T&I News 3 2020...

T&I News 3 2020…

The new season is looming with alarming speed and all around the workshops the staff and volunteers are busy preparing the fleet for 2020 and the busy year ahead. Off-site work on our two big projects continues – Dunrobin at the Severn Valley Railway and Crosville 716, the new Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) at Gardiners in nearby Spennymoor. We also have a programme of work looking ahead for the next five years, but in the year to come focuses on Gateshead tram 10, Steam Elephant and two apprentice projects, including Kerr Stuart 721 (as reported previously). The Dodge bus, VK 5401, is also on the move and will shortly enter the workshops for assessment of its condition and, we hope, the start of its restoration, initially by the Friends of Beamish engineering volunteers.

Engineering Team

There has been considerable activity around the site as the engineering team prepare the engines for the season. In addition to those below, there is considerable work taking place on Puffing Billy to prepare it for the season ahead. This is to try and improve its reliability whilst Steam Elephant is out of action and consists of numerous jobs, including renewal of the chimney and improving the handbrake (replacing a JCB type fitting with a screw and nut arrangement to allow a graduated application). Numerous other jobs are on the list and will be covered in a forthcoming post.

A number of boilers have now had their cold and in-steam examinations. Here No.1 and No.18 simmer after their tests (which were passed).
The centre engine has been running-in under steam ahead of installation into the ride. It was interesting to hear it ‘chuff’ as the exhaust is usually lost in the flues that dispatch it through the centre of the ride and out of the top. Here Don administers to his charge – the work to rebuild the engine having absorbed him for a large percentage of his time in this role.
The steam seen here is from the exhaust – this will be carried through pipework to the centre pole of the ride once the engine has been re-fitted to the centre truck. Note the water pipes – for water delivery and by-pass to the pump, as well as the feed for the injector. Installation and further running in are on the list of jobs for this week.
Here we see the engine after installation onto the centre truck.
It will also be seen that the organ engine has been reassembled and installed onto the smokebox of the Savage engine.
Provision is now made for the ride to operate electrically, the motor for propulsion being visible in this view. The engine gear is disengaged when not required, so that it isn’t back-driven by the motor. There is also a motor/blower for the organ now – the steam engine and bellows being increasingly unreliable and temperamental. The aim is to run the ride on steam, but have the electric motor available for the start of the day and at other times when it isn’t desirable to have the engine in steam.


New bus stop signage is being installed around the Museum. We have opted to have the bus route in the Newcastle Corporation Transport yellow/brown style (the tramway is green and white) in order to make the bus route stand apart. Here is one of the new replica signs that we have had made, newly fitted to a post at Pockerley.
In addition to the signs, information on the ‘rules of carriage’ have also been installed, again the colours mimic the signs themselves. In due course we intend to create a discreet accessible bus route as well (black on white signs) to assist visitors in identifying which transport they need/can use during their day at Beamish.

Mutual Improvement Classes

Every year two training days for all of the transport team take place, covering trams, buses and railway operations. New rule amendments are issued, along with a review of incidents and learning points from the previous year. Additionally, training on specific topics takes place (for example, lubrication of steam locomotives or using new safety equipment). Everyone then leaves with updated rules folders, renewed authorisation for their duties in 2020 and hopefully a clearer understanding of their part of the operation. We also add a few parish notices on up and coming developments.

GDPR makes it impractical to include photographs of the day, but as well as classroom work, topics covered included:

1.Coupling of tramcars (for recovery/shunting)

2.Towing of tramcars (for recovery/shunting)

3.Use of emergency manual ramps for Wheelchair Accessible Bus (J2007)

4.Correct procedures for reversing buses into the new depot

Outside Works

The oliver, overhauled by the Friends volunteers, has been moved to the Blacksmithing area in the Colliery for display. It is seen waiting final positioning, an application of linseed oil and a protective cover.
We have purchased a quantity of good 28lb rail for the narrow gauge. In 2021, with Lewin to be out of service for overhaul, we anticipate using the narrow gauge much more and therefore this purchase will enable some upgrading to take place to allow more regular operation of this area. There will also be a degree of additional fencing to improve visitor access to the area – something often commented upon.

