T&I News 12 2020...

T&I News 12 2020…

The blog has been a little quiet lately, but this has been due to the extensive behind the scenes preparations ahead of the announcement (and following relaxation of government restrictions) that Beamish will be reopening on the 23rd July…

Here is the formal notification of this, as appearing on our website and social media:

We’re excited to announce that Beamish will be reopening its doors on 23rd July 2020! We’ve missed you all and can’t wait to welcome you back to the museum.

The safety of our visitors, staff and volunteers is our top priority as always and we’re working through the details of yesterday’s Government announcement, and will be sharing more information soon about visiting Beamish.

To keep everyone safe, we’re introducing health and hygiene measures across our 350-acre open air museum site. Entry will need to be by pre-booked timeslot for all visitors, including Friends of Beamish members and Unlimited Pass holders. In early July, we’ll be announcing more details of how to book tickets and information about pass and membership enquiries. We have a huge museum site so it will take a little while to work through and implement the Government COVID-19 updates announced yesterday, and we’ll be opening individual exhibits based on safety guidelines. We’ll keep you updated as we complete our preparations for reopening.

In the meantime, we just want to say a massive, heartfelt thank you to everyone for your support and understanding – it really means a lot to us, and we just can’t wait to see you again soon!

The museum will be posting more on social media shortly with regard to booking tickets and what will be open for visitors – so please don’t contact us via the blog for information as we want to have a unified and centrally posted message around reopening.

What I can say is that the reopening will be phased and it has to consider the operational and financial viability of reopening exhibits. At this stage we are not planning to operate any of the transport exhibits in the first phase of reopening, but this will remain under review and we have numerous practical measures that we can put in place to ensure that this area is COVID-19 Secure, when it becomes appropriate to do so.

We also have a fund raising appeal online now:


As might be imagined, the challenges are enormous for a museum that relies on the admission sales and secondary spend of its visitors for 95% of its annual income, and which has missed a large part of the 2020 season due being closed as a result of COVID-19. If you do feel able to support us, please do visit the museum’s website (link above) where donations can be made to the recovery fund.

We have been busy planning for reopening, in phases, almost since we closed in March. Whilst recovery plans, risk assessments and all manner of other documents were prepared, the weeds discovered that they could grow unchecked by weedkiller this year! This view shows the Colliery Railway, as the undergrowth starts tot take hold. This also illustrates one of the challenges to reopening everything straight away. It isn’t just about attaining the standards needed to be deemed COVID-19 Secure, but also the preparation needed before safe operations can resume. We also have competencies to refresh, rolling stock and infrastructure to examine and plans for revised operations for the foreseeable future to make. This will all take time…
Behind the Sinkers, the weeds have really got a hold of the trakbed in this area – warm weather followed by a lot of rain have been idea growing conditions for these unwanted plants!
A very small number of staff have returned to work, and as a result the motor vehicles are all being assessed for eventual use. The focus has been on providing a core of vehicles for use by maintenance staff and those working in the retail and cleaning areas. However, the buses have had an airing and three of them are seen here, engines idling, charging their batteries and moving one more step closer to a return to service.
Gateshead College has returned to site, using a section of railway track behind the Town area for students studying track maintenance. This brings some useful income to the museum as well as strengthening our excellent relationship with the college.
Signs of the times… Signage is appearing everywhere across the site (and the country!) with regard to restrictions in force and guidance on distancing etc. This is the workshop door to the bus depot… We are keen to try and minimise the risk of staff to staff transmission and so have zoned the museum site in order to reduce the potential for contact and also the challenge around test and trace, where one staff member receiving a positive test result could trigger a cascade of colleagues having to self-isolate. We now have a growing library of signage for use on the site, and the operational risk assessment and guidance notes alone runs to 25 pages! We are also inducting every single member of staff and volunteers as and when they are asked to return to work over coming months, including completion of an online element, in order to demonstrate compliance with the law around managing the risks and ensuring that we are COVID-19 Secure.
When we closed for lockdown we went through a period which, looking back, was probably almost shock at what was happening, a sort of phoney war. This only lasted a matter of weeks before the planning for the future began in earnest. In that time I anticipated there would be the opportunity to write some material for publication. I managed to start several items, including an update to the tramway book, before work overtook me and these items returned to the backburner. However, one was completed and has now been published – an update on our narrow gauge railway, appearing in the current issue of Narrow Gauge World. Dave Hewitt’s images greatly enhance the article, which is available from newsagents or online here: https://shop.exacteditions.com/narrow-gauge-world

