Looking back, looking forwards... Review of 2014, forecasts for 2015

Looking back, looking forwards… Review of 2014, forecasts for 2015

The title photo sums up much of what we try to achieve – to present to visitors a real sense of the past in tangible three dimension form, where steam engines operate under steam, vehicles are driven and trams are ridden.  Andy Martin took a superb suite of tin-type photos during the September Power from the Past event, and these can be viewed in the gallery on this site or at Andy’s own site here: http://silversunbeam.co.uk/ (with thanks, as ever, to Andy for these views).

It seems to be tradition now to review the year that has passed as we look forward to the new year ahead, so here is my take on this using the blog as a memory prompt!  There have been 122 posts during 2014, with regular weekly news coverage being interspersed with particular features and updates.  It is hard to summarise the whole year in just 10 items, but for what its worth, here are 10 looking back, five looking forward plus a few musings and thoughts along the way…

Number 1: No.18 (Lewin) returns to regular operation for the first time since 1969…

The return to regular operation of No.18 is definitely a high point of 2014 and whilst this list 1 – 10 is not in order, this one would probably have to rank as one of my favourites!  To see the loco driven by Hal Weetman, its old driver from Seaham, for the first time since 1969 is one reminder of why we do what we do and it was a moment enjoyed not just by Hal, but by those of us involved in the restoration and the many visitors who were present on the day.  Here is Hal, reunited with his old engine…

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Number 2: Visitors

The events produce many opportunities to enjoy visiting transport exhibits and picking favourites is certainly hard, so I wont!  Here are two examples of the relationships we have built and hopefully will build on, with private owners (Edward Sholto being an example), railways (the Ffestiniog Railway loaned the stock seen in the first view behind Edward Sholto) and other museums, as demonstrated by the working visit of the National Tramway Museum’s Blackpool tram No.167 which joined us for a working visit in the early part of the year.

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Number 3: Great North Steam Fair 2014

I think for most of us involved in the GNSF in April the biggest anxiety we have about the event is how we make it better than this one?!  It was certainly our best transport event yet, both for exhibits, variety, rarity and visitor numbers.  The sun shone and the whole Museum buzzed with activity.  Two views cannot sum it up, so do have a look at the gallery for this one as a reminder of what was on offer over those four days…

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Number 4: Colliery Stables Open

In late April the Old King Coal event (part of the Great North Festival of Transport) was centred around the opening of the Colliery Stables, complete with equine residents.  A replica of a still standing row of stables at Victoria Garesfield, the stables provide a base for several pit ponies resident at the Museum.

Flash the Pit Pony

Flash the Pit Pony

Number 5: Sunderland 16 returns to service

After a prolonged absence, Sunderland 16 returned to service following extensive (and expensive!) re-engineering of its truck, body repairs and revarnishing.  Resplendent with new adverts it is now in regular service once again, riding beautifully thanks to the full use of its swinging suspension.  After this job, the team should be able to tackle anything else likely to come their way in terms of heavy tramcar maintenance!


Number 6: Dunrobin’s new cylinder block is cast

Once upon a time, the requirement for a new cylinder block for a steam locomotive would have ensured its future as a static exhibit.  Not so these days, and whilst by no means a cheap option, a new block is a relatively attainable option all the same.  Dunrobin’s new cylinder block makes use of CAD drawings, polystyrene patterns and good old fashioned cylinder iron to produce two half blocks which will be machined and fitted in early 2015 enabling work to commence in earnest on the mechanical overhaul of the locomotive.

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Number 7: Good news from the Heritage Lottery Fund…

Good news indeed – £10.75Million towards our Remaking Beamish project.  From a transport view, you can look forward to a new bus depot, trolleybuses and many more of our collections on show and in use.  Exciting times and a project that now consumes our time as we develop the plans into firm proposals with an anticipated start of construction in 2016.

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Number 8: Samson takes his first breath

It still staggers me, and anyone else observing, how quickly David Young has taken an idea we had and turned it into a new steam locomotive!  Samson drew its first breath in 2014, running on air to prove that it worked!  With the engine stripped down again and various contractors producing components for the boiler and running gear, David can perhaps take a little breather, before putting it all back together again in the new year, with a target for completion sometime after that (how’s that for vague?!).


