In due course, I recall, a small wooded area is to be planted to provide a similar effect, but trees take time to grow (and even longer to plant sometimes!) so the trucks will hopefully provide some shelter in the meantime.

Below: A mixture of staff and contract work has seen the re-skinned Daimler bus panels repainted, signwritten and lined.  Large parts of teh rest of the bus have received attention to paintwork, as have the top-deck seats.  It awaits fitting of the re-tyred solid-tyred wheels before an entry into service soon.

Below: The team have also been manufacturing firebar patterns for Glyder, seen here following painting and in readiness to go to the foundry for the iron castings to be made.

Narrow Gauge

Below: Work on Glyder’s boiler overhaul is now all-but complete.  The boiler was steam tested for our own purposes before a formal steam test with the insurance company inspector on Monday, which was passed. The first time that it has been in steam since the mid 1960s, and in steam in County Durham since the 1930s…

Below:  With the test completed and boiler cooled down, a start was made on preparing it for installation into the frames.  The firebox cladding was painted as this will be obscured by the bunkers, but visible sections and also the boiler cladding will be painted to harmonise with the original paintwork which is being retained on the cab etc.  The cloning of the German Orenstein & Koppel designs has become very clear during this process – with everything being pretty accessible – not always something we find with steam locomotives!

Below: These views show the certified boiler being lifted into the frames (or rather, onto the frames), in readiness for final assembly to commence.  Care is being taken to retain the industrial paint finish and knocks and bumps so evident in photographs of Glyder when working at Penrhyn Quarry.

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This morning Rotherham 220 and Darlington 4 were posed in the Town street for photographs to be taken for future publicity material use.  This obviously won’t be their long-term haunt (as they will work through the 1950s area on their circuit around the museum), but it makes an attractive backdrop.  David Watchman, from the Communications team, took these views and I thought that they would be of interest to blog readers…

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The blog recently recorded that we presently have the rather grand total of seven trams available for service!  To note this occasion, Matt Ellis and the tramway team arranged to parade and photograph all seven cars in the Town and around the Tramway – though sadly out of hours for operational reasons.  This was to produce a crop of up to date photographs (by David Watchman) for future use in publicity material.

Here is a selection of images of the occasion, with various scenes being created to show just how many seven appears to be when placed into the street!

The trams included: Manchester 765 (visiting from the Heaton Park Tramway), Oporto 196, Blackpool & Fleetwood 40 (from the National Tramway Museum at Crich), Newcastle 114, Blackpool 31, Sheffield 264 and Sunderland 16.

The last time we had seven trams together at Beamish was in April 2013, when a public parade during one evening of the Great North Steam Fair saw 114 head a line up of cars in the Town area – including three open-toppers together.  114 was bedecked for the 40th anniversary celebration of the tramway – fifty years won’t be so far away!!!

Trams in the parade included: Newcastle 114, Gateshead 10 (as G&I 26), Sunderland 101 (Blackpool 703), Blackpool 605, Oporto 196, Lisbon 730 (visiting from the Birkenhead tramway and making a rare appearance with the Oporto car – the two systems in Portugal being both remote and different gauges), Glasgow 1068 (visiting from the National Tramway Museum) and Blackpool 31 (running on one motor at the time).

The complete list of visiting trams (including three that were resident and have now left) looks like this:

Tramcars that have visited Beamish

Leeds 6 SD 4w Hurst Nelson 1901 03/10 – 03/13 (Heaton Park Tramway)

Cardiff 131 SD 4w Brush 1905 04/10 (National Tramway Museum)

Manchester L53 DD 4w Manchester Carriage & Tramways Co 1880s 05/09 & 09/10 (Heaton Park Tramway)

Manchester 765 SD 8w Manchester Corporation Tramways 1914 04/11 – 05/11 & 03/19 – 08/19 (Heaton Park Tramway)

Blackpool 11 SD 8w English Electric 1939 23/08/11 – 05/09/11 (EATM, Carlton Colville)

Birkenhead 20 DD 4w Milnes 1900 03/12 – 04/12 (Birkenhead Tramway)

Blackpool 304 SD Charles Roberts 1952 10/12 – 03/13 (Lancastrian Transport Trust)

Lisbon 730 SD 4w 1930 04/12 (Birkenhead Tramway)

