Beamish Transport Online - Review of 2019...

Beamish Transport Online – Review of 2019…

As has become something of a tradition, here is a review of the last 12 months (which make up a year that has absolutely flown by!) along with a little look ahead to 2020 and some things we can look forward to in the next 12 months… This review is but a snapshot of blog posts throughout the year – of which there have been 25 news posts and several other postings on a whole host of subjects from the transport team. Much more detail is contained within the blog posts, but some highlights are presented here for readers to enjoy.


In January we were signing off the final design for the bus depot, one of the earlier buildings to be commenced as part of the Remaking Beamish project – eleven months later we would open this building to the public – and compare this architect’s rendering with the real thing – it would be fair to say, the two are very close!
Samson enjoyed a winter inside a heated building, whilst on display at the Reece Group HQ in the old Armstrong/BAE Systems factory on Scotswood Road. It was deep-cleaned for the occasion and was enjoyed by all of those visiting the site, this being the commodious reception area! The Reece Foundation also supported the construction of the bus depot and have supported Beamish with many other projects, not least creating the Regional Heritage Engineering Centre, within which Samson was built.


Volunteer John and his assistants continue to work their magic with our Model Ts… The Ton Truck is making good progress and in the spring reassembly was well underway, including adaptations to improve its usability around the Museum site (it will eventually be used by the machinists/steam techs as their mode of transport).
Manchester 765 arrived for its second visit to Beamish, being commissioned and placed into weekend service at Beamish. As before, it looked very much at home in the Edwardian street and for its inaugural runs, the sun made an appearance!
We also received Glyder’s boiler from the Severn Valley Railway, following repairs there. The challenge was how fast could we assemble the locomotive and complete the project. With valuable assistance from some of the Friends volunteers, the summer saw the project completed, as you will see below….


A second tramway visitor arrived, in the form of Blackpool & Fleetwood 40. This tram was on loan to Blackpool Heritage Trams (and Blackpool Tramway) for many years, calling in on Beamish for the season en route to its home at the National Tramway Museum, Crich. It is seen here after unloading, with Blackpool 31 providing the motive power to remove it to the depot for reassembly and commissioning.
March saw a start made on the new bus depot. The site was cleared and stoned-up to enable extensive piling to take place. Underground services also had to be re-routed and the site enclosed to enable visitors to pass alongside it and the tram depot to continue to function normally. The speed of progress was impressive, as we shall see…
One of Tony Vollan’s last projects with us was to construct a chaldron-cosy in the Colliery. This shed enables us to store four chadlron waggons (and nothing larger!) undercover for the first time. It can, of course, house things smaller than chaldrons – in this case also usefully housing the 15″ gauge stock that would be visiting us for the Great North Steam Fair in April and for which a short demonstration line was laid within the standard gauge track within the Francis Street exchange sidings behind the Pit Village.


Hetton Lyon, so long a resident of the museum, moved back to its owners, the National Railway Museum, where (at their Shildon site) an archaeological investigation into its history began, and will no doubt entail the re-writing of the history of this locomotive!
Blackpool & Fleetwood 40 was commissioned for service, and our new ex Darlington Corporation Daimler, No.4, arrived and joined the collection to supplement the 1950s/post-war working fleet of buses on the busy routes around the site.
April’s Great North Steam Fair was an unforgettable occasion – not just for us by the 23,000+ visitors who attended the four-day event – unprecedented numbers and probably a total that will remain an unbroken record for some time to come! The 15″ gauge railway made its debut and provided the opportunity to see three gauges of railway here, in one view! Samson had returned in time for the event and is seen here with Katie (from Ravenglass), Coffee Pot No.1 and No.18. The gallery below (most images taken by Colin Slater) shows just a small amount of the variety of road transport in operation during the event… How to beat this in 2020 – more on that later!


