1st March 2009
On the way South, I called in at Sumerlee Heritage Centre at Coatbridge, half an hour East of Glasgow.
Reopened in 2008 after a £10million refit, the site is focussed on the original ironworks site (now an archaeological remains), a large modern exhibition centre, an electric tramway, canal and reconstructed pit cottages. The exhibition hall is very much of the modern mould, with interactive displays and well presented themes and stories of the men who worked in the heavy industry of the area. What is a shame are the tall glass barriers which serve to keep the public at a safe distance but do present an obstructive presence and render close inspection and photography very difficult to accomplish. The 1926 Murray & Patterson twin cylinder horizontal winding engine dominates one side of the hall, another late survivor, being withdrawn from active service in 1984.
The tramway runs along the front of the site, curves across one end, crosses the remains of the Monkland Canal on a bridge (unique on a heritage tramway?), passing the depot as it swings into the recreated colliery village, complete with cottages and an underground tour. In service was the beautifully restored ex Glasgow Corporation (itself ex Paisley) ‘Motor School’ car No.1017. This provides a shuttle service at frequent intervals and a modest fare enables visitors to travel at will throughout the day (the rest of the museum is free). I didn’t get to see the restored Lanark double deck car or the Glasgow Coronation on this occasion. Note the ex South African Railway Garratt in the photographs – originally repatriated to the Plym Valley Railway, it is now on display at Sumerlee.
Adjacent to the colliery area is a set of siding featuring a rapidly deteriorating trio of locomotives in the shape of Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T No.895/1909, Sentinel 0-4-0VBG 9628/1957 ‘Robin’ and an Andrew Barclay diesel shunter. I don’t know if there are plans to restore any of these locomotives, or the ‘Blue Train’ EMU, a driving car and centre car of which are stored nearby.
We also feature here a mystery object – readers are invited to speculate on the use of this rather elegant vehicle (I’ll tell you what it is soon!)…
This rounds off another trip away from work to ‘escape’ the day to day challenges of managing Beamish’s transport collections. The next break really shouldn’t involve trains at all…!!!