Ten Years Ago - March 2010...

Ten Years Ago – March 2010…

Whilst we are not generating any news at the moment, certainly in terms of blog content, I thought it would be interesting to look back ten years and see what we were up to in March 2010. When I searched the blog for this period, I was quite taken aback by just how much was going on back then and how much I had forgotten!

Here, therefore, is a glance back to March 2010, as the running line at Rowley was being completed and we were looking forward to our transport festival (which was then called ‘Power from the Past’ and in 2010 had the sub-theme ‘Corporations and Contractors’), which would see the debut of Blackpool 4 (31, in its works guise) and also Coffee Pot No.1. Things didn’t quite go to plan as April’s reflections may record. Meanwhile, here we go, ten years ago…

The Road Roller Association held their AGM in the region, and attended the museum as part of their programme. We steamed the then resident Fowler T3 roller ‘Fiddler’ (Works No.15490 built in September 1920) for the occasion, pairing it with the newly restored water cart in what was to become the standard ‘corporation’ livery for the museum and bearing the legend ‘Beamish RDC’ (Rural District Council) to match Fiddler.
The roller was on loan to us and we retrieved it from France and carried out quite extensive repairs to it during its spell at the museum. The biggest job was probably re-packing the rear rolls, which have steel tyres fitted, but unusually these are packed from the iron wheels with timber. The timber had dried out and needed replacing, this work being carried out at the Bowes Railway under contract.
The loan didn’t work out in the long-term, but I learned a great deal about road steam in this period and the museum moved away from a nervousness regarding operating exhibits outside of their usual constraints, so it was a valuable experience for us. Note the bundle of sticks tied to the chimney base – replicating a feature seen on one of Fiddler’s colleagues working in the Welsh border region.
Michael Davison’s 1889 Marshall agricultural engine ‘Mary Margaret’ was one of a small collection of working road steam engines that were based at Beamish at the time. It also participated in the RRA visit, and was a regular site around the museum for a number of years, as we had used it to demonstrate the viability of road steam and that it could be a feature of the operation without the extensive marshalling that had been deemed necessary up to that point (with the exception of the use of the Mann steam tractor some years previously). The dirty wheels were a deliberate feature of the Marshall at this time – reflecting a well-cared for but working appearance.
March saw the first steaming of Coffee Pot No.1 – initially at Vince Allen’s workshop in Hetton-le-Hole. This was my first sight of it complete and in steam one morning – undergoing tests to the water pump and adjustments to the valve gear (the lifting links on each side being found to be different in length, resulting in very uneven performance).
Shortly afterwards, No.1 was moved to Beamish. As the water supply in the Colliery was somewhat haphazard at that time (the water tower not yet being ready), I filled the loco at Foulbridge during its delivery run, as seen here.
This view was captured during our test running, with Vince Allen, myself and David Young seen with the finished locomotive. It subsequently had some teething troubles (not least a broken piston!) and some other modifications were carried out to improve performance. It remains one of my favourite objects at Beamish and something I am very pleased we took the trouble to restore, given how little use it would have been anywhere else! I was also pleased we restored the 1871 appearance, and that David was available to carry out so much additional work to that originally planned, which hugely improved the quality of the restoration and enabled the curatorial elements to be developed.
It is also ten years since the two Model Ts arrived. These were purchased for use on deliveries around the site and it was hoped that they would replace the modern transit vans (actually, they ere Citroen at the time I think) then favoured. On this account the idea was a complete failure, as the operators could not get on with the intricacies of Model T driving and care, and there was little appetite to maintain them when they were breaking down so frequently. In the end, the Ton Truck seen here was allocated to the maintenance staff and it then found a purpose and became fairly reliable. Now that we have John Hodder and his volunteer team to maintain the Ts, the situation has changed dramatically and the Ton Truck is undergoing a comprehensive rebuild at the present time, after which it will be allocated to the engineering team.
The other T was this little van, later sign-written for a steam laundry service. It was cramped to drive though saw more use than the truck. Eventually it was laid-up before I asked John Hodder about rebuilding it as a Crewe Tractor – work which he seized upon enthusiastically. It is now a reliable and unusual vehicle, regularly used by myself or Matt, and which we one day hope to build the components for to enable it to run on two-foot gauge railway track…
March saw the completion of renewal work at Foulbridge, where the eastern end points were replaced along with sections of the loop and running line.
This view shows the extent of the work and the remodelled loop line. Also my long-suffering Landrover, long-since sold!
Over at Rowley Station, the relaid branch was being completed, seen here being tamped using a machine borrowed from the Tanfield Railway. Much settling has since occurred in this area and it requires attention like this again. It’s also amazing to note how much the trees have grown since this view was taken!
