Ten years ago - April 2010...

Ten years ago – April 2010…

Following on from the previous post, we now move on to April 2010, ten years ago and with preparations underway for the Power from the Past event, which was themed on ‘Corporations & Contractors’ and for which, looking back, I had rather ambitiously attempted to create a theme for which almost everything presented had to be borrowed (or repainted!).

An early tramway partnership that we established was with the Heaton Park Tramway near Manchester, when Oporto 196 visited them, being exchanged for their Leeds works tram No.6 – which was a perfect fit for the Corporations & Contractors event. Initially 6 was to stay with us for a season, but ended up staying for three years! Returning to Heaton Park in April 2013 as part of the moves for that year’s forty years of the Beamish tramway celebrations. Here 6 is being unloaded outside the tram depot following its wet journey over the Pennines.
Since returning to Heaton Park, the tram has been restored to its Hull guise, and looks stunning in its original livery. You can read more about its history on Heaton Park’s website:
In early April, the workshops were busy preparing for the forthcoming event as well as progressing a whole host of projects that we had underway. The Ford T van was given a new identity, wearing the signwriting of a Sunderland steam laundry. The wording was copied exactly from a photograph, but did attract comment about the road name, which had changed since the photograph had been taken in the pre-First World War period.
The interior of the Tarmac living van was being painted too, seen here as work neared completion. The van was required as an integral part of the event and the work on the van, which began as a simple tidy up, had developed into a comprehensive restoration.
I was a regular visitor to the Bowes Railway’s Springwell site during this period. Here is my hard-worked Landrover again, as I arrived to deliver rails for the new narrow gauge engine shed that was being constructed for us. This shed was exactly two Kerr Stuart Wren class locomotive lengths long, and was made such that the railway could be stored inside when the engines weren’t present! The move of these two sections of building, using Landrover and trailer, is one best left in the mists of time!
Testing and trialling of Coffee Pot No.1 continued, and the locomotive made an appearance at Easter that year. Here it is seen with fellow Head Wrightson, No.17 (ex Seaham Harbour), itself cosmetically restored for a number of events that had taken place previously. It remains a long-term aspiration to restore No.17 to steam, complete with the cab it was fitted with at Seaham and possibly in the ultramarine livery carried on some Londonderry Railway locomotives. An article on No.17 might be a good subject for a future blog post actually…
The learning team at Beamish had spent a considerable amount of time working on a project to look at steam threshing on farms in Northumberland (drive north on the A1 and spot how many farms still have the chimneys from this industrialised activity). As a result of working with a number of farmers and their communities, some items were donated to Beamish, including this very early boiler – of the ‘egg end’ type, sans egg ends! It is now displayed at Home Farm.
For the event we also had our first visiting tram from the National Tramway Museum at Crich. Cardiff 131 was requested, which had been recently restored and was designed to both water the track and grind it (to remove corrugations and irregularities). It has subsequently carried out this work ‘in anger’ when contracted for a period of operation in Blackpool.
It is seen here following arrival and with Sheffield 264 (then out of passenger use) preparing to act as depot shunter and bring 131 onto Beamish rails.
Once unloaded, 131 was placed onto the pit for inspection and commissioning, being seen here with Leeds 6.
Commissioning is undertaken to ensure that any visiting tramcar will perform safely and satisfactorily on the tramway at Beamish, even if they have been operating only days before on their own tramway. Here 131, with Andy Bailey from Crich driving and Les Brunton from Beamish observing, approaches Pockerely.
It is important to ensure that the visiting tram can pass over every piece of track, in both directions, and that it’s current collection equipment (the trolley pole) also performs satisfactorily. In this instance, 131’s pole didn’t quite reach the overhead line outside the bank, dewiring as a result. The cure is simply one of adjustment (to the springs which force the pole upwards onto the wire). Better find this out on test than in service!
Blackpool works tram 4 finally appeared (being 31 in its long-carried works tram guise), sen here on the pit for commissioning, again alongside Leeds 6. The green livery wasn’t a perfect recreation, but was as close as we could get without compromising the further repaint back into its 1920 livery, which was the main objective following its overhaul.
Leeds 6 was commissioned, tested and then placed into service – at this stage having no idea it would see three years use at Beamish!
I was keen to have some other forms of corporation maintenance equipment, so we were able to borrow this road sweeping machine from Bradford Industrial Museum, who at the time had an active heavy horse centre. Here the sweep is seen at the event press-preview.
Also at the preview was Rambler, recently reassembled following annual boiler inspection and making its debut in our ownership, complete with a water cart (borrowed from Michael Davison). We would later restore our own street sweep and a further water cart, to give us a horse-drawn set as well as a water cart for steam haulage (see previous post).
To accompany the living van, this Sentinel S6 steam lorry attended the event, arriving the day before and being unloaded in the Colliery, alongside the Tarmac living van (within which the paint was still drying!).
The debut of narrow gauge operation at Beamish… The idea was to lay a temporary contractor’s construction railway, using suitable locomotives and carrying out a process. This would be brick-crushing, the railway taking away the crushed brick for use elsewhere. We managed to operate a temporary railway for a few events before it became sensible to look at a permanent arrangement (as putting it away each time was becoming tedious!) – and look how that has grown!
Here Graham Morris arrives with his Wren Peter Pan, accompanied by Wren 3114 from the Vale of Rheidol Railway (and which was newly restored at the time).
The new engine shed had been assembled, and Peter Pan rests inside. The shed has subsequently been moved twice, proving to be an invaluable investment for our operations!
This view more or less shows the full extent of the narrow gauge line – with a running line plus siding into the shed. The stone crusher was located behind me in this view. We tipped the crushed brick at the far end of the line, which I then removed in the evening using the JCB! Also note the replica Rookhope snowplough to the left of Peter Pan – something we still haven’t yet managed to make run satisfactorily so should really come back to the RHEC for attention at some point…
One of my favorite narrow gauge scenes to this day, and one quite widely published now. Marshall traction engine Mary Margaret provides the power for the crusher (another of our ‘hasty’ restoration projects in pre-RHEC days), whilst Peter Pan waits with skip waggons for the arisings to be loaded.
The first appearance of Blackpool 4 in daylight – certainly different! Leeds 6 stands behind.
We used to run a photo charter at most events, helping to offset some of the costs. As the events became larger it became harder to fit charters in, as the reliance on goodwill and volunteering by staff was harder, as they were needed for the busier operations within the day and I couldn’t pay them as the charter would become uneconomic. However, I hope that we will return to these in the future as they have created a superb portfolio of images over the years.