Erection of the bus depot framework made rapid progress through this period, with the structure being assembled from pre-manufactured components. Some began to worry that double deckers would not fit – the drawings said they would, but it would be a relief to actually try them through the doorways!
Glyder’s reassembly was also progressing rapidly and the loco was looking externally complete in this view. The paintwork was still to be tackled – the desire being to retain as much of the original as possible…
Limited work was also taking place on Oporto coal-car 65, which was lifted from its truck shortly after this photogprah was taken. Seen in the background is Oporto 196 – showing the family resemblance between the two. 65 is being progressed towards some limited operation, to enable a full diagnosis of its condition to take place, though by then it will have been rewired, fitted with new resistances and had the controllers overhauled! The Beamish Tramway Group have carried out much of this work, in order to progress what would otherwise be a low-priority project.


Glyder’s first steaming since 1965 – the very moment it moved for the first time since it was last operated in Penrhyn Quarry… A very satisfying moment for all concerned!
GWR 813 arrived on hire from the Severn Valley Railway for the summer. It was very popular though its operation was terminated early due to a broken spring, and by the time the replacement arrived, 813 was due to move on to Didcot Railway Centre in Oxfordshire – hopefully we’ll see it here again though!
No.18 also went on its travels – though not very far! It attended the Tanfield Railway gala, where it acted as yard pilot and was seen with wagons that dwarfed it for the first time since 1969! It was a popular exhibit and fulfilled the shunting role admirably.
With a huge amount of relief, the work to restore Crosville 716, a 1933 Leyland Cub bus, recommenced at a local contractor’s workshop. Here the adaptations needed to enclose a wheelchair lift are seen, along with the raised rear door height – now considered essential for both passenger and crew safety and comfort.


A reminder of the summer months – both for being sunny, and for the tramway doing what it does so well, quietly carrying thousands of visitors around the museum.
With 813 out of the picture, the Rowley operation fell to the hands of Peckett 2000, which remains with us at the end of 2019. It looks very well at home in the industrial setting seen in this photograph.
The bus depot progressed through the summer, with blockwork and brickwork rising rapidly towards the eaves. It was at this stage that we first gained an impression of the final size and scale of the building – and began to wonder how quickly we would fill it!
A number of Dunrobin’s components have visited Beamish – though some are not destined to run again! The badly fractured driving wheels arrived for ‘display’, having been replaced at great cost as an unforeseen element of the restoration of the locomotive for use at Rowley. The wheel centres are, however, quite instructive as to how these things can fail and there is little need for any scientific instrumentation to observe the cracks that afflict these four castings.


Samson made a visit to Kent, where it was a guest at the Richmond Light Railway gala (and was also subsequently used in a photographic charter there). This was great outreach and also exposed the locomotive to a number of people who subsequently gave some advice on its tendency to ‘centre’ and be low on power and tricky to start. Taking this on board, the length of the slide valve was reduced and this action has transformed Samson’s performance markedly and made it altogether more viable for regular use if we wish to operate it more in the future.
Two more of Tony Vollan’s last projects! Both somewhat whimsical and both made from all sorts of left overs that we had lying around! With no intention of carrying passengers at Beamish, they do give Samson a little train to pose with elsewhere – as was the case at the Richmond Light Railway where Samson worked passenger trains for the first time in its life (and probably that of the original loco on which ours is based!).
The Model T Ton Truck continued to make good progress, with the overhauled engine installed and new wiring being fitted. One modification, trialled on the Crewe Tractor Model T, is the fitting of electronic ignition – what an improvement this makes! We would only consider this for vehicles in regular use, and which are not part of the core collection. And the aspiration is to make them more reliable and therefore more practical for use by staff carrying out their duties around the site.


Late summer saw a new carriage enter service at the Waggonway (seen on the left here), with the introduction into service of the ‘Brampton’ coach. This was built on the chassis of the chaldron used as a brakevan, with a new body which not only contains the guard, but also a number of passengers – increasing the capacity of the train markedly. The varnished pine finish was achieved by re-using reclaimed (and dismantled) church pews. Time has now taught us that these, despite such lengthy seasoning, can be subject to quite rapid weathering. This has meant the Brampton coach requires some remedial work this winter, to restore its impressive appearance.
One sunny day in September, GWR 813 and Peckett 1370 both departed – presenting, in the process, the opportunity for a photograph of a trio of green saddle tanks in the sunshine. Peckett 2000 acted as shunter. 813 departed for Didcot Railway Centre (its new spring just fitted in time) whilst 1370 departed for a contractor for retubing on behalf of its owner. Following completion of this work, 1370 has returned to Beamish, giving us a Peckett pairing once again, with both expected to work throughout the 2020 season.
The aforementioned anxieties regarding whether or not the buses would fit into the new depot were quelled, with 220 and 4 being tested within the new building – and all was well!