The Tanfield Railway also assisted the reopening of Rowley Station by lending us two locomotives, including Renishaw, seen here. In 2009 an informal gala, using Furness Railway 20 and Haydock ‘Bellerophon’ along with two coaches from the Tanfield, had demonstrated the popularity of the railway operation. We had informally operated two Bowes Railway locomotives on goods trains for a couple of seasons, and the 2009 event didn’t see any passengers carried either. The museum was turning a corner in terms of its adventurousness and enhancements to the visitor experience, and through some careful budgeting and assistance from Komatsu UK, we were able to relay or spot-resleeper the whole running line to passenger carrying standard.
As our own NER coach was not available for operation, we hired the Furness Railway Trust’s GER observation coach for a number of years. It is seen here after unloading – what a busy month March 2010 was becoming!
To accompany the steam rollers, this ex Tarmac living van was re-boarded and the underframe strengthened, before a repaint to restore its original livery.
In Road 1 of the tram depot, Blackpool 31 was being repainted. Initially a green livery approximating its Blackpool works tram guise was applied, as a base for the glorious 1920s livery that it carries today.
Off-site, at Alton Engineering in Derbyshire, the new centre engine boiler for the gallopers was taking shape. Here is the outer firebox and throatplate. The original boiler was life-expired and so a replacement was needed, along with a mechanical overhaul. Of course, this engine has recently featured regularly on the blog as its latest rebuild has been carried out and completed.
Also at Alton Engineering was the newly cast chimney for No.18 – a very expensive investment but one essential to the locomotive’s appearance. This work included the pattern, and the chimney was delivered to Alton to fit to the boiler, which they were overhauling for the project.
Following Dave Young and I meeting at the start of the restoration of Coffee Pot No.1, we worked on a number of projects together. As No.1 drew to a close, work on No.18 was underway. We also created the ‘Steam Mule’ following the donation of a sound vertical boiler of recent manufacture. A little horizontal engine had been liberated from the lamp cleaning machine (restored and installed into the Lamp Cabin) which was of unknown origin and even featured a wooden piston! It had been part of a restoration project carried out in the 1970s by a school, on behalf of the museum. It didn’t work and was mounted onto a very insubstantial base.
Using the cylinder casting and one or two other bits, Dave created a brand new engine, including the lovely cast base (from his own pattern) to form the basis of a small portable steam engine. Based on examples sometimes created by local manufactures or blacksmiths, the engine was nicknamed the mule – akin to the steam donkeys used in logging, but not quite that nor a racehorse either!
The intention was to develop an engine for use as a training tool – so there are numerous features that are present to enable tuition to take place. A reversing lever was fitted (usually belt drive would be reversed by crossing the belt), a steam pump, hand pump, bypass and injector were included. A means of diverting exhaust steam to create blast or not was fitted (to show principles of drafting) and a lever regulator was fitted in place of a simple steam valve. With a period style trolley (built at Bowes – we worked hand in hand with the Bowes Railway and its staff/volunteers at that time), the donated boiler and Dave’s handiwork, this rather enigmatic portable steam engine was created.
In early 2010 we were also working on our new (and owned by the museum thanks to a generous financial donation to cover the purchase) Fowler Steam Roller ‘Rambler’. It is seen here stripped for insurance inspection. It was also in the race to complete it in time for our Corporations & Contractors event (what was I thinking – and I haven’t learned this lesson still – of theming an event based on things that were not actually operational at the time of planning!) the following month.
The Lancastrian Transport Trust approached us regarding an idea to repaint Blackpool 703, which they had recently purchased from Blackpool Transport, into Sunderland Corporation livery – similar English Electric tramcars having been used in Sunderland. Sunderland also had a number of centre entrance trams, so it was felt that 703, in the guise of Sunderland 101 would be a good fit for us. It later arrived and went on to amass a healthy mileage and was invaluable in helping the growing museum transport its visitors. It was retired following the failure of a tyre, and returned to Blackpool where it remains in store. Here it is seen in March 2010 as its repaint began in Blackpool.
I’ve included this view because it features in the March 2010 blog – this egg ended boiler being allocated to Rowley Station for inclusion as a water tank. It is now in use there and the process of getting it there and constructing the supporting pillars and coal platform are now largely forgotten – so I’ve added this image as a reminder of where some ideas are germinated before they become something we now take for granted!

It was a busy month! I hope this little trip back ten years has been of interest – do let me know via the comments if you want to see a similar post in April (and probably May). I’d also be interested in other reminiscences etc. that will be archived in the comments section of the blog – it is always nice to hear what readers think!