Beamish Transport Blog February 2009

Beamish Transport Blog February 2009

19th February 2009

The Scheme returned today to assist in relocating some items from the Robert Stephenson Trusts vacating premises on South Street, Newcastle.

Whilst they regroup and plan their relocation, we will be hosting a number of items. Some are short term (two years) whilst others are likely to be for a much longer term, each being a loan from another organisation.

Today we have moved two lathes and a model. I am delighted that the School of Mechanical Systems Engineering (part of the University of Newcastle) has allowed us to reunite George Stephenson’s Killingworth lathe with the drive wheel, the latter being a long established loan to Beamish from the National Railway Museum. It is very satisfying to see these in the correct context and they are now both displayed in the waggonway ‘Great Shed’.

I am also grateful to Birmingham City Council’s Museums and Art Gallery for agreeing that their loan of Stephenson’s 1823 built works engine, previously with the Robert Stephenson Trust, could commence a 5 year term with Beamish, so ensuring that this important and fascinating engine remains on public display in the North East. It will be located in the Great Shed display area, where, interestingly, the columns supporting the ceiling are also ex Stephenson’s works.

20th February 2009

Seb and I have been busy painting the water tank – I think the photo says it all! Captions invited for what Seb might be saying.

Das boot…

Today also saw an unmarked but significant event in railway history when we trialled our replica wooden waggonway, using a replica chaldron waggon and Bonnie, working with the museum’s resident farmer Peter Brassett. You can see much more of the latter combo on Seb’s rural life blog, but the following views show the test runs carried out today, an exciting moment as having built the route two years ago, we were never subsequently able to find time to use it once the earth and grass had consolidated into a suitable formation for the horse to walk upon.

Technically, the track is based on the excavations in 1995 at Lambton D Pit in County Durham, where a substantial amount of wooden railway tracks were uncovered and recorded. Our own example is 4 inch square American white oak, oak dowelled onto a jarrah sleeper base. This stands upon a ballast foundation, which in turn is supported by a hard core base. This ensures excellent drainage – important for buried track made of wood! A meadow mix seed was used to grass the area and you will note the riven oak fencing each side of the route.

I am not sure when a horse worked waggonway was last operated in the North East of England, but this is early railway technology so it will probably be over 150 years ago – I will research this further when I have a moment.Below are a selection of images of Peter, Bonnie (and Seb) at work:

These views show the route and formation under construction, from the laying of ballast, placing of sleepers and construction of track, followed by burial in earth and completion to static condition to allow the grass to take hold, enabling later (today) operation. Anthony Eveleigh was the waggonway wright on this job, having previously worked on Puffing Billy, and these views were taken in the spring of 2006. In due course a short film on Anthony’s work will appear on the website.

Today’s tests show that the wood appears to take the flanged wheels very well, except in one place, possibly where the track is wide to gauge and allows the flange to dig into the rail sideways. The formation is well bedded in and looks like a permanent feature in the landscape. I hope it will become another usable working aspect of the Beamish site, with demonstrations being given throughout the year.

24th February 2009

This week promises to be the most hectic so far this year! Monday saw Duncan Milner deliver and unload the Barclay 0-4-0ST No.22 from the Bowes Railway:

Today (Tuesday) was greeted by an early morning arrival of Coffee Pot (No.17 – back from its winter stay at the Bowes Railway), the delivery of the level crossing gates and the arrival of the first of three Bowes hopper wagons, coming on loan for the colliery operation. Tomorrow we will steam 22 and also move two more hoppers from Bowes, move the five chaldrons at the station to the colliery, move the two RNAD vans from the colliery to the station and locate the water tank onto its pillars. We’ll see how much we can do! The colliery winding engine is having a new boiler installed, and the fitters installing this have been of valuable assistance with preparation of the water tank (itself a very early boiler) – many thanks to them.

Below: a couple of shots of Coffee Pot at Bowes, plus one from 22’s saddle tank earlier today – apologies for the reduced quality but these were taken on my phone!

25th February 2009

Day three in this busy week saw the water tank placed in situ on the brick mounts,

The day also saw the return of steam to the colliery. The last locomotive was Wellington, probably back in 2003 ish, but this was for a limited number of steamings. Prior to that it was Locomotion No.1, which took itself of to work on the waggonway. All in all a turning point as it marks new beginnings, not the end. Below is a selection of photographs of No.22 at large in the colliery.

My thanks to John Young and Philip Dawe of the Bowes Railway for making this possible. In return we will be taking Fiddler, Coffee Pot and Locomotion to Bowes events over the next 12 months and our education department is working in conjunction with Springwell School and the railway to bring local children into Beamish as part of this specific project.

We also moved the RNAD vans from the colliery to the NER railway. The photo below shows our now standard method of moving wagons around the site:

26th February 2009

Finally we make it to day four, the last day for movements onto and around site and my last day before a weeks holiday. Phew!

This morning I collected half a dozen plywood sheets to line the waggonway shed floor with. This was to enable easier passage of the Stephenson engine when being placed into the Great Shed. Bob Fielding, with Darren and Mark, moved all of the rolling stock out of the building (and also removed a surplus buffer stop) which looked rather well parked outside – a sort of early railway gala!

I also moved a horse drawn water cart for cleaning and we welcomed Sunniside History Group in to film the wooden waggonway in action – costume donned and more embarrassing photographs taken! I then dashed back to supervise the placement of the Stephenson Engine at the waggonway.

The Dowse (Reeds) crane arrived at 10:30 and the engine and crew shortly after. The crane was set up and the 1823 engine carefully swung into position for skating through the building. The photos below show it being pushed into the rear of the Great shed and turned into position. Dowse and Reeds (with skilled assistance from Darren in our JCB) very swiftly carried out the job with the utmost care, something very pleasing to watch. A bust of Robert Stephenson has also arrived, it travelling in the cab of the lorry, creating a rather macabre spectacle!

Sencia, the employment scheme from Sunderland, sent the lads back to enable six of the more dubious sleepers in the colliery to be replaced. This group has been terrific in enabling some back-breaking work to be carried out in a very short timescale, and I am extremely grateful to them and their team manager Julian for all their efforts.

When I get back to work in a week or so, we will be running the colliery railway for its first full weekend, then start on cleaning up the railway and waggonway for the forthcoming season proper. I will also address some comments regarding the lack of tramway news in these updates. This is mainly due to the fact the tramway works reliably every day, doing little ‘out of the ordinary’, but I will try and focus on current projects, proposals and work in this area…