The appeal of the nocturnal charter was always very high – though additional lighting using a variety of extension leads and generators would cause some consternation now! I recall, really, how much effort went in to establishing the events, even within a well established museum (that up to this point had become quite nervous about doing anything out of the ordinary) – so scenes like this (and the resulting income) were very important in helping build the event and reputation that we have today.
Home Farm was used as a base for some agricultural contracting scenes, using Dave Antell’s Robey portable and sawbench.
Dave Antell was a regular fixture at Beamish events, as he was one of the main haulage contractors we used, and he enabled us to move engines between us, Tanfield and the NRM at Shildon in order to minimise haulage costs – Dave often staying in the area for up to a month at a time. In 2010 we didn’t have a locomotive to move, so Dave came with his own, and very fine, portable. It was to attend a number of events at Beamish, similarly both of his brothers engines in more recent years. Based in Dorset, this was a lengthy run for his B-reg ERF lorry and trailer, and it enabled us to showcase some engines not seen in the north east previously.
As well as the new attractions, some local engine owners attended to retain the continuity with the old ‘Steam Glorious Steam’ event that used to run each May.
It was also the start of inviting a wide variety of pre-1920 motor vehicles to the events, and allowing them to drive around the museum site – something that went down well with owners and visitors alike. We have, in recent years, seen over 100 vehicles of this vintage at work around the museum site, making it probably the best location anywhere in the World to see veteran vehicles, commercial and domestic, in operation and creating very authentic traffic jams within the Edwardian Town!
Mary Margaret (then resident on site) is seen with Michael’s threshing drum. The set grew to include a baler, water cart and living van and would literally stop traffic when on the move – the idea again being to recreate an agricultural contractor travelling between sites. In the years that Michael kept Mary Margaret at Beamish we did all sorts of work with it, and it was a tremendous learning curve for me, and in turn the means of building operational familiarity for the museum. Therefore, whilst privately owned, this engine has been an important one in the museum’s own story.
Blackpool 4 carrying the crowds – something that it didn’t do in service in Blackpool! It was retained as a works tram, painted all-over green and fitted with vestibules (windscreens) and an inspection tower on the top deck. This is how it came to survive, and ultimately be preserved at Beamish, restored to its 1920 condition (when rebuilt from a four-wheel tram to create a prototype for the rugged Blackpoool ‘Standard’ tramcar class).
Cardiff 131 seen in the Town, fitting in with the tramway operation. Also seen here is the 1949 Bristol single decker bus owned and operated by the Aycliffe & District Bus Preservation Society, a vehicle that has been a regular feature of Beamish life, the society regularly helping out at events with a number of their buses hired in to bolster the Beamish fleet and paving the way for out 1950s bus route and operation.
As the event closed, it rained! Here 3114 and Peter Pan load themselves onto Graham’s superb trailer (hauled by his Atkinson tractor unit) – quite an unusual scene even when we have become quite accustomed to loading trailers!
The final process was to dismantle the narrow gauge track the same evening, stacking the rails onto two flat waggons and then shunting these into the shed, locking up and leaving it all ready for next time…
On the blog I reported that the event had attracted nearly 10,000 visitors – these sorts of numbers were unheard of at the time and we could only have dreamed of the (albeit exceptional) 23,000 number of visitors attending in 2019!
So, that was the event completed and April returned to ‘normal’ – with work progressing to surface the perimeter road between Foulbridge and the Town. This was no more than a rolled dirt road, and had caused untold damage to the two replica buses plying their trade around the site. The road from Pockerely to the Town also needed a top dressing, having a terrible corrugation in the sub-base. The museum, as it found its way again at this time, began to invest in infrastructure work and we were able to carry out or complete a great deal to improve the site and its condition – work that will always be ongoing of course!
In the Colliery, work was underway to restore the exchange sidings to operation. The southern siding was completely relaid, having been lifted to provide access for other work in the area. It is probably the best piece of track in the Colliery to this day, now also providing a route for our 15″ gauge track.
Spot re-sleepering was the order of the day, with old sleepers dug out and replaced with second-hand hardwood examples. The track towards Pockerley had long-since been lifted and the cutting filled with spoil. This was cleared, and the cutting ballasted, as part of the work to make the Colliery area as a whole more accessible when the Lamp Cabin was constructed, as recalled here:
Following the event, Coffee Pot No.1 required some work to repair a damaged piston. At the same time, steam chest drain valves were fitted (using ports that would appear to suggest these had been needed in the past, though not retained during its 1980s restoration). Vince and Frankie Allen carry out the work in late April 2010.
The engine works was also cleared to allow an exciting new project to commence (one which was to stretch for a number of years) – the restoration and conservation of a number of chaldron waggons. The work was funded from various sources including PRISM, the Ken Hoole Trust, the MLA’s Hub fund and some collections funding. It enabled a survey of the waggons to be undertaken to produce an archaeologically detailed drawing record, the restoration of at least two waggons plus the overhaul of several more. Alan Milburn, the Bowes Railway waggonwright, moved in to carry out the work (and also carried out a whole host of other jobs in the Colliery during his tenure).
Alan made a start on the worst waggons, seen here being dismantled at the start of the process. We eventually managed to produce a reasonable rake of waggons, which only recently have we managed to provide some undercover accommodation for! Tony Vollans picked up the chaldron mantle when he started at Beamish, and enabled further examples to be restored, including creation of a box-chaldron. A story for another time. Or read some of the story of it here: http://beamishtransportonline.co.uk/2013/11/rhec-project-news-update-6th-november-2013/
Various items being refurbished for use on the chaldron’s chassis.
It is hard to forget that the steam gallopers were then part of our World by this time (ten years ago! Really?!). The decks were rebuilt (not for the last time) and repainted in readiness for fitting to the ride.
Meanwhile, the B-Type bus, which we had purchased by this time, was receiving a new lower-saloon roof following water ingress and damage. It is easy to forget how hard these vehicles work!
Another project that I was working on was the restoration of a former Coop breadvan. This was being undertaken at Stanegate Restorations & Replicas in Haltwhistle, alongside work to restore the Spennymoor chip van. Both are seen here in January 2010, before work started. The chip van was to be part of our chip shop development, whilst the bread van was to be used to enable pop-up catering on site.
By April the breadvan was complete and ready to move to Beamish. It was (in 2013) signwritten as a Heron’s Bakery van, to reflect the opening of the bakery in the Town. It never found its niche in pop up catering (non of the period carts/vans have done really), and was sadly later virtually destroyed in a storm, the remains being placed into storage.
Meanwhile, over in Blackpool, 703’s transformation into Sunderland 101 continued…

