Beamish Transport Objects in Focus... Number 1

Beamish Transport Objects in Focus… Number 1

  1. Hodbarrow Side Tipping Waggon

With the aim of finding some things to talk about during what is likely to be a slow spring for us all, I thought I’d start an intermittent series looking back at some of the projects we’ve carried out that perhaps don’t always get the spotlight shone upon them, or which are deeply rooted as ‘favourite’ projects carried out. So we start here with a waggon that was restored as part of a mixed strategy to see it return to use – recreating a working object that is absolutely ‘typical’ but which will never grab the cover story or headlines anywhere (other than on this blog!).

The Hodbarrow side tipper was one of a pair of waggons (the other being a wooden MSC type tipper) and a waggon turntable that were purchased from West Coast Trains at Carnforth in May 2008.

I have a weakness for contractors waggons and have been accumulating components from a variety of sources over the last 15 years or so. Hopefully one day we can restore a pair of the side tipping wooden MSC waggons, and maybe replicate an end tipper as well – an essential part of railway history, not currently represented anywhere. These were the wheelbarrows or dump trucks of their age and their cheap construction, despite great numbers, meant that little survived outside a few industrial applications – as in the case of Hodbarrow.

I was therefore keen to represent the side tipping waggons in the working collection at Beamish, and the iron bodied waggon seemed to offer the best chance of achieving this in a reasonable amount of time and for a reasonable cost, financially.

You can read more about the mining operation in Cumbria here:

The two ex Hodbarrow waggons following delivery to Beamish. On the left is the iron bodied example, on the right is the MSC style wooden tipper. Wooden tippers were made in large numbers by the Ashbury Railway Carriage and Iron Company Ltd in Manchester, amongst others. Vast numbers were supplied to the Manchester Ship Canal construction contractor T. A. Walker, as well as becoming ubiquitous in railway and civil engineering construction throughout the later Victorian period. They were also notable in their use on the construction of the Great Central Railway’s main line from London to Sheffield and Manchester. I was not able to establish a manufacturer of the iron bodied tipper, though it is ‘typical’ of the types made for stock by several waggon manufacturers, such as Joseph Cook, Sons & Company Ltd – see advert below:
Read more about Joseph Cook here:
A closer view of the MSC type tipper – very much a long-term project!
A short film made in the late 1960s by Jon Marsh showing operations at Hodbarrow and features an iron side tipper in the train as well as one stored alongside the line. The grab wagon also appears to be based on the same underframe. Jon made extensive films of industrial railways through the 1960s and has made his film available through the B&R range as well as his own Industrial Railway DVDs – a Google search will soon bring you to the material and it forms a wide ranging and important archive. Our thanks to Jon for allowing us to use the film online (previously included on Beamish Transport Online)
This, and the following two photogpraphs, show the waggon as received at Beamish. Initially it looked to be quite sound, but further examination revealed challenges ahead – it would require a new bod and chassis to run again, and the wheelsets were in derelict condition and would require some extensive restoration to enable them to run again.
It is nice to be able to consider projects like this for restoration and conservation – such a waggon will never justify its role in the operating fleet from a commercial point of view, but it is nevertheless very important within the collection. For an open air museum, it is all the more important to explore the option to use such an artefact, as so much is gained by the visitor in seeing it working. With a mixed approach of using staff, volunteer and contract labour, a very satisfactory result can be achieved – as proved to be the case with this waggon, as we shall see below…
A close up view showing the cast iron pedestals and the poor state of the timber frame. The wheels on this side are the ones in good condition!
The Friends of Beamish workshop volunteers undertook the dismantling of the tipper, and undertook the construction of a replacement timber frame and the overhaul of the various fittings that attached to it. The new frame is seen here, with tie-bars being fitted and the axle pedestals being offered up in readiness for the frame to be drilled.
Due to the way in which the waggon had been stored over the years, one side must have been very wet, resulting in the flanges on each wheelset, on one side only, becoming very wasted and beyond use. This was a potential stumbling block for the project. Discussion with Vince Allen at Allen Engineering in Hetton-le-Hole suggested that there might be a way to sleeve or rebuild the profile of the wheels, certainly to a standard we could operate them at Beamish on the non-passenger carrying colliery railway line.
With the wheels in his workshop, Vince set each wheelset up in his lathe and turned a ring to fit each. He then removed the remains of the flange (seen here to the right of the new ring) before welding the rings in place.
With the rings welded in situ, in the lathe, the profile could then be machined into them to restore the original wheel profile from wheel front to flange back.
Two completed wheelsets back at Beamish and ready for painting. The journals were in good condition and were cleaned and greased for further use.
The wrought iron fittings were deemed to be reusable, whilst the main body was not. With some funding available, the reconstruction of the body was put out for contract, as we (then) did not have the facilities and skills in-house to carry out this work at Beamish.
Architectural blacksmith Andy Basnett took the contract to rebuild the body, replacing the sheet sides and base and salvaging all of the beading, catches and brackets for reuse.
An overview of the new body, with the rusty elements being those recovered from the original. Note the riveted construction of the body.
The completed body following painting and delivery to the museum. It was later painted and then fitted to the chassis, which had been completed and assembled with the wheels Vince restored, by the Friends of Beamish workshop volunteers.
Three views of assembly being completed and painting underway
The completed waggon, showing the body tipped and retaining straps handing free – ideally these would be a few inches longer so that they didn’t need pulling clear when the body is levelled and the retaining pins refitted. Everyday is a school day!
The side tipper, in operation and being used for removing ash waste from behind the Francis Street cottages (the staff there opting to tip the ash over the fence onto the railway line for us to shovel and remove!). Here is the waggon, with No.18, moving into place in readiness for tipping. Ash doesn’t flow, so a degree of shovelling is also required to empty the waggon, but this does at least enable some control to be exercised as to where it all goes! Note the visiting narrow gauge Kerr Stuart Wren ‘Jennie’ in the background, along with Quarry Hunslet ‘Edward Sholto’. These are the sort of scenes one has in mind when embarking on projects like this, so it is pleasing to see cared for but clearly used stock from the 1870s still in operation like this.