This post is a reminder that our first steam ‘event’ since 2019 is due to take place this Saturday, with weekend and holiday operation on the Colliery standard gauge railway recommencing from this date. We have not had public steam operation since March 2020, so hopefully this will help scratch the itch for those (ourselves included) who have missed the sight of No.18 and the chaldrons pottering around in the Colliery. We will also be operating Samson and Glyder on the narrow gauge railway, and having discovered a last-minute opportunity to move Peckett 1370 across from Rowley Station (having postponed the previous plan), this should also be in steam.
Incidentally, it will be facing west, so away from the Colliery screens (which makes it well-suited to afternoon photography). A small group of the Friends of Beamish volunteers will also be out on site, exhibiting some of the cars/motorcycles from the museums (and their own) collections.
You can book timed-entry tickets via the main museum website.
May 1st steam event…
Below: As a pre-amble to the re-start of running, we carried out some filming last week, the photos below being taken on this occasion, starting with No.18 and the familiar view along Francis Street.
Below: The two resident standard gauge engines that will appear at the gala are familiar to all, but good to see back in steam! Coffee Pot No.1 and Seaham Harbour No.18 are seen awaiting our filming session.
Below: A new backdrop for the future, and also a new vista looking back at the railway when it opens – Spainsfield Farm, which is earmarked for completion in the autumn.
Below: Coffee Pot stands alongside the future Francis Street Exchange Sidings water tower (the tank for which we have, but have yet to install).
Below: Matt and I carried out some filming work to discuss the locomotives and event on Saturday – with Matt seen here. Hopefully there should be a few videos appearing on the museum’s YouTube channel in due course.
Our recovery plans (for transport)
We’ve had some feedback regarding the reopening of the transport exhibits at Beamish, and whilst I have published (in a previous post) our plan for the year, a few further notes to explain the rationale may be of use/interest…
One question that arises is around operation of the trams/buses/railways here, as other heritage railways have resumed some services. The key to this is the interpretation of ‘service’ and the type of operation that is running. Where there is a service between two places (A to B) then this is considered to be ‘public transport’, wheres where the ‘service’ is deemed to be a ride (and in our case, none of our transport operations leave the premises), then until Step 3 of the Government’s lockdown easement (no earlier than May 17th) occurs, then we cannot operate transport for passenger carrying on site. The exception to this is the accessible bus, without which the site would be wholly inaccessible to some visitors. Our pattern of opening is done in consultation with a number of supporting trade and sector bodies, as well as the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
The Colliery Railway operations can resume as this is a demonstration, not carrying passengers and which, due to the design of the locomotives, lends itself to socially distanced operation. It is also a linear spectacle, that can be safely observed by visitors from many vantage points within the Pit Village and Colliery yard.
From Step 3, we will reintroduce the bus service on site. Shortly being followed by a resumption of the Waggonway operation. The former will be to enable visitors to move around the premises, whilst the latter is a ride, but one which forms an important part of the visitor experience.
Where dates have been selected that don’t fall on the Government ‘no earlier than’ dates, this is due to practical operational reasons, where staff remain on furlough or the engineering/infrastructure preparations will not be in place. There is also a desire to hit the tourist-season hot spots e.g. the Waggonway opening for summer half term. As I am sure readers will appreciate, the challenge of running the museum on a vastly reduced income (reliant in particular on grant support and reserves at present) is a considerable one and whilst it is tempting to draw comparisons with other museums, attractions and railways, we have created a plan bespoke to Beamish’s own circumstances and which, hopefully, will reopen exhibits as soon as is practically and economically possible, within a COVID-19 Secure environment. I am sure I am not alone in not having any realistic expectation of an easing of social distancing restrictions anytime soon.
For the dates themselves, I refer readers to this earlier post, the content of which, at this point, remains valid:
Below: This week we will be undertaking some refresher training for staff, alongside their competence re-assessments and external examination of practical skills and knowledge. As part of this, No.18 was in steam again today to provide an opportunity for staff who haven’t operated a steam locomotive since March 2020 to re-acquaint themselves with the railways and also to provide motive power for a track clearance train – resulting in a bonfire of vegetation.
Below: This morning we were preparing for the weekend, with locomotives Fitness to Runs (FTRs) being completed, including Glyder, seen here in steam on the inspection pit, and some staff (myself included) being re-assessed for our firing/driving competence. We are now ready for Saturday’s return to operation, on the Colliery standard and narrow gauge railways and a chance for visitors to see five locomotives in steam, including Coffee Pot (celebrating its 150th anniversary). Once the FTR as complete, Glyder extracted some of the stock from storage, in readiness for the Saturday.
Below: Meanwhile, No.18 worked the Colliery standard gauge line so that crews could be assessed. It was a quiet day visitor-wise, but nice to see the railway operating once again.
Below: A small thing, but a nice one – a replacement bus stop sign for the Welfare Hall has been made. Started pre-pandemic, is has now been completed and installed (it remains potentially mobile as the base of the post suggests!). Altogether smarter than the previous sign that we had in place here.
Below: The roads are very empty without trams or buses (or visitors come to that!) but hopefully we will be able to reintroduce buses from May 17th, subject to all the usual disclaimers.