In October the new bus depot was handed over to us for internal fit-out and detailing. With an opening scheduled for November, a lot of work was required to install the workshop contents, some of which will continue into 2020. The building is seen here, from a drone, before the Northern signage was installed on the gable.
Crosville 716’s restoration and adaptation as a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) continued apace, with the rear end structure being completed and the body prepared for glazing. The electrician was also making headway on wiring the bus at this time, whilst the first coat of undercoat had been applied.
Go North-East opened a new bus depot in Consett during the year, closing their Stanley depot in the process. We were able to remove a large amount of valuable equipment from Stanley, and some historic material too. This gave us a fantastic leg-up in fitting out our own depot. We were also pleased to still be able to utilise the new facilities at Consett, as we had enjoyed at Stanley. Darlington 4 visited Consett for brake tests as part of its recommissioning for service at Beamish.


Since November 2016, we have had on loan to us this diminutive Kerr Stuart 040WT, No.721 built in 1901. It was supplied to shunt ash skips around Dundee Gas Works and was one of four near-identical locomotives so employed. In 1959 it was one of two saved, one being given the name Bonnie Dundee and initially kept in a ‘domestic facility’ by Ian Fraser (who had saved these, and a number of other significant Scottish locomotives, both narrow and standard gauge). Later Bonnie Dundee moved to the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, being regauged and rebuilt for service on lighter trains in Cumbria. Meanwhile, 721 was placed on display within the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in Tywyn, initially in original form, latterly in comsetically restored condition.
With plans to develop the museum, and install William Findlay (which had been in private storage at Beamish, coincidentally), 721 was offered to us for display and eventually consideration for restoration to working condition. With two apprentices needing substantial projects to demonstrate their skills development on, 721 has been brought to the workshops for assessment, to see if a return to steam is feasible. Here it is depicted, sans cladding and fittings, as dismantling began.
Behind 721 is Steam Elephant – in the works for a mechanical overhaul. The area utilised has been created as a result of moving the buses into their new depot, and will be further developed for heavier engineering work – currently also housing Gateshead tram 10’s bogies and the steam roller, Rambler.
The joys of having a new shed! The buses are seen as they were gathered from other buildings around the site. We can accommodate seven comfortably, plus whatever is in the workshop, and at a push could fit an eighth in. Initial challenges arose from public access granting a little too much access to the cabs of the vehicles, but this is now being resolved. The Northern and Daimler themes are very much evident in this photograph!
The official opening of the bus depot on the 23rd November, complete with visiting Go North-East bus in a one-off livery replicating that carried on our SOS bus, seen to the left. A clock remains to be installed on the gable end of the building, but already we wonder how we ever managed without this superb facility!


Dismantling of 721 has been rapid, in order to establish the condition of the boiler at an early stage. In the background is Steam Elephant, which will shortly be dismantled to enable a mechanical overhaul to progress through 2020.
A project that has been ongoing for some years now is the complete reconstruction of Dunrobin, which we purchased in 2011 and repatriated from Canada in 2012. The restoration of this locomotive has been extensive, with wholesale renewal as well as comprehensive rebuilding being order of the day – we will need a reliable and durable locomotive for many years to come, and the investment is intended to give us that, with Dunrobin being at the core of Rowley’s future operating strategy. Here the much-rebuilt boiler is seen, awaiting fitting of the inner firebox.
Not seen previously on the blog is this view of the newly completed Great Western Railway Mink van – the restoration having been completed by the staff at Rowley Station. The team have carried out a lot of conservation and development work around Rowley, the Colliery and Waggonway, the Mink being their first rolling stock project.
The value of the new vehicle workshop alone is already amply demonstrated – Russell Walker, who manages this area of the workshops, sent this image to me with the comment “I think we’re getting our money’s worth” – very true!

