Playing Trains At Beamish

What is Beamish some will inevitably ask. Put simply, if you don’t know, it’s the one museum you really must visit, and you should plan on staying at least a couple of days.


It’s an open-air museum featuring towns and scenes from the North. One slogan is “bringing the past to life” although this looked a little odd in the back of the period hearse!  The large site features a two-mile circular roadway and tram line around which you will find many features

Things to see

Work is currently underway to add a 1950’s town served by a trolley bus route

Of interest to us are the railways and there are four. There is the wagonway featuring Puffing Billy giving rides, the Station at Rowley also doing rides and down in the colliery there are standard gauge and narrow gauge industrial lines.

The reason for last weeks four (five if you include setting up) days of play was the annual Great North Steam Fair. This is a fantastic gathering of vintage vehicles and for this year much of it was Great War Themed.

A good friend of mine, and another FR volunteer, is the keeper of transport at the museum and the steam fair has become a bit of an annual gathering for a group of us who gather the operate the railway (and clutter up his house as we all need a place to stay). We were operating the two home engines on the standard gauge colliery railway and the two borrowed engines on the 2ft gauge line. It was also the debut for much of the train we have been building/restoring at our BINGE group through the winter.


On the first day Andy and I were percolating on the coffee pot again in a reprise of last year. Andy managed to avoid the walk of shame to the wood shed this year.

Much of the first day was spent shunting to get the un-serviceable chaldron wagons parked under the screens at the pit and to shorten the in service train so we could run with the access gates open to the public


There was a little time out for lunch though. Sausage butties cooked up on the shovel of the coffee pot














Thursday was our only standard gauge day. On Friday Andy was on Jack Lane and I had Statfold and at some point we decided to knock up our own Fairlie. This was the first chance we’d had to run the waggons that had been built or restored though the winter







They switched about a lot as the railway was just a big shunting puzzle but in the first view we have the FR Granite waggon, two FR tippers one of which has had all new plate work, the FR coal wagon, an ex bomb wagon as an open and our new build break van. The second train is our new Beer [sadly water really] wagon, the Penrhyn Fullersite wagon and two flats







The new brake van comes with all mod cons and spent most of the weekend being referred to as the buffer car. On a morning the routine was kettle on for a brew in the standard gauge mess room, light the fire in the buffet car, role the two Hunslets out, then light a fire in them.



On the rainy day it was also popular with larger visitors who weren’t keen on the constant rain we had on the Saturday




Saturday was stout Macintosh weather but the hat and coat did there job.

 It was that horrible that Jack Lane refused to  come out of the shed.


Final instructions for the day were ash out, toys away, go and dry out and warm up!




Actually, ashing out wasn’t such a chore as there is an ash pit, albeit up a 1:23 ramp, and it came with an added Rochelle












Sunday was better weather again so there was loads more shunting done and we were running out of space in the wagons for the output of the saw bench at Pockerley.





One thing on Sunday was that we went a bit branch line society and did a tour of the buffer stops.





All in all it was a fantastic four days. I’ll stick a load of photos in an album below with our groups photos and some by others who have said i can use them.  I would recommend looking for “Heritage Snapper”, “through the eyes of a penguin” and Beamish’s own page on Facebook and the Beamish Transport online Blog


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