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.