Gateshead trams and Beamish Museum *Updated*...

Gateshead trams and Beamish Museum *Updated*…

Things on this site will be a little quiet over Christmas, so here is an article to help pass the time during the festive break…

Note: I have re-edited the post with some additional pictures and also to try and obviate some issues of layout and image order that were appearing when viewed on a mobile phone.  If you can view the post on a computer screen, it should be as I have set it out – mobile users may find some of the ordering of photos changes.

Gateshead 52

It is now a well known fact that Gateshead 52, a former single deck tram, presently stored at Clay Cross by the National Tramway Museum is to be transferred to Beamish, following a special resolution at a meeting of the TMS to approve the transfer of ownership (with the proviso that if Beamish ceases to exist for any reason, the tram will be offered back to the TMS).  The first few fragments of the tram have now arrived at the Museum, with the main body and truck expected in the New Year.  Whilst these were very badly damaged by fire, a number of fittings were removed at the time and have survived.  A team of volunteers have been sorting these out, ready to accompany 52’s remains back to the north east where we will take stock and develop a restoration programme for what will be our most challenging project yet.

I thought an introduction to this tram might be of interest, along with some photographs from our archive.

Below: As built, the tram carried the number 7, built in 1901 by the Electric Railway & Tramway Carriage Works Ltd in Preston.  It was fitted with a Brill 21E truck with a 6ft wheelbase and 2x 25hp Dick Kerr motors.  Four sister cars were rebuilt as pay-as-you-enter vehicles, athough this pioneering idea did not meet with much success at the time and was later abandoned.  Here is No.4 – note the large Tudor topped windows that were a feature of the class as built.  It also has a Brill 21E Swing-link truck – about which we will hear more later.

Gateshead 4 @ Bensham  G S Hearse (Small)

Below: Another view of No.4 – note the ‘In’ and ‘Out’ notices above the platform and repeated on the steps. Also apparent is the different (earlier) shape of the advertising panels compared to the view above.


Below:  On the evening of the 5th February 1916, No.7 was to be involved in Gateshead Tramway’s blackest day.  Whilst the tramway had the enviable record of never having any passenger fatality, No.7 was to be the cause of the death of four pedestrians that night.  No.7 had departed the Bensham terminus and was waiting at the last loop on Saltwell Road for an out-bound car.  This did not appear, so the driver took No.7 and its passengers right, up onto the notoriously steep Bensham Road.  He stopped in the loop adjacent to the Ravensworth Hotel, aware of the lights of the outbound tram on the line ahead, though stationary.  A pedestrian informed him a fight had broken out on that tram, the driver ringing his gong to attract attention and summon assistance.  No.7’s driver applied the handbrake and walked up the bank to assist, almost immediately noticing the lights of his own tram had disappeared.  The inquest heard that he had applied his brake but not informed the conductress.  As he walked up the bank an additional 23 passengers joined the 12 already on board.  With this extra weight the brake was overcome and the tram began to run away down the hill towards the tight turn into Saltwell Road.  Here, some 200 yards into the runaway, it overturned, killing a family of three and a soldier who had been crossing the road at the time.  Ten passengers were injured, three seriously.  The inquest was held on the 8th February, just three days after the accident.  The jury essentially returned a verdict of accidental death, thought he driver was remanded on bail the following day on a charge of causing the death of four persons.  His case was later thrown out.  The tracks on Bensham Road were later doubled to obviate the need for passing loops, whilst a new rule was issued stating that drivers should not leave their cars during a journey.  The photo here shows the aftermath of the accident, with 7 having runaway down the road from the middle distance, Saltwell Road being to the right.  It is perhaps morbid to us these days that such an event should be the cause of public gathering and a postcard to note teh occasion, but such ritual of the day has given us a very poignant image of the accident.


Below: No.7 was rebuilt and returned to service in 1920, later being renumbered ’52’ in 1928.  It was now fitted with an 8 bay enclosed saloon of simple style and with no clerestory.  Initially it had open platforms, as seen here, though these were later enclosed.


Gateshead 52 (as No.7 - 2)

Below: A later view taken inside Sunderland Road depot after renumbering as 52 and the fitting of advertising boards but as yet, no adverts.