Looking ahead into 2020 (and a few updates along the way)

2020 will be another busy year for the transport and maintenance teams. There will be a lot of work to overhaul existing exhibits, which will reduce the amount of ‘new’ items coming back into action. Steam Elephant is a good example of this, and is likely to be in the workshop for 12 months or so. Before that work starts, Puffing Billy is receiving attention to improve its condition ahead of a season without a spare loco available at the Waggonway.

The tramway infrastructure and some at Rowley is also set to receive significant attention (and expenditure) during 2020, and the road network is also likely to expand as the Front Street Terrace comes closer to completion.

We will continue to operate the Colliery standard and narrow gauge railways through the year, with the former continuing its three-weekday operation outside of school holidays. We would like to run the latter more often too, and anticipate some enhancements ahead of No.18 not being available in 2021, to ensure we have steam activity on a regular basis within the Colliery environment, whatever gauge it is on. A number of narrow gauge waggons are under restoration by the volunteer ‘BINGE’ team, and two more of these should return to operation in 2020.

In April we will hold our annual Great North Steam Fair – which has a theme for 2020 – Heavy Haulage… I will cover this in more detail in the new year, but we are very excited by the line-up of exhibits that are being gathered for what will be quite a different event in some ways – in terms of sheer spectacle!

Beamish celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2020 and the celebrations will take place throughout the year, and no doubt transport will feature within these. A new guidebook is in preparation and I am hoping to revisit the ‘Forty Years of Service’ book about the Beamish Tramway, and update/expand this to cover the public transport (not railways – that will be a future book!) that we operate at Beamish.

