It has been some time since I compiled a general news roundup, so here is something to redress that. In terms of transport operation in 2021, I have referenced some thoughts of this in the captions below, whilst each area has a plan (though not carved in stone!) with a critical path towards reopening. Some parts of this plan will reach fruition sooner than other parts, and I hope to discuss the overall programme in detail in a future post, as I am sure readers will be interested to see what our thoughts are as they ferment into an operating plan for the season(s) ahead.
Below: A recent arrival at Beamish is this Aveling & Porter R6 steam roller, No.5499 of 1904. It is privately owned by David Bickerdike who is completing its restoration and will, hopefully, write something of its story for this site in due course. The intention is to add to our road activity around the museum over the next year or two, in particular when social distancing measures may endure for some time to come and we can therefore readily display working exhibits, suitably distanced, on the museum’s extensive road network. It will join our own Fowler steam roller, Rambler, on display in the roadmender’s depot when not in use. I have some thoughts on better displaying exhibits within this building, but these must wait their turn in a long ‘to do’ list for now!
Below: Readers may be interested to see progress on Remaking Beamish – this view being of particular interest in that it will form part of the future 1950s bus route (motor and trolleybuses). Internal fit out continues, which is a lengthy and time-consuming process. Left to right we have the chip shop, Italian cafe, artist’s house and hairdressers. To the extreme left the Police houses are progressing towards eaves height whilst out of sight, the semi-detached houses have their roof trusses in situ. The work on Spainsfield Farm currently includes development of the drainage and landscape as well as internal works. Opposite the terrace we are starting to develop our designs for the cinema and two shops, as well as the street furniture and general layout of this area of the site.
Steam & Engineering
Below: Every 14 months we are required to submit our steam boilers for examination – an internal ‘cold’ exam, followed by examination in steam. For convenience, we usually carry these out each winter, following more of a 12 month cycle, and this year we have kept to this pattern. Whilst the 2021 season is still somewhat uncertain, it was important to retain continuity of inspection and use, and so, with staff working on a flexible-furlough basis, work has progressed in recent weeks.
Here we see the two Pecketts at Rowley Station, No.1370 and 2000. The latter is likely to leave us in coming months, whilst we plan to relocate 1370 to the Colliery. With hire fees being something we’ve had to review due to the pandemic and prolonged closure, as well as some potentially expensive infrastructure and track work deferred in this location, we will not operate trains at Rowley in 2021, so it makes sense to bring 1370 into the heart of an operation that we do hope to re-start (possibly in the late spring) at the Colliery. This has the advantage of being socially distanced from visitors but which offers a great deal of activity and ‘performance’ to bring that part of the site to life, particularly when the buildings must remain closed during our initial opening period.
Below: Glyder was shunted onto the inspection pit by the Simplex to enable it to be prepared for its cold examination and then reassembled ahead of its steam test. These views show a different angle to that we usually see in this area – and I liked them so much I’ve tweaked a few to create a scene from half a century ago…
Below: Coffee Pot No.1, The Steam Mule and No.18 have all been examined and steamed in the Colliery (with Puffing Billy also being steam tested at the same time for the Waggonway – whose operation should re-commence in the early summer all being well and subject to both Step 3 lockdown easement and suitable resource availability to prepare the railway, rolling stock and staff for reopening. I will, of course, chart this process on this site, and I am sure readers will understand why dates and timescales are still somewhat nebulous at the moment. Coffee Pot’s steam test was successful and a programme of events, films and steamings is being developed in order that it can be enjoyed by as many people as possible in its 150th year…
Below: No.18 being steamed hard as part of an accumulation test – a roaring fire, blower on hard and producing steam at its maximum rate. This test is required to ensure the safety valves are set, functioning correctly and are able to discharge the steam at a rate that prevents the boiler being over-pressurised. As can be seen, it produces much more steam than is usually seen when the locomotive is in operation under less demanding conditions, with the rare sight of both safety valves venting hard.
Below: The pressure gauge during the test. The safety valve settings can be tuned during this process.
Below: This is why steam tests are carried out! Following the cold examination, the steam test with the insurance company surveyor was booked, for which our own test was carried out ahead of this (including the accumulation test shown above) to make sure we are presenting something that he is likely to pass! In this instance, a leaking tube was discovered during this test, as clearly demonstrated here. This was caused by a hole in a single tube (though it is not unreasonable to anticipate others may follow – we are allowed up to 10% of them to be plugged, a short-term fix). In this instance the boiler was filled to the brim with water and the locomotive allowed to cool down before further investigation.
