Tag Archives: Beamish

200 years of progress

In 1815 this was the white heat of technology – a beam engine with a few cogs and wheels, which, if only it would stop breaking the rails, or itself, would pull 10 times the tonnage of a horse, further and faster. They say money makes the world go around, it certainly made the wheels on the engine go round and round. These engines were not the mass made product of the later Victorian age, they are craftsman built, every nut and bolt made by hand; and a great deal of head scratching trial and error.

The arrival of Puffying Billy had taken milennia, in just three generations since we’ve gone to the world wide web,  put men on the moon, have mass surveillance, and the Maglev. You can travel to Tibet on a high speed train, have a Pizza delivered to your door, swim with dolphins and blow each other to bits a million times over. And a few other things besides.

And in all that change it was the steam engine, steam power, and steam locomotives which have provided the driving force – even nuclear power stations turn water into steam to drive the turbines. The really odd bit in all this is that despite what many folk think steam power wasn’t the bright spark of James Watt, it wasn’t even British in origin, nor even 19th century – the ancient Greeks discovered the power of steam – the Aeolipile, a form of steam turbine, was invented in the 1st Century AD  by Hero of Alexandria, a Greek mathematician and inventor.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

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Collieries

This is Beamish Pit, now a feature in Beamish ‘open air’ Museum; the colliery as a tourist attraction. The last thing you would have described the collieries that I worked in and out of, during my firing days at Wakefield (Belle Vue), was a ‘tourist attraction’. Many of the buildings with broken windows,  rusting metalwork, a thick coating of coal dust everywhere you looked, and the grey / black mountains of slag, neither picturesque, romantic, or noble, just plain old fashioned industrial eyesores. Not so much ‘God’s green acres’  as ‘muck ‘n’ brass’.

I shovelled and burned many a ton of the coal the miners dug but, I didn’t envy them their job, digging at the bowels of the Earth. Footplate work could be hard graft but, at least you weren’t a mile underground, striped to the waist, and laying on your side with a pick in your hand, hacking at the coal seam. Seeing exhibits like Beamish Pit, on a nice sunny afternoon, it is difficult to imagine what life was like when it was in full production. The lack of safety, no National Health Service to treat you if you were sick or injured, as many were each year, quack remedies if you couldn’t afford to pay for a doctor, no sick pay either. Oh! Yes the good old days were well less than good for the vast majority.

No.18  was built, in 1877, by  Lewin & Co. and worked at Seaham Harbour until withdrawn in 1969. Stored at the harbour for 6 years No.18 then went to Beamish for restoration, she’s still there and still active, aged 140.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

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The Steam Elephant

The words ‘weird and wonderful contraption’ were invented to describe this early 19th century masterpiece. The original was built in 1815 to work on the Wallsend Waggonway. The one in the photograph is a replica,  which was constructed from details derived mainly from paintings, and the strange barrel at the base of the chimney is, in fact, a feed water heater. Despite some early problems, due, in the main, to the nature of the wooden waggonway she first worked on, the locomotive remained active at Wallsend into the 1820s and reports suggest that, after some modifications, she saw a further decade, or so, of service at Hetton Colliery.

The Steam Elephant was the work of colliery manager John Buddle and his associate William Chapman, a civil engineer with an interest in mechanical engineering too, who worked on a number of other locomotive projects in the early decades of the 19th century including a chain driven locomotive, for Heaton colliery, which was built at Butterley in Derbyshire. The Durham and Northumberland coalfields were a hot bed of locomotive experimentation during the period between 1810 and 1830 with Stephenson and his associate Ralph Dodds, at Killingworth, William Hedley at Wylam. and mention must also be made of Murray & Blenkinsop, in Leeds, who supplied locomotives to Brandlings Colliery railway in Leeds and to the Kenton & Coxlodge colliery on Tyneside. Brandling himself was one of the ‘Grand Allies’ and had coal and railway interests in the North East as well as those in Leeds. The remains of Brandling’s colliery railway in Leeds form part of what is now the Middleton Railway.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

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Bon-Accord

Bon-Accord and Distemper, does anyone use ‘distemper’ today, do people even know what it is? The scene is Beamish open air museum’s Rowley Station, the signal box is just visible behind the foot bridge. Bon-Accord has been  a guest at Beamish for several weeks and is one of the attractions in the Great Northern Steam Festival, which came to a close on Sunday.  Built in Scotland, by Andrew Barclay of Kilmarnock, she spent her entire working life there before making a trip to Locomotion at Shildon, in 2016.

Bon-Accord began her railway career, in 1897, at Aberdeen Corporation Gas Works, where she remained, until 1964, before being  replaced by  a diesel; the gas works themselves were closed and demolished in 1975. Under her skirts she’s an 0-4-0 with 3’2″ wheels and 12″ x 20″ pistons. The skirts were fitted because Bon-Accord’s day job was hauling coal, through the streets of Aberdeen, from the docks to the  Gas Works. Saved for preservation in 1972 she was, initially, stored at Ferryhill along with Mr. Therm and No.3, before being moved to Brechin. I believe No.3 went to Alford and Mr.Therm became a static display in Aberdeen’s Seaton Park..

Bon-Accord returned from Brechin to Aberdeen, in 1999, for restoration work to be undertaken by the  Bon-Accord Locomotive Society, she was returned to steam in 2008 and in 2010  moved to the Royal Deeside Railway’s base at Milton of Crathes.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

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Down among the weeds

sircecempties1

Sir Cecil A Cochrane was a latter day coal Baron, being either the Director or Chairman of a number of collieries including, Blackwell, Newbiggin, and Bolsover, he was also Director of the Consett Iron Co.. Between 1916 and 1918 he was MP for South Shields and received his Knighthood in 1933 – not even Google seems to know why he was knighted, though it does tell you that an engine was named after him, and can be seen on the Tanfield Railway – and here he / she is. An 0-4-0ST built by Robert Stephenson and Hawthorn in 1948 she was supplied new to Newcastle upon Tyne & Gateshead Gas Co, Redheugh Gas Works, Gateshead.

Banking the train is another RSH locomotive, Twizell No.3, an 0-6-0T built in 1891 for service on the Beamish colliery system, owned by James Joicey, he of the Lambton, Hetton and Joicey Colliery Railway fame. The LH&JC Co. owned 22 pits in the Tanfield  / Beamish district and employed more than 20,000 people in these undertakings, in 1925. It is, perhaps, just as well that the Tanfield Railway chose not to name Twizell No. 3 “Lambton”  one of whom caused something of a scandal back in 1973. The second son of the 5th Earl of Durham, the late Anthony Claude Frederick Lambton,  was photographed, … ‘in bed with two prostitutes while smoking marijuana. When interviewed afterwards by Robin Day, he claimed he had often used “whores for sex” because “people sometimes like variety.’  Edward Pearce, Guardian, 02/01/2007.

Variety, they say, is the spice of life and his Lordship does appear to have taken that very much to heart, he certainly seems to have enjoyed a spicy life, if not a steamy one!!

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