Crosville 716 (Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle)

Work on the Leyland Cub has restarted, albeit at a somewhat slower pace – both in terms of the social distancing implemented at the contractor’s workplace and the need to pace the work schedule to align with our own available resources. Paintwork has progressed well lately, and a number of detail fittings have also been added as the bus takes shape. I’m not going to say when we hope to have it completed by – everything is rather up in the air for obvious reasons.

An overall impression of the bus, showing how near to completion it is… The wiring remains to be completed and lights installed (the one headlamp here was in temporary position). The coachpainting and signwriting is to be completed, and there are details to paint such as the steering link, some window frame components and the back doors. The LMS derived livery is now very clear to see and I am looking forward to seeing the bus in the sunshine in due course, when it should present a stunning sight for our visitors.
Internally, the seats have now all been fitted and electrical work more or less completed, including a sensor to detect the opening of the rear doors (which will illuminate a saloon light and one on the swith panel adjacent to the driver). Fortunately the seats are leathercloth, and are therefore easier to clean under the new COVID-19 Secure practices that we are adopting across the museum and which will be set to stay for some time to come.
Looking forwards, the wheelchair anchor tracking is in place, and secured to the chassis, whilst the driving area is also nearing completion.
The tip-up seats have been installed, these enabling additional seating to be used flexibly.
The damaged roof vent cover has been replicated, with a newly made fretwork centre copied from the broken original, and seated within the original bezel.
The wiring has progressed sufficiently to enable the lights to be tested – the lower profile covers (original fittings, though not from this bus) being seated within newly spun bezels. This improves the clearance for passengers moving around the saloon, in particular where the tip-up seats are now fitted.
The driver’s seat is now fitted and the dash panel installed. The window frames are to be completed and we are also sourcing suitable gauges. A curtain will be fitted behind the driver, to prevent reflection on the inside of the windscreen from the saloon lights at night and also, now, to add a COVID-19 Secure protection for the driver and passengers. I am not sure about the conductor – initially they may have to follow the bus in another vehicle, so as to enable the saloon to be occupied by one group/household.
The panel to the right of the driver will house the electrical switches, the battery being located below this. I am looking for a suitable bulb horn that will fit through the front bulkhead, per the originals fitted to these Brush-bodied Cubs.
A view into the saloon from the kerb/pavement. One addition has been the step light, which illuminates when the door is opened. This was felt to be a prudent addition, for operation at the museum, based on experience from our other vehicles.
Looking at the bus from the rear, the lift is to be installed next week and will then enable the rear panels to be completed and the paintwork finished.
The rear doors have two more coats of paint to apply plus the belt/garter used by Crosville on their vehicles at this time (while under London Midland & Scottish Railway ownership). We are adapting the wording however, to read ‘Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle’ as this is becoming our standard at the museum, and reflects national (and current) practice to assist people in identifying an adapted vehicle. The registration number is also to add.
The rather impressive stamp of operator/owner, plus this bus’ fleet number – 716. The bus will be varnished when all other paintwork and signwriting is complete.
One detail job that I am looking at is creating new artwork for the transfer that identified Brush as the body builder for the bus, and which was mounted on the panel above the windscreen. There are remnants of the original, as seen here, and also some other images available (see below) showing the complete crest. The background to ‘Brush’ was green, so this detail will make an attractive feature once this has been made.