February 2nd 2009
What a difference a day can make! As I write these notes, the site has been closed due to heavy snow, which continues to fall from a leaden sky. Yesterday I was fortunate enough to participate in the A1 Steam Trust’s railtour featuring the new A1 locomotive Tornado, running between Doncaster and Durham. I picked up the train at York for the northbound run, popped over to Tanfield during the layover then returned to Durham to catch the nightime southbound run which was steam as far as York. The locomotive appears to run beautifully. Some difficulties had been experienced with the firing techniques applied, but these were largely overcome by yesterday’s run. Still un-named and with the smokebox numberplate in the lower position, the engine looks superb in the early BR lined apple green livery. The early chimney style, without a top rim, is in place however.
My photographs show Tornado arriving at York on the down leg and uncoupling from the train on the up run, well into the hours of darkness. The climb from Durham was spectacular, particularly with the exhaust reverberating off the cutting sides. Line speed seemed to be achieved effortlessly and no doubt we will be seeing some stalwart performances in the future.
There is still the matter of the outstanding £800,000 to find, but the trust is a hugely professional outfit and clearly well connected judging by the very positive appearances in the national press and on the BBC news and websites. All in all good news for the heritage railway movement everywhere.
Tanfield has been engaged in relaying work near Bowes Bridge. These views show preparation for this work taken last Friday and also No.49 in steam on what was a bleak afternoon yesterday.
Finally, a selection of snow scenes taken today (Monday)…
Stop Press!!! Two more shots of Tornado – at speed North of Durham and crossing the Tyne. My thanks to Anthony Coulls and Neville Whaler respectively for these images.
February 4th 2009
In preparation for forthcoming events and new regular demonstrations at Beamish, a number of small huts are being prepared for use around the museum site. Firstly is a traditional roadmenders hut. Rather akin to a sentry box, I have designed a typical hut based on photographs in numerous books depicting scenes from the turn of the century to around the time of the Second World War. I have posted the basic drawings here for those who might be interested. The Bowes Railway, and their volunteer Derek Young (a former colliery joiner) has been contracted to build the hut in time for the Power from the Past event in May. Final finish and livery has yet to be determined, but will reflect local style and tradition.
Also required for the colliery railway are a pair of huts, one to act as an oil store and another as a shelter at the headshunt end of the railway, where a shunter might expect to be more or less permanently based. Bowes has built two such huts, intended for another project, but these have now become available to us and have been purchased for a very modest sum. Both are finished in Buckingham Green, the colliery railway standard shade of green.
After a number of months negotiations and preparations, including finding the required funds, I am delighted to publicly announce that Beamish is to become custodian to Fowler T3 steam roller ‘Fiddler’ (Works No.15490 built in September 1920) for at least five years. The current owner is based in France and has been looking for a suitable body to place the roller with, for operation. Beamish seemed to fit the bill and talks have been underway for some months now.
The roller departed central France on Monday night, and arrived this morning at Portsmouth. It will initially be moved to Vincent Allen’s works for a light overhaul and preparation for operation at Beamish this year. I am particularly grateful to the owner for trusting us with this lovely engine, and to Stuart Ritchie for arranging the transport back from France. More pictures will follow.
I am now negotiating to borrow a living van to run with Fiddler and a tar boiler and water cart are already in the museum collection at Beamish. I anticipate that the initial operation will be centred on the colliery yard and street, which lend themselves to working steam as well as being in dire need of attention, particularly after the recent snowfalls and frosts.
6th February 2009
A quick update for Friday afternoon. Fiddler, the Fowler T3 steam roller is now back in the country and temporarily stored at the yard of E&N Ritchie, haulage contractors. The photos show it after unloading. A cursory inspection is promising, though the rear rolls will require attention as the wooden packing (not an original feature) has disintegrated. We knew about this and various engineers consulted don’t see this as much of a problem. A strip down for inspection and retubing will soon follow – watch these pages for the latest news…
9th February 2009
Sometimes you just have one of those days! A very good friend of Beamish had cause to move his Wickham rail trolley from the works of Ian Storey, Hepscott (Northumberland) to another location in the North East. In time I hope that the trolley might be overhauled to become a working exhibit at Beamish, the connection being the extensive use, and well known base of both type 17As (this one) and Type 27s at Darlington.
As you can see from the photographs, loading the trolley was somewhat challenging and the Landrover rather struggled on the deeply ploughed frozen field that had to be reversed (!) through to reach a point for loading. Diff locks and low-range were essential for this operation. Use of a forklift was then needed to level the trailer before we could even contemplate rolling the Wickham aboard (the easiest part!). By the time it was secured, the sun had melted the ice off the field which now presented a very slippery and sticky obstacle to departure. Needless to say the forklift was prevailed upon again to assist!
At the time, such activities seem testing, vexing and rather trying, but from the warmth and comfort of the office, it all seems to be just another part of the never ending learning curve in collection, transport and practical ingenuity required as part of the job. Fun eh?!
Its snowing again! A great effort by the Sunderland job creation scheme was thwarted by the snow lying on the work they were doing. However, the metal plates for the colliery coal platform surface were put roughly into place and the huts unloaded. Hopefully next week will be better weather!
18th February 2009
This week the weather has been better! Work has proceeded apace, with Alan Milburn coming in to build some buttressing for the coal platform. Here are some views of him in action and the finished result. Eventually we will pile ash around this so it becomes rather more archaeological!
While Alan was working, the Sunderland job scheme finished laying the metal plates and installed the first of the two huts, this one being the oil store.