Beamish Power from the Past 2012

This year’s Power from the Past event at Beamish, the Living Museum of the North took place between 30th August and 2nd September and as has come to be expected featured a myriad of vintage vehicles across the site both resident and visiting. Gareth Prior reports from the event.

Over the past few years transport events at Beamish have gained a reputation for the amount of action across the site with lots of visiting vehicles on the rails and roads to try and pull in the visitors. For this year’s Power from the Past there were, once again, several visitors to the north east of England but on the tramway – which is of course our main interest on this website – a different route was taken with no loans but instead a couple of repaints added to the interest.

With Beamish practically being in Scotland and so a long way from where I live it is quite a trek so for the September event I often spend  couple of days on site, especially as it comes at the end of a long summer at work, and 2012 was no different. As I made my way up by the train on Friday 31st August the sunny weather which had greeted me as I woke up started to evaporate with cloud rolling in which meant that as I arrived at Beamish shortly after midday it was a rather grey and dull day. As I always seem to do when I arrive at Beamish the first thing I did was walk round to the Depot (I know to some of you who visit the Museum that will come as a shock to you as there isn’t really any need to walk anywhere with the tramway running round the majority of the site). Outside the Depot there were two trams on display, Leeds 6 and Oporto 196. Now 6 needs no introduction as it has been stabled outside the Depot at Beamish practically since arriving at the Museum on a short term loan at the end of March 2010 and every time I see it there I think that next time I visit it won’t be there anymore – maybe this time? As for 196, well this tram now looks very different to how it did last time I saw it out in the open as it has had a stunning repaint into a South Shields blue and primrose yellow inspired livery as part of an overhaul. Unfortunately the tram was unable to play an active role in Power from the Past as its overhaul had only recently been finished and it had been decided not to risk pressing it into service at a high profile event. But it was displayed outside the Depot and this managed to show what a high quality paint job had been done on the tram in a livery which is so different to everything else at the Museum and is sure to turn heads when it does enter passenger service. Also outside the Depot I met my friend and colleague Andrew Waddington – the first time I had seen him since the day after the end of an era on the Blackpool Tramway back in November last year, not that we had been avoiding each other in the meantime it’s just we kept going to events on different days!

Following on from the excitement outside the Depot it was time to continue my journey on foot towards the Town.  During this journey it was a chance to see which trams were in service and four were spotted with Blackpool 31, Sunderland 101 (or Blackpool Balloon 703 if you prefer), Newcastle 114 and Grimsby & Immingham 26 (or Gateshead 10 if you would rather). Of course the last of these was the second of the trams in the fleet to have been treated to a repaint, and this one too was turning heads. Over the years many enthusiasts have called for Gateshead 10 to return to its later identity of Grimsby & Immingham 26and with the tram scheduled for workshop attention over the winter this was likely to be last chance for around 15 years for this to happen and no better reason than that was needed! Finished just a few days before the event the smell of paint was still evident on boarding the vehicle and the final product was another excellent quality repaint for the Museum to be proud of. It may not be to everyone’s taste but it is only paint after all and by next spring it will probably be just a distant memory.

Having had one tram journey around the complete circuit I received a text from Andrew saying that he had spoken to Paul Jarman, who is of course Keeper of Transport at Beamish, and he had said we could go and see the newest acquisition on the tramway Leamington & Warwick 8! So it was a quick walk round back towards the tram Depot to meet up with Andrew and his Dad and we then made our way to the Regional Resource Centre where Paul had directed us. Now this is where the story gets a bit tricky as we didn’t actually know where the reception of the RRC was but finally managed to find it and Andrew gave the explanation of what we were there for – cue quizzical looks! It would appear that no-one actually knew where 8 was stored and so we had to wait a while whilst someone found out where it stored! Finally we were taken out the back to what seemed to be just a large empty barn with a lonely looking half restored tram in the back corner. 8is likely to be a long term project for Beamish but a limited amount of restoration has already been undertaken at Summerlee, the previous home of the vehicle. Big thanks to Paul Jarman for allowing us to see the tram and to the gentleman who took us to see it who unfortunately we didn’t get a name for!

