Beamish’s Power from the Past 2010

Between 15th and 18th April 2010, the North of England Open Air Museum at Beamish in County Durham held their second (in the current format) “Power from the Past” event on the theme of “Corporations and Contractors”. British Trams Online Webmaster Gareth Prior made his first visit to the Museum for over 20 years and reports on Day One (and partly Day Two!) of the event.

The Power from the Past programme said that the event aimed “to represent all the unsung efforts of steam and tramcar in building and maintaining roads and tramways, construction work and farm contracting.” The event featured two loan trams and the repainting of another whilst there were numerous other transport items due to be in operation including steam locomotives, steam rollers, steam lorries and vintage buses.

As has been reported extensively on British Trams Online in the lead up to the event, two trams were secured on loan with Leeds 6 coming from the Heaton Park Tramway in Manchester (Oporto 196 going in the other direction, with the loan lasting until August) and Cardiff 131 arriving on a very brief loan from the Crich Tramway Village. The Works Car theme was extended with the repainting of Blackpool Marton Box 31 into Works Green livery, also renumbered 4, and Blackpool Tower Wagon 749 was also due to be displayed having been extracted from the store although in the event it was not possible for 749 to be displayed.

Day One: Thursday 15th April

On Day One of the event the initial passenger tram service was in the hands of Gateshead 10 and Sunderland 16. On a normal day the trams in service would operate in opposite directions around the tramway circuit but because of vehicles being stabled in the Town both ran in the anti clockwise direction until mid-afternoon.

One of the first sights I saw on arrival to the Museum was Sheffield 264 being moved from the Depot for display in the Town for a corporate event. 264 was withdrawn from service at the end of the 2003 season and so its appearance out in the open was a rare treat. It is hoped that funding may be obtained in order for it to be returned to passenger service but in the meantime it looks a little unloved, although it was good to see it out in open.

Cardiff 131 was also on display in the Town at the start of the day, this tram being stabled in front of the Bank and Masonic Hall and after arrival 264 was pulled up behind it, allowing photographs of the two together to be gained. Although not in service initially the other loan tram, Leeds 6 was also out in the open being displayed in front of the Depot during the morning and early afternoon. The remaining members of the tram fleet – Newcastle 114 and Blackpool 4 (or 31 or whatever you want to call it!) – were both in the Depot throughout the day. Unfortunately, 4 remained restricted to the Depot building all day because of a fault although it was fit and able to play a starring role in a photo charter both before and after the Museum was open.

As far as the trams were concerned it was pretty standard fare for the morning and early afternoon with 10 and 16 continuing to operate the service. Around lunchtime 264 moved from the Town, running back to the Depot where it was stabled outside, alongside 6. This enabled 131 to be moved slightly in the Town street.

And then come 3pm, the tram fun could begin! 131 started to operate some circuits of the tramway (allowing the tram service to operate in both directions) and then Leeds 6 was bought into passenger service to help move those visitors who were starting to head home after an enjoyable day at the Museum. As the day drew to a close 131 returned to the Depot leaving the three passenger trams to complete the day.

Although this website is mainly interested in the trams there was so much more to see at Beamish during this event! Vintage buses were in passenger service around the Museum, including a Bristol bus as seen on ITV’s Heartbeat and the Museum’s mock “vintage” bus adapted for disabled use was also in service. Passenger train rides were being offered from Rowley Station, the first time for many years that these have been offered at Beamish. Renishaw Ironworks No. 6 on loan from the nearby Tanfield Railway was in charge of these journeys whilst visitors could also ride on the Pockerley Waggonway behind the Steam Elephant.

There weren’t just passenger vehicles in action around the museum with many other vintage vehicles seeing use. Steam rollers, steam lorries and traction engines were amongst those seeing action around the Museum’s roads and proving popular with the public. There was also action down at the Colliery with not one but two further railways – the unique “Coffee Pot” steam locomotive (with a vertical boiler) was in operation on the main Colliery Railway whilst two visiting Kerr Stuart “Wren” narrow gauge locomotives (“Peter Pan” and no. 3114) were used on a temporary construction railway.

As well as those vehicles in action mentioned above there was so much to see and do at Beamish throughout the event including all the usual buildings open to the public. In fact it would be fair to say that even if you stay for the whole day there is still more to do, and you can easily make another visit in the same year (the price of admission allows you unlimited entry for 12 months).

Day 2: Friday 16th April 2010

Because the sun had barely made an appearance on the first day of the event and Blackpool 4 didn’t move from the back of the Depot I made the decision to “pop” into the Museum on my way home to see what was happening in the sunshine of Day 2. This was despite the fact that Beamish was not on the way home – being in the opposite direction – and would mean I wouldn’t be able to catch a train from Chester-le-Street to get my connection at York (instead I would have to get to Newcastle by bus from Beamish and then find the railway station in a city I had never been to before!).

My gamble paid off as when I got into the Museum shortly after 10am the first tram that greeted me was Blackpool 4, basking in the sunlight with its fresh green coat of paint shown off to great effect. In addition to 4, Leeds 6 and Gateshead 10 were also in service at the start of the day whilst Cardiff 131 was still stabled in front of the tram Depot.

All in all, Power from the Past was an excellent event with enough to keep any transport enthusiast occupied for a whole day. Trams may only have been a part of the event but to have two loan trams from two separate locations in action was incredible with the repaint of Blackpool 4 just the tram icing on the cake. Power from the Past is surely unrivalled in transport events in the UK with the chance to ride on trams, buses, two railways and to see various other forms of vintage vehicles in action all in a stunning location with plenty of other things to keep the whole family occupied. Is this the way forward for transport events?

The Stars of the Day

Thursday 15th April Friday 16th April
Blackpool 4 In Depot In Service
Leeds 6 Outside Depot, then In Service from 3pm In Service
Gateshead 10 In Service In Service
Sunderland 16 In Service In Depot
Newcastle 114 In Depot In Depot
Cardiff 131 On Display in Town (until approx. 3pm), then in operation On Display outside Depot
Sheffield 264 Displayed in Town (am), then Outside Depot (pm) In Depot

Also on British Trams Online
Gallery 218: Beamish’s Power from the Past April 2010 – 38 photos from Gareth Prior

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