Glasgow 1068 DD 4w Hurst Nelson 1919 04/12 (National Tramway Museum)

Blackpool 167 SD 8w English Electric 1928 01/14 – 04/14 (National Tramway Museum)

Blackpool 280 SD 8w English Electric 1934/1960(reb) 12/13 – 03/15 (Heaton park Tramway)

Blackpool & Fleetwood 40 SD 8w United Electric Car Co 1914 03/19 – 09/19 (National Tramway Museum)

Longer-term resident tramcars no longer based at Beamish

Blackpool 233 SD 8w English Electric 1934 (Lancastrian Transport Trust)

Blackpool/Sunderland 703/101 DD 8w English Electric 1934

Blackpool 284 SD 8w Brush 1937 Never operated at Beamish

So this just leaves Sheffield 513, Gateshead 52, Oporto 65, Blackpool 754 and N&G 49 unrepresented in this post!

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Most of this post is focused on the operation of buses at Beamish – including the rapid construction of the new depot and workshop as well as the purchase of a new motorbus for use here at the museum…

Bus Depot

The depot is making great strides towards completion, and the planned fit-out has also benefited from the recent relocation of Go North East’s Stanley depot to a new site (and bespoke modern building) in Consett.  With the support of Go North East, one of our major business partners (and who have also financially supported the depot construction) we have been able to obtain two sets of modern column lifts, numerous stands and tools, a compressor, LEV (Local Exhaust Ventilation) system and numerous other items including the original depot noticeboards.  These will all be utilised within the workshop and depot and have been a colossal contribution to the facility, meaning that we will have a 21st century workshop to sustain our historic vehicle fleet…

Below: A selection of the items that we have been able to obtain at a very reasonable rate for restoration/reuse within the new bus depot.  Russell Walker, who looks after the buses and historic vehicles at Beamish, has been instrumental in making the links to obtain these items (from his former employer) and has been fairly determined in the acquisition of equipment that will stand Beamish in good stead for years to come.

Below: As well as a service pit, we will also be able to lift vehicles using these column lifts.  We have two sets here, and they will replace the current car lift (the existing vehicle workshop will become a fabrication shop in due course…) as well as provide the means of lifting two vehicles at a time within the workshops if required.

Below: Outside, the construction of the depot is proceeding apace, with the steelwork being erected this week.  Here the shape and size of the depot and workshop can clearly be seen.  Yes, it would have been even bigger, but for the need to respect the allocated budget for this element of the Remaking Beamish project!

Below: These views show the depot end of the building…

Below: … whilst these views show the workshop end, which has a lower floor to cater for the falling ground levels (and also gives a usefully taller workshop space).  The steelwork was completed on Thursday, with the cladding, internal blockwork, pit and floor to follow next.

Darlington 304

Below: We have added another bus to the collection, in the shape of Darlington Corporation Daimler CVG5 Registration 304 VHN.  The usefulness of Rotherham 220 has exceeded our expectations and the opportunity to purchase a similar vehicle, in full working order and with a local provenance was too much of an opportunity to miss.  There is also a great benefit from the overlap in spare parts the two buses will require, which assists the maintenance team in their work.

It was new to Darlington in 1964 (so very much at the edge of our 1950s period, which does, to be curatorially honest, stretch from c1945 to the mid 1960s in reality!), and was their fleet No.4.  The chassis is a Daimler example, with the coachwork by Charles Roe of Leeds (H33/28R).

A photograph of 304 in service can be seen here: https://bryansmith.smugmug.com/Bus-Operators-UK/Bus-Coach-Operators-C-D/Darlington-Transport/i-H7CQkMH/A

The bus was delivered to Beamish on the evening of the 24th April and will be commissioned for service at the museum – a little ahead of the completion of the new depot but ideally timed to assist Rotherham 220 with the relief duties it is currently performing on busy days.  The motor buses can circulate far faster than the trams, and as mentioned above, 220 has proved to be an ideal vehicle for busy start and ends of the working days when moving visitors from and to the main entrance is the transport team’s priority.  We had looked at other options for motor buses for this work, with 304 coming along at an ideal time for this role.

Below: 304 during its first inspection by Beamish staff.