Below: The condition in which most will be familiar with 52 – fitted with 8ft wheelbase Brill 21E truck and with a fully enclosed body. The advertising boards dramatically changed 52’s appearance.  Along with No.51, it plied its trade on the Teams route.  It is seen here with white painted fenders and headlight shields (for operation in the blackouts) and is resplendent in a smart, elaborate paint finish (though no adverts were yet applied).


Below: After the Second World War 52 was given a rather more austere repaint than previously carried, though continued to give good service until 1951.


Below: Mr William Southern was a former driver in Gateshead and a regular on 52.  Upon the closure of the system in 1951 he purchased 51 (sans motors) and moved the car to his allotment in Low Fell, not so far from the southernmost route on the Gateshead system.  Following his death, 52 (along with a number of other ex Gateshead items including a truck from works car No.45A) were donated to the Tramway Museum Society and moved to Crich.

Gateshead 52 - 5 Gateshead 52 - 12

Below: No.52 is seen here at Crich, looking outwardly quite presentable and in the company of Gateshead 5 (to the left, still with vestiges of its later British Railways identity as No.20). Photo: John Henderson


Below: Two further views of 52 at Crich, showing it as arrived and after smartening up.

Gateshead 52 - 3

Gateshead 52 - 8

Below: 52 was later moved into storage at Clay Cross, shown here in this photo by John Henderson and taken from an article on 52 on the British Trams Online website.  It had received some attention at the hands of a supporting group from 1963, but otherwise its restoration was not progressed.  It was sadly damaged in an arson attack whilst in storage at Clay Cross, which destroyed much of the saloon and its interior.


Below: Andy Bailey from the TMS (centre) is seen handing over one of two surviving enamel signs from Gateshead 52 to Brian (right) and Tom (left).  As well as the items that will come with 52, we have a number of suitable bits and pieces that will be added to the ‘pile’ for 52’s rebuild.  Whilst reconstruction of the body is a given, we will also need to locate suitable motors and controllers, circuit breakers and a myriad of fittings that will be required in the restoration.  It promises to be a challenging but ultimately very satisfying road to the day we will be able to see 52 at work within only a few miles of the system it loyally served for so many years.


In due course we will have to decide what condition to restore 52 back to – essentially boiling down to a decision between fitting vestibules or not (the windscreens).  Open vestibules and no adverts is very appealing, though we have to look pragmatically at the operation of 52 and crews on the long winter duties may have a preference for some protection from the elements – we shall see in due course…

Gateshead 51

I very much like this tram – it presents a number of historical research problems and is a warning to all of trusting the assumptions of previous generations, for whatever complex reasons these have been made (and bearing in mind that official sources were not always correct!).  I always like to be able to prove, and corroborate our vehicle histories (consider the steam locomotive No.18 which has had its history virtually re-written during the time it has taken to restore it – and despite the new facts being in the public domain, such as the articles section of this blog, I still see the old ones repeated, incorrectly, in various texts and publications.  Soap box put away now…!!!).

Below: It has generally been understood that No.51, latterly an enclosed single deck tram, originated from one of the 21 – 45 batch of open top three bay window trams, such as No.36 below.  However, various re-builds and renumberings may have mudied the certainty of this theory somewhat.


Below: This is No.51 in its later life – longer, more windows and with a clerestory roof.  The latter not a feature of the open top cars for very obvious reasons!  It has an 8 ft wheelbase Brill 21E truck and was said to have been rebuilt in around 1918 and renumbered in 1925.  As we shall see, I am not so sure of this…

Gateshead 51 - 4

Below: This is our No.51 as discovered on the Ravensworth Estate near the Team Valley Trading Estate.  Clerestory roof but not enough windows.  Comparison with the view above shows that two bays from the right, a bulkhead was fitted, and this is where  the body below was truncated, to the left on the photo below.


Below: 51 was already identified as such when we got it, and I am happy that this is the tram that ended its working life as No.51.  As can be seen it was in very poor condition in parts, and we had to dismantle it entirely to remove it from a very restricted location due to building developments after it was put in place. But, is this the No.51 that was rebuilt from No.45?


Below: An internal view showing the clerestory roof and bulkhead.  We did recover most of the mouldings and coloured glass, the bullhead itself and the doors.  A sample of the side ribs was kept, the rest being lost due to rot and the need to break the tram into man-handleable pieces.