After that it was time to get back into the main Museum site and to concentrate on the trams for the majority of the rest of the day. Having had rides on all of the trams there was still a bit of time left in the day and this meant I was able to take brief looks at the “main” railway from Rowley Station where there were a couple of loanee locomotives in action (more on those later) and at the Colliery where another visiting loco was in action. Sadly shortly after 1600 the rain started to fall and soon after this I decided that was enough for one day knowing that I would be back first thing in the morning for more action at Beamish.

The following day, Saturday 1st September, I made my way back to Beamish from my accommodation in Newcastle and managed to get into the Museum shortly before 1000 and once again I swiftly made my round to the tram Depot. This enabled me to see the trams coming out to enter service and this turned out to be the same four as the previous day. As Leeds 6would have been in the way in its normal resting place this had been parked on the main line which meant some photos of two trams alongside each other were able to be obtained. One of the only minor negative points of the transport events at Beamish is that the trams always run the same way which means it is not possible to get two alongside each other so to get there early enough to get some photos like this was a definite highlight.

Leeds 6 did not stay still on the main line for long as soon after all the trams had entered service it was on the move to perform an important function! As many of you will be aware there is a special token system in use for the steep Pockerley bank which means that only one tram can ever be on this section at once and during normal operation these get moved between boxes at the Entrance and Pockerley Waggonway tramstops. However when all trams are running one way it means most of the tokens end up in one place, in this event at the Entrance! So 6was used to collect the excess tokens at the Entrance and take them down to Pockerley. It then returned to the Depot from Pockerley.

I promised earlier in this article that I would make brief mention of what else was going on around the site and the Saturday of the event afforded an opportunity to see the other action. At Rowley Station there were three locomotives in action including resident Y7 985 plus two visitors. The first of these visitors was North Eastern Railway H7 1310, another steam locomotive and a sister to 985 whilst the other was an Armstrong Whitworth diesel numbered 2. These locomotives were used in a variety of different combinations including some double heading of the two steam locos (indeed a photo of this is included in our Galleryon the event) but as always seems to be the way I personally managed to miss the double heading but was glad to get some sunny shots of visiting 1310.

Meanwhile on the main Colliery railway there was another visiting steam locomotive with “Whitehead” in action on the demonstration line alongside resident “Coffee Pot”, although when I went to the Colliery on the Saturday Coffee Pot was resting and having a nice polish! Also tucked away in the shed was the latest restoration project, “Lewin” which looks resplendent in its recently applied livery. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite possible for the loco to play a major role in the event as it narrowly missed completion but it was still good to see what visitors to the Museum will be able to enjoy in the future.

Over the other side of the Colliery on the narrow gauge railway there were a further two visiting locomotives, both in action. The first of these was “Marchlyn” which has recently been restored to operational condition at the Statfold Barn railway only a year or so after being repatriated from the USA and it was joined by another Statfold Barn resident, Hudswell Clark 0-6-0 GP39. This latter locomotive was actually of personal interest to me as it was in a Surrey County Council Highways Department livery and I later discovered it had been used in road construction work near to where I live!< p>Away from the tracks there was also the usual mix of vintage vehicles on the road and this was a welcome return to some of road steam following the tragic events earlier this summer. As well as the road steam there were numerous vans and cars and not forgetting the Museum’s resident buses which operated around the site the opposite direction to the trams.

As the day was coming to a close there was a shunt of trams outside the Depot to prepare for the evenings Photo Charter. This saw Oporto 196 moved from outside road 1  to road 3 and Leeds 6 was then put in front of this. These moves meant that with the sun now shining it was possible to get a good sunny photo of 196 in all its glory and it really does look stunning in the sun! If 26’s repaint is good then 196’s new colours are incredible!

So all too soon after a day and a half at Beamish it was time to leave for one final time in 2012. Power from the Past did not necessarily have the wow factor of the last few transport events at Beamish for the tram enthusiast with no visiting tramcar but that did not mean that an enjoyable time was not had, far from it, the two repaints of trams shows what wonders a lick of paint can do to a tram! And of course a visit to a transport event at Beamish is far more than the trams with railways also being an interest of mine. People also keep telling me you can even go into the buildings at Beamish but to be honest I never seem to have time to do anything but the transport! With 2013 being the 40th anniversary of the tramway at Beamish next spring promises to be an incredible time on the Museum tramway.

Also on British Trams Online

Gallery 313: Beamish Power from the Past 2012 – 59 photos from days 2 and 3 of the event from Gareth Prior, Andrew Waddington & Tony Waddington

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