Dodge VK 5401

The 1929/31 Dodge 14-seat bus has featured on the blog a number of times, and now it can finally be confirmed that we are bringing VK into the workshops to assess its condition and, we hope, commence restoration to running condition. Once it has arrived I will report in more detail about this project, which is anticipated will combine volunteer and staff contributions to bring it to fruition. Here is a reminder of the bus’ appearance when visiting Beamish in the early 1970s.
The Dodge chassis was built in 1931, but the body predates this and was built by Robsons of Blackhill (just up the road from Beamish), possibly in 1927 or 1929 and fitted to a Chevrolet chassis. This chassis was presumably worn out or damaged, whence the transplant onto the Dodge 1.5 Ton commercial vehicle chassis.
VK 5401 in February 2006 just before it departed for Rookhope and restoration. This plan fell through and the bus was returned to Beamish. It has suffered deterioration in storage and has been long overdue some TLC and an assessment for restoration and joining the working bus fleet at Beamish. At present research is being carried out to support this project and we can look forward to seeing this Weardale native visiting our reconstructed Spainsfield farm (also from Weardale) in the years to come…

Locomotive moves

Samson has moved from display on the standard gauge flat waggon to the engineering area in the tram depot for some winter work to be carried out. It will receive a new blower, new front bufferbeam and coupling, some attention to the paintwork and we also intend to fit a better coupling/buffing arrangement for the tender to loco connection, which is okay when pulling but less than ideal when propelling. I also plan to finish the lining on the front boiler band – only a few years late!

Crosville 716

A visit to Gardiners on Wednesday revealed progress on 716. The paintwork is continuing, whilst work to complete the internal panel details and fit the glazing is also underway. THe roof is now painted in the distinctive white and crimson, with the gutters in black.
Test fitting of the glazing… This includes droplight windows, which are a little bit of a compromise as to restore the originals, or replicate them, would be way beyond what the budget we have could afford, nor would it enable us to order spares readily. These units are bespoke to 716, and whilst the actual catch is a modern fitting, we feel it is a reasonable compromise (over not having opening windows at all). Rubber window seals will also be fitted to bed the glass to the body, as can be seen in the rear window to the right of this view.
The interior ceiling has been painted and new light fittings are being manufactured. These are glass bowls, retained by a newly spun bezel – we need to minimise projections within the saloon given it is fairly confined. LED lights will be fitted, the bulbs not being visible within the glazed fitting.
And finally… It almost feels like spring here at the moment (which must mean snow is just around the corner!) so I’ve had the Crewe Tractor out for a bit of fresh air (for it, as well as me!). It was nice to rattle down the Town Street and find the Model T Tourer was also out, with Matt enjoying a similar experience!

BINGE (Beamish Industrial Narrow Gauge Engineers)

The volunteers who form the narrow gauge restoration group continue to progress a number of the Ffestiniog Railway Granite waggons. These are now located in the engineering workshop and have had numerous repairs carried out to the structure of the body, and have now been inverted so that the centre spine and chassis elements of the frame can be repaired. A jig was manufactured at a previous working day to enable the manufacture/repair of new spines for these waggons (and others in the future) – the whole train being pulled through the centre spine to which the couplings are affixed.

Matt is seen warming studs so that they can be extracted by brute force. Numerous rivets have been changes and sections of corroded metal removed. Care is taken to retain as much original material as possible however – these are 1860s/70s waggons after all!
A coat of red oxide always makes things look better! By the end of the last working session, this was the state of play. Next time will see the new spine for the far waggon in this view manufactured, and new coupling brackets and spine repairs on the nearer example. Once the framework is complete the waggons will be turned over again for the floors to be fitted (steel sheet). The new doors, made using whatever can be reclaimed from the old, are also to manufacture. The waggons can then be placed upside down again to allow the already prepared axleboxes, wheelsets and brakegear to be fitted and painted.

More information on the granite waggons can be found here: https://www.festipedia.org.uk/wiki/Granite_waggons