Below: A selection of views of 304 after arrival at Beamish…

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A few days on from the 2019 steam fair, here is a post with a few photographic highlights – which are a sample of what is contained within a new gallery (see headings ‘Gallery’ then ‘Great North Steam Fair 2019’ – the gallery will be growing over coming weeks so do please check back if you wish to see a particular vehicle or favourite image!

We had a staggering 23,039 visitors attend the event this year, a remarkable achievement but one that also showed up areas of pressure that we will be considering – not least car parking and exhibitor camping.  It was also a little tight in places around the site, given the sheer number of visitors moving around the exhibits.

Thank you to all of those who came and helped to make it such a successful event, the cast is probably something like 200, on top of the hundreds of Beamish staff and volunteers who enable the event to run so smoothly.  The question is, how do we improve on this…!!!

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I realise I often refer to the Museum’s Facebook page as a source of information or images at times.  But also realise that not all readers of the blog will be on Facebook.  It can be viewed here, I think as a non-member, so it is worth a look from time to time: https://www.facebook.com/BeamishLivingMuseum

If you cannot or do not want to access Facebook, here are some of the Museum’s images taken during the steam fair and which give a different eye on the event to my own rather conventional phone photographs!

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I’m sure blog readers will be interested to see what is happening with the Great North Steam Fair this weekend – it would be fair to say it has been extremely busy with a superb turnout of exhibits.  The weather has largely cooperated so far too!  More images appear on the Museum’s Facebook page, so please refer to that for latest updates etc.  However, here are a very few snapshots taken during Thursday/Friday but only showing static vehicles and not the lengthy lines of traffic that are circumnavigating the site!

I will add some galleries of images once the event has finished, as there are several photographers out busily recording the event far better than I can on my phone!

We start with the Colliery, where the 15″ gauge railway has been hugely popular – had we charged for this ride we would have already been in profit!!!

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I start this post with a reminder that the Great North Steam Fair starts tomorrow!  Four very full days of veteran road vehicles, trams, buses, trains and cycles, all active and spread across the museum site. We will see Blackpool & Fleetwood 40 debut in service here, alongside Manchester 765 and as many of our trams as are available.  Rowley, the Waggonway, the colliery standard and narrow gauge, 15″ and tramway are all running – six separate railways, four of which you can ride on!

Ravenglass visitors arrive

Below: The cohort of items from the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway in Cumbria arrived last night, being placed upon the new railway before nightfall.  This afternoon they were tested and the operational procedures rehearsed.  See earlier posts for Matt’s history of the locomotives and background to the visit.  David Watchmann supplied these images of the arrival and unloading.

Below: A very different view from the rear of Francis Street!

Below: Wednesday afternoon saw a number of test runs carried out, in glorious weather… 

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Preparations are well underway for the forthcoming Great North Steam Fair.  Friday and Saturday last week were spent shunting the Colliery standard and narrow gauge railways, sorting and tidying the visitor areas and creating a sizeable bonfire!

Below:  For the shunting, No.1 and No.18 were used – a chance to steam both of these ahead of the new season.  Both had a fitness to run examination on Thursday and were steamed on Friday, with No.1 again being steamed on Saturday.  A great deal of shovelling of ash featured during the day, this being conveyed in the Hodbarrow side tipper and used to dress the 15″ gauge railway.

Below: Opportunity was also taken to test the new chaldron shed – with four waggons fitting snuggly inside, as seen below.  Precision is needed when shunting them into the building!

Below: The transporter waggon, styled on the examples used at Betchworth with Coffee Pot No.1, has had its first runs with the locomotive.  Two coal tubs and the tank waggon have been loaded aboard, which will provide coal and water supplies to the 15″ gauge locomotives during the steam fair.

Below: The two locomotives bask in the sunshine outside the locomotive shed.

Below: On the narrow gauge, Saturday’s job was to empty the various storage sheds and place some of the rolling stock back onto the track where it had been stored in tents away from connected sidings.  Here the Simplex roars up the triangle with a lengthy set of waggons, some carrying detritus gathered for burning.

Monday has also seen the departure of the Hetton Lyon locomotive, which is returning to the National Railway Museum (its owners), whilst the Forcett Coach has returned to the Waggonway for display, following storage over the winter in the Regional Museum Store.

