TLC for trams at Beamish

2017 has been a difficult years for some of the UK’s heritage tramways – and the line at Beamish Museum has been no different, with an operating pool of just four trams available for service since the return of Blackpool Standard 147 to the Fylde coast in March. Unfortunately, things seem to have gone from bad to worse recently but on the plus side some of the fleet have been receiving some much-needed workshop attention.

Oporto 196 has been receiving some attention to wood rot recently, following a period of time being stored outside. This inevitably will mean that a partial repaint will also be needed. Whilst obviously not ideal, this situation was forced upon the museum which has expanded its bus fleet in the last few years ahead of the planned 1950s town area, for which motor buses and trolleybuses will play a major role. It is planned to construct a new bus garage to alleviate the current lack of undercover storage space but sadly, work on this has yet to start despite other parts of the new area being very much in progress. It had been hoped that the return of Blackpool cars Brush 621 and Balloon 703 to their old home town would mean that all of the trams would be able to fit into the existing depot, but this has obviously not been the case.

Whilst 196 has been under repair, it is believed that Sunderland 16 has taken its place being stabled outside – if this is the case then it is sincerely hoped that it will not be allowed to deteriorate to the extent that 196 has done! Incidentally, 16 is currently on restricted use due to low tyres, which should be attended to in the new years, once the work on Blackpool 31 is completed.

This leaves just Newcastle 114 and Sheffield 264 available for regular service, although 114 is hardly an ideal car for the time of the year, and 264 has been suffering from a few reliability issues of late; indeed quite a number of problems have been experienced since its return to use last year after a major overhaul. With all this in mind, the expanded bus collection should come in very useful over winter – but hopefully the museum’s trams will not be overshadowed too much as they have served the museum so well since its opening, and remain a major attraction in their own right as well as being a useful means of transportation for visitors around the massive open air site.

Seen in happier times, Oporto 196 is pictured in its striking South Shields livery pausing at Pockerley during the 2016 Great North Festival of Transport at Beamish. (Photo by Andrew Waddington)

 

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4 Responses to TLC for trams at Beamish

  1. robglysen says:

    Beamish’s trams get absolutely hammered through the year, they could probably use a couple of flexities : D

  2. Nigel Pennick says:

    Ironic that bus expansion has caused the deterioration of 196. 1950s history repeating itself, or is this what they call living history? To be accurate, they should lay some disused tramlines in the new 1950s bus streets and have tram poles without overhead used as streetlights.

  3. Kevin says:

    Why can’t the buses park outside? Beamish has sadly treated its Trams, including 147, very badly in recent years. They are over worked and under maintained as a result. They need at least twice the size of fleet (not their fault I know) for the huge success Beamish is now. Leaving them outside does them no good, even though they spent their working lives out there they were undercover during the harshest parts overnight.

  4. Paul Jarman says:

    I feel that I cannot let the comments posted here go without response from Beamish as there are a number of assumptions made that perhaps I can correct in the interests of ensuring any discussion is based on facts rather than rumours or misinterpreted observations.
    Firstly – No trams are stored outside, and 196′s sojourn outside the depot was brief and operationally necessary. Sunderland 16 is not stored outside while not in use though if it has been observed outside during opening hours it is because it is used as part of an educational activity taking place or there is a need to free up depot space for inspections etc. We no longer park any of the buses outside (the access bus was for some time) – any occasional occurrence being for good reason.
    Secondly – Oporto 196 has completed over 27,000 miles since its last overhaul (outshopped in 2012) which was known to have left areas that could not be tackled within the timescale then available. This is the reason for it receiving a scheduled four weeks at the hands of the staff to tackle a number of jobs including some attention to the bodywork and therefore the paintwork. It is important to remember that in operating for seven days a week in all weathers, it will be exposed to rain and shine in service…
    Thirdly – there is no policy whatsoever to put buses ahead of trams. We have obtained only one additional motorbus, Rotherham 220. This hardly sets a precedent and for those who would like to think so I can assure them that the tramway is very much at the core of our plans and that the buses will provide additional capacity for what is now a very busy (and self-sustaining – i.e. no revenue funding from external sources) museum.
    Fourthly – mention is made that ‘sadly’ the bus depot construction has not started. The project we have is based on a four plus year timescale. There will be lots of developments starting in staggered intervals, and the depot is one of these. The initial priority is to prepare the main site for the two largest building sites – the 1950s town and the Georgian coaching inn. Please do not infer that there are issues because the programme, which is not in the public domain at present, is not available.
    Fifthly – Fifthly A comment is made regarding our treatment of tramcars, Blackpool 147 included, as being carried out ‘very badly’. Basing such comments on incorrectly reported information as in the case here is not helpful and does not usefully contribute to any discussion. Over worked? Under maintained? These allegations are not borne out by our investment in the fleet, which has seen considerable increase in mileage – whence re-tyrings now being routine rather than exceptions. Gateshead 10 is receiving upwards of £75,000 of investment, Blackpool 31 will receive its new tyres this winter plus have a motor overhaul as part of the work. Sheffield 264 has had some issues, but not for some time and is our highest mileage car this year. Sunderland 16 is being used in such a way as to maximise its potential usage during the Christmas season ahead of tyre turning when its window becomes available.
    Another comment alludes to ‘living history’ as a suggestion that we are allowing trams to suffer in favour of buses. This is simply not true.
    The small team of staff dedicated to the maintenance and operation of the tramway and bus fleet do read such unhelpful and inaccurate comments and it is sad to see the negative effect this has upon them. I am sure contributors would not want to see their own jobs critiqued online, and with such ignorance of the facts.
    It is all the more galling to me because I have endeavoured to make available a great deal of information and narrative on the fleet via the transport blog. All the worse because I have always been happy to answer queries about the fleet (and wider collection), as have the wider team, and so to see speculation reported as fact is all the more troubling for a site that has established itself as a reliable source of information on heritage tramways in the UK…
    We have admittedly reached a point where the usage requires a new approach to maintenance intervals, and with trams requiring more extensive overhauls at more frequent intervals, but the staff have managed to maintain the service throughout and we have received no complaints whatsoever from visitors in this regard. Bearing in mind the tramway is a central part of a visit, and that we have over 750,000 visitors per annum, I feel this is a very good reflection on the dedication of staff and volunteers who are tasked with maintaining and developing this working fleet.
    So please do reconsider your assumptions, observations and comments in light of this and do not jump to conclusions or speculate about the museum’s intentions with regard to the tramway. Note the huge investment in the tramcars, the tramway infrastructure and the ambitious plans to develop historic passenger transport at the museum (in all forms) before directing your criticisms at us…
    Paul Jarman
    Assistant Director – Transport & Industry

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