Narrow gauge developments...

Narrow gauge developments…

A small group of like-minded friends and individuals has grouped together to form a regular narrow gauge working party to help develop this particular aspect of the Museum operation.  Whilst the infrastructure work is carried out in our paid-time, a small number of staff, including and coordinated by Matt and myself, are working in their own time alongside the volunteers to restore/recreate rolling stock appropriate for operation on the narrow gauge railway.  At present this consists of restoring the Ffestiniog Railway Granite waggons and creating a suitable fleet of waggons as might have been found in a north east colliery stockyard pre WW1.  The group also hold a considerable operating and engineering skill, so support the operation of the railway when running.  For Matt and I, it also offers some narrow gauge therapy at the end of a busy day!

Below: Edward Sholto and piston-valve Aveling & Porter steam roller ‘Ayesha’ at the last steaming of 2014.  2015 will see a programme of regular transport activity around the Museum, taking the old title ‘Power from the Past’ and enhancing the transport activity on the first full weekend of each month, March to November.  Details of these will be announced as these events come due, but we should be able to provide an overview of what is planned, alongside the April Great North Festival of Transport, in the New Year.


Below: One thing we do not have on the narrow gauge line, and which we feel is desirable given some of the gradients we enjoy (!), is a brake van.  I have sketched out a design based on the standard gauge Londonderry Railway cement van (Seaham harbour – see earlier post), mixed with the Corris Railway narrow gauge brake van plus a few Victorian tweaks.  Matt has fed these into a CAD programme (Inventor) and produced this view of the proposed van, which we will construct over a period of time in 2015 largely using reclaimed items to create it.

Van Assembly

Below: The pattern for the van wheels was found hanging in the Great Shed – ideal for our purpose and ex Consett Iron Company.


Below: No brake van is complete without a stove, so we have one of those in store too!


Below: Timber has been gathered and planed ready for use in this project.  It is Douglas Fir and various off-cuts are already planned for our current project (more on this later).


Below: Found in the compound, this steam valve from a winding engine (the rest was not preserved) will be converted into a brake column/pedestal for the van.


Below: Meanwhile, the first FR Granite Waggon has been stripped – since this photo was taken the wheels have been removed along with axle boxes and the basic frame readied for shotblasting and repairing.  The central spine is in need of most attention.  A restoration protocol has been agreed with the FR Heritage team and progress should be such that this waggon will debut at next April’s Great North Steam Fair.

IMG_3906 IMG_3907

Below: Alongside the Granite Waggon, this Hudson ‘Bomb’ Wagon (built for carrying ammunition boxes and the like) is being back-dated to a more Victorian appearance as the prototype for some new-builds that we hope to produce and which will form the basis of an activity for the Beamish Young Engineers group.  This is how the wagon looked before we started…


Below: This outline shows the proposed shape of the new wagon (now waggon!) which will carry bricks and other pit supplies.


Below: Demolition underway!


Below: One of the curved ends removed and new bufferbeams cut.


Below: One of the new beams offered up for trial fitting.


Below: The completed modifications after the new buffer beams have been welded into place and the old body cross-members removed.  The solebars will be clad in timber, onto which a floor will be fitted and sides/ends mounted – forming a potentially removable tub.  New timber buffer beams will hide the steel plates, and the brake column will be re-configured to fit the new bodywork.  A single plank arrangement with fixed sides and corner braces will be constructed.  We’ve set ourselves the target of completing this work in March, and if successful a revised design could then be produced in the future using a new steel frame, hidden by timber to create a strong and attractive composite base for a variety of body styles.  If anyone would like to sponsor a waggon, they are welcome to get in touch with me via this blog!  Livery will be grey with black ironwork and J&J Joicey lettering per the 1913 setting in which they will operate.

Bomb Wagon

Below: We should not forget some current projects – not least Samson…

Samson Painting

Below:  Also underway is the water tower for the narrow gauge line, with the base planted and ready for the tank (still to be completed).  A coaling platform is also in hand along with some scenic dressing of this area to create a more industrial appearance.


Below: Small narrow gauge ‘Whistle’ boards have been made and painted by the Friends volunteers and sign-written by Sarah Jarman.  These will be installed on each leg of the triangle of tracks currently being developed in the Colliery area.


So, we have some exciting work underway and which will enhance the Colliery both visually and operationally.  As ever, for developments on this, watch this space!!!