Below: This view shows the culprit, note the small flow of water from the tube to the right of the blastpipe as we look at it here. This will be plugged, by agreement of the insurance company surveyor, and we hope to nurse the locomotive through the final year of its boiler certificate. I am hoping that we can budget for a quick turnaround when we come to overhauling No.18, work which will include retubing (and any other boiler work needed), re-arranging the steam and exhaust pipework in the smokebox, re-fitting the original regulator valve and overhauling the axleboxes. The programme of ongoing maintenance has covered many of the other repairs and work needed over the last ten years or so, work that included, for example, new brasses being fitted.
Below: Part of the examinations (which are all grouped together as ‘boiler testing’ when we discuss them) includes a review of the fittings, and their condition. Here is a fusible plug, a lead-cored bronze fitting that is screwed into the crownsheet of the inner firebox. The idea is that if the water level falls below the safe parameters of operation, the lead core will melt and alert the crew to a problem and cool/quench the fire. The second view shows a cross-section of one of these fittings, used for training purposes.
Below: A reminder of sunnier times! Colin Slater captured this unusual view of No.18 at work in the Colliery. Note the early progress on the reconstruction of Spainsfield Farm in the middle distance. I look forward to us being able to start recreating these scenes later in the spring…
Below: This morning it was Samson’s turn to be steam tested – seen here outside the vehicle workshop, complete with an air line to act as a blower. This is the first venture into daylight with the new front bufferbeam fitted and lining finally finished!
Below: One of the mud hole doors from Peckett 1370 was found to need building up following the surveyor’s visit. These doors require an ample and defined seat upon which the joint can be fitted, before being secured into the boiler. They are passed in through the mud door aperture, then pulled forwards, the bridge piece and nut securing them into place with a gasket sat on the seat (the shiny bit here). The boiler pressure serves to further secure them into place. With more of the team working part-time, this work was completed and test fitted this morning.
Below: Recent weeks have seen steady progress on the overhaul of the top end of Darlington 4’s five -cylinder Gardiner diesel engine. The initial fault was pressurisation of the oil sump, and this led to removal of the head as a failed gasket was suspected. On these engines, the cylinders are arranged in banks of three and two. The first bank was dismantled, revealing no problem there, so the second followed, where the failed gasket was found. A number of other jobs were completed at this time, including straightening a number of the push rods.
Below: A close-up view of the engine block, sans head. Access is somewhat restricted and the part-time working meant that the job has taken longer than would normally be the case. That said, there is no immediate pressure to have the bus in service! A new injector was also found to be needed, and one was ordered ahead of everything being put back together. Darlington 4 has also been treated to its own set of batteries and is now back in the depot following successful reassembly and testing.
Cockerton Green Bus Shelter
Below: As part of the Remaking Beamish project, we are exploring the potential restoration of a former Darlington bus shelter that is held in the collection here. The shelter’s manufacturer is unknown, but it was erected in 1927 and stood at the Cockerton Green ‘Travellers Rest’ trolleybus and bus stop on Darlington Corporation Transport’s western route towards Faverdale. A similar shelter existed elsewhere on the system and was in situ until the early 1980s. This shelter was collected by Beamish Museum and has remained in store since the 1970s. This drawing was prepared as part of the Remaking Beamish scheme, and will form the basis (along with the remaining components) of this survey. I would be very interested to hear of anyone who may have photographs of the shelter in situ in Cockerton. I am aware of the image in Stephen Lockwood’s book ‘Darlington Trolleybuses’ which shows part of the shelter in Photograph 53.
Below: Readers may be aware of the announcement that we are placing our replica of Locomotion No.1 on loan to the Head of Steam Museum in Darlington, and exploring ideas for a return to steam in time for the 2025 bi-centenary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway. The replica has been on display at the National Railway Museum’s Locomotion site in Shildon for a number of years, since being withdrawn from operation at Beamish (in need of boiler repairs). It will shortly move to Head of Steam for display, whilst we continue to discuss the options available that could enable it to return to steam.
At this stage I am unable to comment further, other than to say that we are pleased to have been invited to participate in the bi-centenary and look forward to being involved in a range of activities that will celebrate the anniversary.