Number 9: The RHEC reaches full production speed!

Everyday when I walk around the various shops that form the RHEC I wonder how on earth we managed without the facility, which is now approaching its second anniversary and undergoing some changes to suit it to the next few years work ahead.  The output of both staff and volunteer projects is impressive to say the least, as illustrated by these views showing the ground up restoration of R025, overhaul of the Duke of Sutherland’s saloon and the completed Showmans living van.  With a list of work stretching far out in front of us, the facility has already proved itself invaluable and this looks set to remain the case forever after!

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Number 10: 114 visits Crich

This is the photo many of us have waited a long time to see!  114 with Newcastle 102 at the Tramway Museum Society’s 50th anniversary celebrations of tramcar operation at Crich in Derbyshire.  Maybe we’ll see this pairing together again one day…

Trams Today Photo of 114 and 102

It is also appropriate to remember Tony Wickens at this point, someone who made a very considerable contribution to Beamish and the Tramway in particular.  Tony is remembered by Les Brunton, fellow BTG colleague here:

And looking forwards to 2015…

2015 is going to be interesting.  Across the Museum there are numerous projects moving towards their completion (such as the Chemist & Photographers and Eston Church), ahead of the completely new challenges we will face from 2016 when we set about the ‘Remaking Beamish’ project, which is supported by the HLF and will see, for instance, trolleybuses and 1950s buses serving a new urban area in the Museum, a new bus depot and associated displays of the transport collections (I hope that by the completion of this work as well as the present programme, most of the transport collections will be on display/in operation around the Museum – something that I think will greatly enhance the standing of Beamish as one of the best and most accessible transport collections in the World).  Here are five highlights to look forward to in the next 12 months…

Number 1: Completion of Samson

As mentioned above, the completion of Samson’s construction should be achieved in the spring, with testing, commissioning and crew training thereafter.  It will then work alongside Edward Sholto as we get to know it, with a launch of the run-in engine later in the year, possibly tied in with No.18 and also an interesting visiting loco or two.

Number 2: Road menders yard exhibit to open

The shed for this exhibit is currently under construction and I’ll aim to fit it out in the new year with opening for February half-term as a new exhibit for the 2015 season.  Further fitting out will follow as the shed comes in to use as a working base for Rambler and the various motor rollers.

Number 3: Sheffield 264 to return to service

We have ambitions for 264 to re-join the running fleet in the summer.  The required engineering is understood, bodywork is fairly routine and the painting a well trodden path.  The challenge is keeping all of the plates spinning to see the tram reassembled in the spring to enable detail work and painting thereafter.

Number 4: New accessible bus, Leyland Cub ‘Crosville 716’ to enter service

Another summer entrant into service, which will also include training and extensive testing, the new access bus will work alongside the existing vehicle as we trial route changes and enhancements ahead of a full-scale increase in transport performance in 2016.

Number 5: Great North Steam Fair

You’ve read above how pleased we were with the 2014 event – come and see if we beat our own records in 2015!  There are some very very nice exhibits booked and the usual wide variety of transport expected.  As long as the weather cooperates then it should be an event not to miss!

I’d be interested to hear from readers what their highlights were from 2014!  We have the results of various surveys undertaken during the year and have a good idea of some of the visitor ‘wish-lists’ and are looking at how some of these can be accommodated where they do not already appear in the present development plan (a suspicious number of requests for police/fire station and hospitals/prisons have appeared!).  We do respond to feedback so please do feel free to contact us (as long as it isn’t to ask if the railway can be extended!  It can be, if the future needs of the operation require it and we can afford it!  If the proverbial pound was offered every time this was mentioned, we’d ‘crowd fund’ this project, no problem!).

Thanks for following the blog in 2014 and I hope you can join us in 2015 – 122 posts are going to take some beating!!!

I should also express thanks to the photographers who kindly send in their images for use on the blog and will recognise some of their work here – taken from the extensive galleries that appear on this site now as a record of what we have done each year.