Beamish Transport Objects in Focus... Number 2

Beamish Transport Objects in Focus… Number 2

Street maintenance implements

*Updated 29th April 2020*

In this post I’m taking a look at a theme that began to develop ten or so years ago, as the idea of building a council/maintenance depot took hold. We later built the depot (home to the steam roller and a recreated workshop), and some of the implements described here are now resident in that area. There are also one or two still to restore. The idea was to build a collection of items, which otherwise had little context in the museum, and place them together with a theme or sense of purpose. To this end the idea of Beamish Rural District Council was generated – we don’t usually put ‘Beamish’ onto the artefacts, but where their provenance is unknown or obscure, it enabled them to be brought into the museum story and find a ‘home’ within it.

The work began with a project to restore a farm water cart, whose tank appeared to be of First World War origin and which had been adapted from horse to tractor haulage. This work was carried out in the small workshop area within the Regional Museum Store, and was funded by the Renaissance in the Regions scheme (which employed one member of staff). This was the precursor to us establishing the Regional Heritage Engineering Centre later on, and gave the museum some valuable experience in this type of work (albeit with different staff, myself apart).

The Friends of Beamish, of course, had been carrying out restoration work for decades (five of them now!) in their own workshop. There was some crossover between their work and the museum’s, though this was not really developed until the RHEC opened and we were able to appoint a member of staff to run it. Now the museum and the FoB work hand in hand on projects, developing the work we see here and also the Hodbarrow side tipper in the previous post.

Apologises for some of the image quality here – I am limited in what I can access at present and some images have the old watermark that was insisted upon in the past – initially I couldn’t access the blog, having to submit my notes for adding by another team. Moving to the WordPress format and being able to access the site directly unlocked the blog’s potential and sparked the regular posting (rather than once a month or so) that I hope readers enjoy today!

This was the first water cart that we tackled, stored on top of containers and with the only provenance being that it had come from a farm. The remains of a red and blue colour scheme were to set the standard for the Rural District Council ‘collection’ at Beamish.
Some of the fittings from the water tank, following refurbishment. The blanking plugs for two holes for which there were no taps can also be seen. The array of tap holes suggested this was for delivering a water supply to multiple users at once, and further research revealed that the tank and wheels had probably been a First World War water supply cart for supplying men and horses. It had been adapted for tractor rather than horse haulage, and we retained this adaptation for use at Beamish with the steam rollers.
In the old RMS workshop, Davy Sheen is seen assembling the new wooden tank support cradle onto the wheels, axle and drawbar. We selected Pillar Box red and Oxford Blue as the closest matches to what we found on the cart.
The completed water cart, with appropriate lettering. The filler lid never quite fitted and has blown off on numerous occasions! The tank itself is galvanised and well constructed. Notice how the new timberwork has already turned grey and faded in this photo, several years after the restoration was completed.
With the first tank complete, we then started a second. Seen here on its way for shotblasting. Still in its horse-drawn form, complete with steel shafts, it had numerous parts missing plus several holes in the tank.
From photogpraphs and old trade catalogues, we saw that a wooden water distribution box was used, and this tied in with the brackets fitted to the cart itself. Dave Young produced a replica of the box, complete with copper spouts. The cart, seen in red primer now, was not fully dismantled at this stage.
The filler for the tank, which included a control handle for a simple plug (to open or close the water supply to the wooden box) was damaged, being repaired by Dave Young and Davy Sheen. The repaired frame is seen here, complete with new tie rods.
All that remained of the lid was the section on the left. Dave Young made a pattern for a new lid, and we had this cast for fitting to the cart. At this stage we ran out of time for this particular project, as other priorities came the workshop’s way.
Following a period of storage, the Friends of Beamish workshop volunteers agreed to complete the restoration – the cart being seen here upon delivery to their workshop.
Once inside the workshop, assessment began and further dismantling was undertaken. The tank was badly perforated in places and the original idea had been to line it with fibreglass to make it watertight. However, with the team’s experience and contacts, a far better solution was found…
This view inside the tank shows the superb patch repairs that were undertaken on the tank by a contractor, ensuring it was both watertight and durable plus had historical integrity.
The now familiar livery appearing on the nearly-completed water cart within the old Friends workshop, pre-RHEC days (and in the space that is now the machine shop).
The ‘compound’ or ‘rural store’ was several acres of wonder for many curators, being the outdoor storage area for the museum for many years. It has since been cleared to create space for the 1950s area, with items re-stored or dispose of accordingly. One of the bays contained numerous horse-drawn implements, including three street sweepers (or rotary brooms). Two were built by William Smith of Barnard Castle, whilst one was built by T Baker in Compton, Berkshire – their Albion model.
The latter was selected for restoration, as there was a Smiths one elsewhere that had been restored which I hoped might come to Beamish one day!

There is a trade catalogue for Ames-Crosta on the blog, which usefully explains the use of rotary brooms for sweeping streets:

The cover of a catalogue for T. Baker & Sons, Compton, Berkshire.
The Friends soon stripped the broom for rebuilding. There were a number of repairs to make and not a little work and effort in refurbishing the brush axle (seen here) and the corresponding mechanism by which it is raised and lowered.
New wooden shafts were made and fitted. The drive chain, a form of roller chain, connecting the wheels to the to the brush via the bevelled gears (seen on the axle) can also be clearly seen in this view. Bakers were agricultural engineers and whilst I have a copy of their catalogue on my desk, I cannot access it from home!
With blue and red applied, the wheels in place and the brush guard fitted, the broom awaits the return of the brush – two wooden rollers with the bristles applied into sockets around the circumference. This proved to be one of the harder elements to procure and again it was contacts of the workshop volunteers who enabled this element of the restoration to be accurately completed.
The restoration team pose with the completed broom – note the lettering on the brush guard and also the brush, just visible behind. In use the brush throws up a lot of dust (the road would be watered first) whence the need for the guard. There is a certain reluctance to wear the brush out, given how long it took to create!
The completed implement in action…
In 2010 we borrowed this rotary broom from Bradford Industrial Museum, seen here in the Town Street at Beamish during the Corporations & Contractors event.
Yet to be restored but on the ‘one day’ list, is this road grader. It has been used around the museum for sweeping snow off the road, hauled by horses, but was a built for mechanical haulage. It has a broken frame so cannot carry out energetic work at present, but will be a very nice addition to the RDC collection once it is restored.
This stone cart is at Beamish now and awaits a small amount of restoration work before repainting into the blue and red colours of the RDC. Note the heavy duty wheels for the work it would carry out – in our case it would be road patching. Similar carts were used to deliver stone to Rowley Station, so its presence at the recreated Rowley will be entirely appropriate – an early candidate for attention once we reopen…
I end this post with one of my favourite objects at the museum, this refuse hand cart. I think the practicality of it is wonderful, with brackets for shovels and brooms, the ease with which it can be manoeuvred and pushed, the fact that it sits level and is free standing and also the elaborate lettering for what is clearly one of a fleet of highway and sewer implements.
I was told the TBC stood for Thirsk Borough Council – but I don’t know that Thirsk was a borough? The records are vague but it is worthy of further research and in time, cleaning and conservation. I did have plans to construct a replica of this cart for use on site, but the cost is disproportionate to the benefit, given the need to manufacture three new wheels as as starting point, plus the ironwork needed to make an accurate replica. Who knows, we might get around to it one day though! For now it is in store, an important and probably underappreciated survivor.