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Apologies for the fairly lengthy gestation of this report – lots happening and a lot of work on Remaking Beamish to cover as well.  Our focus here is on the preparations for the steam fair, and as usual we’ve set some objectives that will endure and improve the visitor experience far into the future.  We have one eye on the steam fair and another on the Old King Coal event in June, the weekend of which will make heavy use of the Colliery narrow gauge and standard gauge lines as well as working displays.  However, we start with an image, recently purchased, which sums up the sort of atmosphere I have in mind when sketching out some of the small, incremental, developments around the transport infrastructure in the museum…

One for the archive…

Below: This mid 1960s view of No.18 at Seaham Harbour reveals some of the work it was retained to carry out.  Almost uniquely it could still reach parts of the harbour the newer steam and diesel locomotives couldn’t, and it was usually engaged on maintenance work and recovery of spilled coal – a reason the 1870s chalrdons also survived in some numbers into the 1960s.  The hand crane seen here is rather nice – mounted on a very chaldron-esque chassis.  Note the crane ballast box to the rear (on rollers, to enable it to be adjusted to balance the load) and the absence of any brake on the chassis.  Not dissimilar to the crane on display in the Colliery area here.  We did, incidentally, have a reconstruction of that crane priced many years ago – upwards of £50k being required to bring it to the required standard.  Heritage is not cheap!  It would still be a lovely project to carry out one day though.  I’m not entirely sure about the steam behind the chimney – No.18 did latterly fail with a leak on the dome in that vicinity – perhaps this is an early indication of this fault, or perhaps the safety valve is blowing lightly and the wind carrying the steam forwards.  A rather lovely photograph!

Narrow Gauge

Below: Following clearance of a mass of debris and material to the western end of the narrow gauge triangle, work has commenced on laying some recently acquired track panels in this area.  A right-hand turnout will give access to the space in the centre of this view, where the stone crusher will be set up along with a shaft-sinking cameo, to bolster the story told by the Sinkers cabin in the adjacent yard (the refreshment outlet).

The aim is to create a working arena for events etc. with good public visibility – the fence alongside the railway and cottages being ideal in this regard.  It will also tie in with the Sinkers display and I have sketches for some small revetments and also a contractor’s railway style water tower in this location – which should become an attractive display and greatly improve the area and the visibility of the narrow gauge railway when operating.

Below: We have been lucky to obtain. at no cost to Beamish, two right hand turnouts and 120 feet of track in panels, ex Eastriggs.  I wish we could have obtained more!  This is very nearly-new 35M rail, with steep sleepers.  The system at Eastriggs was extensive and it’s demolition has been a huge boost to the two-foot gauge movement!  If anyone did fancy sponsoring some more track, I’d be very happy to hear from them!  This track will enable completion of the western head shunt, installation of a siding (as referred to above) and will also enable a siding at the Pockerley end of the railway to be constructed, along with an engine shed with public viewing access for days the narrow gauge is not operating.

Below: We have also purchased a quantity of second-hand (maybe third-hand!) rail for use on the 15 inch gauge and two foot gauge lines.  Quality is variable but there is sufficient for our needs and there may even be enough to replace the 20lb rail up to Samson’s shed/hutch.  The aspiration is very much towards more regular running of the narrow gauge for the benefit of visitors in the future…

Below: The 40HP Simplex, which is on loan from the National Railway Museum, has had some attention ahead of the steam fair in April, including repairs to the radiator and also addressing some very old repairs that have perished.  It is seen on the pit for examination.

Below: By the middle of the last week of March the narrow gauge was being levelled and packed, with the turnout installed to enable access to a new siding (which will form part of the aforementioned working display).

Below: Nearly finished and just needing the installation of the bufferstop that was previously located at the end of the o

Below: Also well in hand at this time was the erection of the chaldron waggon shelter – which also doubles up as a shed to accommodate visiting 15″ gauge stock…  The roof trusses were made in-house last in the RHEC, with a simple structure of telegraph poles and reclaimed timber fencing completing the ‘kit’.  This shed will enable the core-four working chaldrons to be stored under cover each winter, with additional waggons being overhauled/repainted in the engine works during the same period.  With a couple under the screens, we hope to prolong their life whilst not removing them from public display through the now-busy winter months.

Below: The addition of the roof structure gives a very good idea of how to build a rustic rolling stock shed.

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