Below: A view of the underside of the roof – note the wooden bosses for light fittings.


Below: We have a small heap of recovered mouldings, including the capitals from window pillars.


So, what or who is No.51?  Before looking at this, here is a photograph that adds greatly to the confusion but also the potential solution to this riddle.  It is a very smart No.51 at Sunderland Road depot – but is it the same tram as we have just seen above?


George Hearse stated in his book on the Gateshead system that No.45 was cut down to a single deck car towards the end of the First World War, with extended body and long wheelbase truck, being renumbered in 1925 as ’51’.  The superb ‘Tramways of the North East’ by J. C. Gillham and J. Carlson and published by the LRTA as Regional Handbook No.2 offers a slightly different view.  They state that No.45 was cut down to make a 32 seater single deck car in about 1920 and that an additional open topper, No.25 was also cut down to create a single deck passenger car in 1923 – one that would eventually become the works car No.45A  (as we shall identify this tram to avoid confusion with the original No.45).  They also include a 51, built as in 1903 and marked up as a water car, from 1925 known as 51A and converted to use as a railgrinder and snowplough.  Photographs confirm that this is a distinct works car and therefore 51A can play no further part in this discussion.

Returning the issue of identifying No.51 and where it originated, I think there are a number of observations/questions to consider:

  • Does our No.51 as it remains, contain any of the original open top No.45? I don’t believe it does – the window spacings are wrong and would not be easy to modify, the presence of another 51 in the fleet list (seen above) also confuses the issue.
  • Gateshead modernised its tramway in 1921 when the BET was granted an extension of its operators title – as a result there was a renumbering scheme put in place.  This is an important detail!
  • George Hearse produced the definitive book (to date) on the system at Gateshead in 1965.  He stated that open top No.45 was rebuilt as a single decker and given the number 51.  He doesn’t refer to there being two separate vehicles carrying this number though.
  • At the closure of the sytem, No.45A was an enclosed single deck works tram but with advert boards and a remarkable similarity to the No.51 I believe George Hearse referred to. However, we also understand that No.25 was similarly rebuilt and became No.45A.  No.45A was fitted with a Brill 21E Swing-link six foot wheelbase truck – later purchased by William Southern when he purchased 52.  The photo of the short No.51 seen above also shows it to be a tram fitted with a swing link truck.
  • George Hearse states that two Brill 21E Swing-link trucks were purchased in 1915 and placed under No.2 and No.4 (from the same batch as No.7 – which became No.52).  Proving to be unsatisfactory, he records that one was placed under 45A and the other under No.40, from the open top batch of trams (which included the original No.45).  No.40 had been scrapped by 1923 though the trucks and electrical equipment were retained for use on second hand trams arriving in Gateshead.
  • 45A certainly has a swing link truck (see next photo), and so does No.51 (see previous photo).  You can probably see where I’m going here!  An unsuccessful truck was unlikely to be placed back under a passenger tram, propagating a hypothesis that 45A was in fact the shorter 51 seen above and was rebuilt from the original open top No.45.  Alternatively the short 51 is a rebuild of No.40 – though there is no evidence at all to suggest this to be the case.  It could be open top 25 though, fitted with one of the spare Swing-link trucks.

Well done for staying with this, so far!  I said that it would be complicated!

Below: We should probably take a look at No.45A the works tram now, seen in a photo probably taken in 1943 by M. J. O’Conner – I am almost certain this is the No.51 shown above.  The truck from this tram survived with No.52 at Low Fell and and was presented to the Tramway Museum Society, some parts possibly being used under Derby 1.  Derby 1 now has a plain truck, rather than a swing link truck, so this information requires verification.


So, to summarise thus far, it would appear that there were two No.51s! Excluding the works car 51A! The ‘original’ being former open topper No.45, rebuilt as an enclosed single deck tram and then later becoming No.45A the works car – the similarity is hard to deny when comparing the previous two photographs and there is no evidence seen to date to suggest two of these shorter enclosed cars running on Swing-link trucks.