Here are a few key projects that will develop during 2020…

In the spring, all being well, we hope to see the completion of Crosville 716, and its introduction into service as a second Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) for use around the site. This will bring to a close a lengthy and expensive project and a full review of this will be published here in due course.
This is how the Cub was looking on the 17th December, with the bodywork largely completed and the first coats of paint being applied (by brush). The gutters and other details have all been made and removed for painting, and the wheels and wings will also be removed to aid the painting process over the Christmas break.
The close of 2019 view is a far cry from our first sight of the Cub when we collected it at the start of this project!
The rear 3/4 view shows the raised roofline to contain the pair of doors that will enable wheelchair access, via a powered lift (which will sit below the light-coloured panel below them. There have been some comments regarding this adaptation, suggesting that this has ‘spoiled’ the bus and restoration. However, I disagree – we deliberately selected a wreck in order to make this adaptation and breath life into a vehicle that would otherwise not have been restored – it will now enable tens of thousands of visitors each year to enjoy a genuine 1930s motorbus, whilst still be accessible to them for the purpose of transporting them around Beamish.
Further to the caption above – it is worth remembering this is how we collected this vehicle and that the best part of £300,000 has been invested in restoring and adapting it so that all visitors can enjoy the sounds, smells and view from a historic vehicle. I think the doors are therefore a very small compromise to make in order to achieve this.
The front entrance doors have been completed and fitted. The bus has also been primed and some areas are receiving their first coats of Crimson Lake paintwork.
The waist panel shows the beautiful Crimson Lake shade that was used by the London, Midland & Scottish Railway after their purchase of Crosville in November 1929.
2020 will see a concerted effort to complete the mechanical overhaul of Gateshead 10. It is planned to return it to service once the body repairs have been completed after it is reassembled. A repaint will follow, probably in 2021. The scale of this project has grown and grown, with it receiving an extensive mechanical overhaul and removal of many years of ‘evolved’ engineering solutions… A polite way of saying we have gone back to first principles in terms of mechanical condition in particular. The controllers have been overhauled, as has the air braking system. Once back in service it should give us decades of service to come…
Its return will be timely as Oporto 196 will be retired from service during 2020 – Matt will expand on this in his annual tramcar mileage post (to follow). It will then require a comprehensive overhaul as we can no longer rely on previous patching-up and life-extension. There then remains the interesting subject of what livery it could carry next… Options might include one of the Oporto ones (Brown/cream, Green/Ivory or Yellow/Ivory) or perhaps the Green/Ivory of the Tyneside Tramways… The Oporto cars do bear a passing resemblance to the Newcastle H class as originally supplied, so there is another option. Or it could be blue/yellow of South Shields once again… That decision is a little way off yet!
Next year will see the restoration of Dunrobin continuing, with the potential for the locomotive looking largely complete by the close of 2020. Like Gateshead 10, this programme of reconstruction is targeted on giving us a highly-reliable working object for years to come – it being far better to invest heavily at this stage than having to invest repeatedly though the working life of the locomotive – to this end new driving wheels, cylinder block, tanks and a very large percentage of the boiler are a feature of the restoration. Hopefully next year’s review will be discussing the imminence of a 2021 steaming!
In early 2020 the restoration of our Dodge 12 seater should commence. With a locally built body (Robsons of Blackhill) and a Dodge chassis (originally a Chevrolet), this characterful little bus has long been on the list of projects we wanted to tackle. The Friends engineering team have agreed to rebuild the chassis, drivetrain and all things mechanical, whilst we will store the body pending conservation work on this – I am keen the patina of use (particularly internally) is retained as this is a very ‘real’ vehicle and with a working life spent in Weardale, it makes an ideal companion for Spainsfield Farm, which is due to open in 2022.
Continuing the road vehicle theme, 2020 should see the restoration of the Ford Model T Ton Truck completed. We still have to decide on the final design of cab, whilst the body will be a flatbed with lockable ‘load’ box for tools etc. plus a vice mounted to the rear. It will be used by the steam maintenance team when completed, as it was previously, though will now have all ‘mod cons’ to enable reliable daily operation and convenience.
The Austin 10 is making slow progress but should also be completed next year – the mechanical overhaul has been completed and the attention is currently focused on the extensive patching of the body structure and roof. It will be re-sprayed black and already has a new interior trim ready to install. After this, the Commer van used by the Electricians will receive a thorough overhaul. The historic vehicles are also relocating, to the old vehicle workshop. This also includes veteran motorcycles and in due course I’ll cover the move around and some of the projects we hope this change will benefit. We also intend to thin out some of the vehicles – with the Wolseley, Bedford CA Ambulance and Fordson Thames tipper all likely to be found new homes, enabling the running fleet to be more focussed and better maintained as a result. Several years ago, the intention was to supply all teams on site with historic vehicles for use as part of their daily routines. This has not worked entirely satisfactorily and vehicles were damaged and as a result modern vans crept back into the scene. We now have two modern vans, in green (to try and camouflage them slightly!) for use by the Attendants team, whilst the reliable vintage vehicles are allocated to regular users. This has greatly prolonged the intervals between breakdown, so we intend to rationalised slightly and then focus our energy where it has the best outcome in terms of ensuring visitors can enjoy seeing vintage commercial and domestic vehicles in use on a daily basis.
In the New Year the 1895 Savage centre engine’s restoration and adaptation will be complete. This has been the first project completed by the new incarnation of machine-shop staff (machinist plus apprentice along with help from other staff and volunteers and painting by a contractor) and it looks too good to let out! The organ is now operated by an electric blower, rather than steam-powered bellows. It is a shame to make this concession but it will ensure the longevity of the organ for playing music. The organ engine has been restored and will be fitted cosmetically however. The engine has received numerous modifications to enable it to be used intensively – including a mechanical lubricator and pipework to deliver oil to the steam chests, glands and cylinders. The displacement lubricators are now cosmetic. There had been a lot of over-oiling of the engine (which found its way into the flue, and then caused soot from the fire to adhere to this and inhibit the flow of gases). The lubricator will be pre-set by the fitters, so will not require attention, other than occasional filling, by the operators.

This completes the review of 2019. Thank you for reading this far, and for continuing to support the Museum’s work through this interaction (the blog is part of our desire to communicate what we are doing, as a charity and a museum). With best wishes for the new year, from all of us here.