Out on the road...

Out on the road…

It has been a little while since I’ve been out on the road to look at potential visiting exhibits or objects we may consider bringing on working loans to Beamish.  Last week I broke the duck and visited a number of locations on a long trip south from the Museum, three of which are presented here…

Rotherham trolleybus No.73

Below: Les Brunton (from the Beamish Tramway Group) and I were very kindly hosted by Tim Stubbs, who has been busily leading the restoration of a 1942 Sunbeam single-deck trolleybus formerly of Rotherham and which carried the number 73 in that fleet.  We have had a number of discussions with Tim regarding this bus and it is planned to bring it to Beamish in due course to undergo test-running on 0ur present section of overhead line, with a view to further running on the 1.5 mile circuit that we are currently designing as part of the Remaking Beamish programme of expansion – the 1950s urban area being served by a new bus route operated by both motor and electric vehicles.

A vast amount of work has been carried out on this bus and Les and I were very impressed with what has been accomplished – especially bearing in mind that the vehicle was received by Tim as nothing more than a stripped hulk.

The owning group’s website summarises the trolleybus’s history thus:

This trolleybus is one of a fleet of 16 similar vehicles supplied to Rotherham between 1940 and 1943. These 39-seat 6-wheel single-deckers were fitted with bodies built by East Lancashire Coachbuilders of Blackburn. The preserved vehicle started out as number 88 and was renumbered 73 in the late 1940s. It was the subject of a major rebuild and further renumbering in 1950 and was finally withdrawn in 1954.

After Rotherham service, 73 was stripped of all valuable parts and then used as a meeting room for the Rotherham Chantry Pistol and Rifle Club. In the late 1970s, the bus was saved for preservation and moved to Sandtoft. It changed hands again in 2001 and restoration to pre-1950 condition then began.

On starting the restoration, a major search was begun to source the missing parts of the trolleybus. Thanks to help from many individuals and the established trolleybus museums, it has been possible to find most of the missing pieces needed. Many of these have had to be refurbished before they could be fitted.

Since 2001, steady progress has been maintained in the restoration of this vehicle. Many steel parts of the body structure had become very corroded over the years and have had to be replaced. Some of the timber parts of the frame have also needed renewal and following this work interior body restoration has continued.

New construction has been needed for some items and these include the trolley gantry and trolleygear, the roof mounted resistor-case and contactor panels. The body frame has also been reconstructed to reflect the vehicle in its pre-1950 condition. At the present time, restoration continues and it is hoped the completed trolleybus will be fit for use within the next few years

You can read more about this project here: http://www.rotherhamtrolleybus.org.uk/index.php/preservation


Below: The interior of the bus has been entirely rebuilt, including new cab framing and all of the seats and upholstery.  There was no electrical equipment left at all and this has all been put together or replicated from numerous sources – quite a feat!  The bus was built during wartime conditions but was by no means a utility specification, the teak frame having survived in very good condition.

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Below: The current collection arrangements have been made to the original drawings, requiring new patterns and castings to create the vertically sprung arrangement that 73 was fitted with.  This in itself represents a substantial effort but one rewarded by the knowledge for the team who carried it out that it really is the right specification for 73 and that it is therefore historically and technically correct.


Below: One of Tim’s own pictures showing No.73 outdoors during a shunt at his restoration base in Derbyshire.


Below: This very attractive painting was produced for Tim by Chris Drew, and shows 73 with another of the surviving Rotherham fleet, No.37 – once a single-decker itself and later re-bodied by Roe on the original Daimler chassis.

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The Severn Valley Railway, principle contractors for the restoration of our Sharp, Stewart 0-4-4T ‘Dunrobin’ has recently made some structural changes to their engineering team which will also assist in the completion of the work within a timescale that we can plan for.  We have a target date in mind, though will not be publicising this as inevitably such things do slip – however ‘sometime’ in 2018 is the plan for it to arrive at Beamish and take over from much of the hired-in duties.  Meanwhile, we were able to inspect the current progress…

Below: The inner firebox has the girder stays in place, with palm stays also manufactured and on-site.  The boiler barrel will be attached to the outer-wrapper in the early summer, allowing a concerted effort on re-fitting the inner-firebox and staying the two together by the autumn.


Below: This photo shows the frame repairs – the sections of frame with the brake hanger brackets mounted onto them were cut away in Canada to allow access for firebox repairs (without removing the boiler from the frames) but had only been replaced with a single sided weld repair.  These repairs are now double sides and much more substantial.


Below: A team of two are now working on the mechanical elements of the project, the reassembly of the bogie being the priority in order to enable the rolling frames to be shunted and the coupled (driving) wheels extracted for repairs and turning.

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Below: The bogie wheelsets after tyre profile turning and attention to the journals.  These are now ready to refit to the bogie.


Below: The bogie axleboxes have had new crowns made and fitted and been white metalled.  Three are seen in their raw state awaiting machining.


Below: The fourth is seen following machining of the white metal to create the face that will sit within the horn guides.


Richmond Light Railway

Below: My trip took me further south still, and included a call on Jeremy Martin’s private railway in Kent, where his stunning Decauville 0-4-0T was in steam undergoing some running tests after winter storage.  This locomotive is one of a class that are something of a favourite of mine, this example actually being built by Couillet in Belgium.  Jeremy brought the locomotive from South America and restored it in his own workshops, including the Great Eastern Railway paintwork that looks even better in the flesh than these photographs can show!  It made its debut last year but looks set for fame later this year…  The railway runs around a number of padocks and fields and like all such things, is set for further expansion.  This was also the chance for my first steam fix of the year, the little loco being a delight to drive, though the reversed controls take a little getting used to!  Jeremy is also looking at building a brakevan for his railway of similar style to the one that we are currently building for ours, though slightly increased in size to match his rolling stock and enable the guard to stand up inside!

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Meanwhile, back at Beamish…

Below: Covered elsewhere (Museum facebook site), three of the trams have been turned in order to even-out tyre wear and extend the life we get between tyre-turning or replacement.  Though there were once aspirations to create a triangle on the tramway, there are presently no such plans, and the comparable cost of hiring a contractor with a low-loader is far lower and serves our needs for this type of work very well.  Trams turned were 16, 114 and 196.  16’s high mileage and long fixed wheelbase has already seen quite substantial wear on the tyre profiles.  Blackpool 31 is next to be re-tyred, though it will be surveyed upon its return to see if we can make use of it this summer, whilst new tyres are on order.

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