However, it throws up quite a big question – if we run the hypothesis that open top 45 was rebuilt as a single deck enclosed tram numbered 51, which in turn became the works tram No.45A, where did our No.51, the longer tram without quaterlight vents and running on an eight foot wheelbase truck, clearly seen in photographs in the latter days of the system’s operation, come from?!  And where did the other rebuild, mentioned by Gillham & Carlson (No.25) go?  Or did it exist at all?  Was there a mistake in the Gateshead records, or a convenient accounting ‘error’ to enable a new tram to be built (this happened a lot – Blackpool’s Standard trams being a case in point where very little of the rebuilds that constituted part of the class could be considered original).

At this point, some further thoughts are worth recording:

  • No.51 appears as a short tram that the hypothesis suggests became No.45A.  The short 51 certainly doesn’t appear in later photographs of the system, and 45A doesn’t appear in earlier photographs – lending weight to this theory (which I admit has rather evolved during the creation of this article!).
  • The long 51 does not appear in earlier photographs of the Gateshead system, and some I have seen incorrectly ascribe 52 with the identity 51 where the number cannot be seen – 52 has quarterlights (as it has no clerestory), 51 does not (as they are in the clerestory).
  • Can we surmise, then, that our long 51 appeared at about the time the short 51 became 45A?  All of the photographs I have so far been able to find of the long 51 show it fitted with the headlamp shields required under blackout conditions.  This suggests that none of the views (not all are dated) pre-date 1939.

Below: No.51, almost certainly on a Teams service (heading to Gateshead – this being the only route that ran solely south of the Tyne by this point).  Note the headlamp shields, white painted fender, lack of quarterlights above each side window (creating the clear distinction from No.52) and also the lining – later views show this was not applied at later repaint(s).


Well, a conclusion re No.51 might be appropriate.  I will duck the matter of making a statement of certain fact, rather propose this hypothesis, in the hope that somebody out there can either prove or disprove it from their own researches, or add to and develop it. The TMS archive does contain Gateshead derived fleet lists – something I shall attempt to study in the not too distant future in the hope that they shed light on, rather than doubt, the following hypotheis, which says:

  •  Gateshead rebuilt at least one of its open top batch of trams as an enclosed car, almost certainly it was No.45 and it became, at least for a part of its life (as photographed), No.51.
  • This No.51 was an enclosed tram with six bay window saloon running on a six foot Brill 21E truck.
  • At some point in the early years of the Second World War, No.51 was re-allocated to works car duty and given a number based on its original – 45A.
  • That the shorter No.51 was replaced during (or immediately before) the war years by a longer car, with an eight bay saloon and eight foot Brill 21E truck.  This was perhaps based on No.52 which had essentially been built in the works at Sunderland Road, and where we know many new trams were built by the company for use on the system.  Not being a re-build as such, it followed the conventional practice for in-house construction and featured a clerestory roof – as seen on the preserved No.5 and No.10 which were built at Gateshead in the 1920s.
  • There may be no clear evidence of this new tram being built due to a deliberate accounting ruse to produce a new vehicle but suggest it was the rebuild of an older one (the older one being renumbered and moved into the works fleet to further obscure this trick).
  • That the remains of No.51 as recovered from the Ravensworth Estate are no older than the early 1940s and were entirely created by the Gateshead and District Tramways Company at Sunderland Road.  Further, these remains therefore have no material basis on the original No.45, an open top tram supplied to the G&DT in 1901. Paneling found on the inside of No.51 when we recovered it appeared to be re-used from elsewhere, bearing inscriptions and paintwork not usually found on interior panelling of tramcars.
  • And finally, from the point of view of what we have at Beamish from No.51, or 51B as we might call it (remember 51A was a distinctive works vehicle), little structural survives and therefore the remaining details, mouldings and saloon doors etc. might be reasonably incorporated into the restoration of No.52, along with parts from No.12 and No.47 (see later), to ensure as much surviving genuine ex Gateshead material is assembled into a genuine ex Gateshead tramcar.

Below: When we dismantled 51 we were puzzled by the well fitted but clearly second hand internal panelling – apparently from an advert board – useful evidence in the suggestion that 51 was something of a utility build?  Possibly the clerestory roof was also recycled – 52 (nee 7) did not regain a clerestory after its rebuild following the accident and there must have been considerable numbers of spares and extras lying about from the bogie car construction programme.  We will probably never know for certain, but it all adds to the intrigue and mystery around 51B and its appearance on the G&DT system.