Whilst searching back through the blog, and some other image files, I came across those that I took of the Colliery Railway before it was redeveloped, and thought that I would include them here for interest…

Taken in 2005, this was the scene that greeted visitors – No.18 and No.1 both dismantled, whilst visiting Black Hawthorn ‘Wellington’ (far right) had also been dismantled after steaming only a very few times in the Colliery.
This is August 2004, and was actually the day of my interview at Beamish. Malleable had been placed on display and did not move for a number of years. No.18’s partially rebuilt boiler is seen in the background. 18 had received a certain degree of attention, with work being carried out whenever the opportunity arose. This included the rebuilding of the boiler (later to receive further attention) and a replacement rear axle. Both proved to be vital steps in getting the restoration underway later. Malleable, sadly, still awaits its day in the spotlight.
This was the backroad into the Colliery, now the location of the long S curve on the narrow gauge railway. Taken in 2005.
The standard gauge stopblock, looking into the cutting and debris field! This is the location of the stone crusher siding and also the unloading pad for standard gauge stock now. The narrow gauge runs to the right hand side of this cutting. The route was almost impassable even on foot, due to rubble and refuse being tipped along its length.
The other end of the cutting, the location of the narrow gauge divergence to the top yard (left) and Sinkers and stone crusher (straight ahead). The area was cleared as part of the Lamp Cabin project, with a ballast bed laid to assist future development work – which has included a short extension of the standard gauge as well as creation of the narrow gauge. It is also the route to enable contractors emptying the sewage plant installed in the fields to the right of this image. This is 2005.
Finally – we may return to a wilderness like this later in the year! Chaldrons sit unused and the track is largely obscured by weeds. Taken in 2005 as part of a set of images used to illustrate a proposal for rejuvenating the Colliery Railway and restoring No.1 and No.18 plus the waggons. It seemed quite a far fetched idea back then…!!!