The other Gateshead ‘survivors’

Having endured this epic post thus far, you will be reassured to know that things are rather more straightforward from this point onwards!

Below: While we are looking at remains of Gateshead trams, I thought I would try and identify two of the bodies that came to Beamish for recovery of spares – as depicted in the gallery section on this site (1970s T&I).  We know we had 12 and 47, so after a bit of digging, these bodies can now be identified.  The image below shows the arrival of the remains of Gateshead 12 – part of the same batch of trams as the preserved examples 5 (Crich) and 10 (at Beamish). Note the rectangular shaped windows.


Below: Gateshead 47 is, by a process of eliminations, shown here – note the arched top windows that distinguish this from No.12.  Also of interest is the 1926 Bullnose Morris Cowley and in the left foreground a piece of plant (a mortar mixer) that we still have and are considering for out 1950s area as an exhibit in its own right.  It seems a shame, perhaps, in hindsight, that these bodies were broken up, but the spares they yielded were vital to the development of the Beamish Tramway at the time, and few could have imagined the potential growth the tramway would see and the modern facilities for restoration of even the worst cases that are now available.  However, not only did No.10 benefit, but No.52 will too.


Below: By contrast here is No.12 in service, clambering around the curve underneath the railway bridge in central Gateshead from Mulgrave Terrace onto Wellington Street on a Dunston bound service.


Below: No.12 is seen here alongside Redheugh Gas Works – like the tram, long since lost.  No.12 was built by Gateshead themselves in 1920, seating 48 and running on a pair of Brill 22E bogies.


Below: A view of No.12’s interior at Frolic Farm, Capheaton, where a number of ex Gateshead bodies were located.


Below: Two views of No.47 in its original guise as a combination car (pre 1907 for the upper view – the year the open sides were filled in) – open saloons at the ends being a feature in order to accommodate smokers.  Built by Milnes in 1902, the batch (No.s 46 – 50) seated 38 and ran on Milnes bogies.  Between 1921 and 1925 the class of five received second hand Brill 22E bogies from scrapped cars, later being further rebuilt between 1931 and 1932 into fully enclosed cars, creating neat and compact cars under forty feet in length.

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Below: 47 was later fully enclosed, and it is seen here on a Teams service  in 1949.  We are very fortunate to hold an extensive archive of images showing north east tramcars – amassed by George Hearse and purchased by the Museum some years ago.


Below: For the sake of completeness, here is Gateshead 5, preserved at the National Tramway Museum.  It was built in 1927 by the Gateshead & District Tramways Company.  Latterly in operation on the Grimsby & Immingham Electric railway, it was purchased (along with our own No.10) by British Railways in order to supplement the fleet.  It has been restored to full Gateshead & District Tramways livery.


Below: We couldn’t miss out Gateshead 10 – our own stalwart of the Beamish Tramways.  Dating from 1925 and another example of a G&DT built car it has operated at Beamish for 40 years, only missing three seasons operation.  Rather more than it was able to run for its original owners!  Whilst currently running in BR green, for most of its working life at the Museum it carried various versions of the Gateshead livery – here seen in the last manifestation complete with full lining out and a compliment of appropriate adverts.


I hope that this rather lengthy post has been of interest and perhaps adds a little to our knowledge of Gateshead tramcars and also illustrates some of the pitfalls as well as joys of discovery in real historical research.  I do have an outline draft for a small book on the Gateshead Tramways, largely pictures and captions, to showcase some of the material we have in our archive and continue to add.  Much of this originates from the late George Hearse, but we were also given a very good selection of colour transparencies taken around 1950 which I would hope to include.  Like all such projects there is no timescale for this, and it really progresses in fits and starts as and when I can find the time.  One day though…  Meanwhile, we anticipate the arrival of 52 within coming weeks, initially storing it before moving it to the tram depot later in 2014, when we will be able to really bottom out what it requires and how much has survived.

Below: Two tinted postcard views showing open top cars at Heworth Terminus and in High Street, Gateshead (bound for Heworth).   Such views taken around Gateshead are less common than for other systems, and whilst the colouring can be a little conjectural, it broadly conforms to the actual livery carried and does offer a warmth to the view that is otherwise lost.  A search of ‘Gateshead Trams’ on this site should bring up other collections of images placed on the blog over the years.

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