TRAVEL NORTH - 14: LIVING IN THE PAST, Museum Status for the North? (Let's all get togged up in flat caps and mufflers!)

Getting up steam - Streaks from across the Pond join the home team at York

Nameplate on A4 'Dwight D Eisenhower', recently returned from the US for restoration along with 'Dominion of Canada' from the Canadian collection
Nameplate on A4 'Dwight D Eisenhower', recently returned from the US for restoration along with 'Dominion of Canada' from the Canadian collection | Source
The Great Gathering - a bevy of Class A4 Pacifics beside the 70' turntable, installed at the time the building was part of York North loco shed
The Great Gathering - a bevy of Class A4 Pacifics beside the 70' turntable, installed at the time the building was part of York North loco shed | Source
Just visiting - new-build Peppercorn LNER A1 60163 ' Tornado' at the NRM - constructed at Darlington near North Road Station ('Head of Steam') Museum. A P2 2-8-2 to Gresley design is to be built by the same people
Just visiting - new-build Peppercorn LNER A1 60163 ' Tornado' at the NRM - constructed at Darlington near North Road Station ('Head of Steam') Museum. A P2 2-8-2 to Gresley design is to be built by the same people | Source

National Railway Museum, York

A markerLeeman Road, York, YO26 4XJ -
Leeman Rd, York, York YO26 4XJ, UK
[get directions]

The national collection of railway artefacts, locomotives, rolling stock and memorabilia in York - see also Locomotion, Shildon below

Design excellence for their time...

Patrick Stirling-designed single driver (4-2-2) express locomotive for the Great Northern Railway. Adequate for when carriages were short four-wheelers, hopeless for heavier traffic. A short-sighted - if handsome - investment in capital equipment
Patrick Stirling-designed single driver (4-2-2) express locomotive for the Great Northern Railway. Adequate for when carriages were short four-wheelers, hopeless for heavier traffic. A short-sighted - if handsome - investment in capital equipment | Source
East Coast Joint Stock teak bodied corridor clerestory-roofed bogie carriage built York early in the 20th Century. Locomotives at this time were also heavier, Atlantics (4-4-2). From the 1920s they would be LNER Pacifics (4-6-2) like 'Flying Scotsman
East Coast Joint Stock teak bodied corridor clerestory-roofed bogie carriage built York early in the 20th Century. Locomotives at this time were also heavier, Atlantics (4-4-2). From the 1920s they would be LNER Pacifics (4-6-2) like 'Flying Scotsman | Source
Next to the ECJS carriage above, a brake 3rd Class highly varnished teak bodied Gresley LNER carriage - note the handsome white-wall wheels,  finishing as standard in the 20s
Next to the ECJS carriage above, a brake 3rd Class highly varnished teak bodied Gresley LNER carriage - note the handsome white-wall wheels, finishing as standard in the 20s | Source
With nationalisation came a new, standard approach to carriage design. This is a Buffet car in the carmine and cream livery of the late 1940-1955 era of British Railways. Note the Gresley LNER bogies. Carriage built at York probably in 1948-50
With nationalisation came a new, standard approach to carriage design. This is a Buffet car in the carmine and cream livery of the late 1940-1955 era of British Railways. Note the Gresley LNER bogies. Carriage built at York probably in 1948-50 | Source
Liverpool & Manchester Railway 1st/2nd in its distinctive canary yellow livery
Liverpool & Manchester Railway 1st/2nd in its distinctive canary yellow livery
The NRM's Great Hall with locomotives of different vintage ranged around the 70' turntable (enlarged to accommodate York's fleet of Pacifics (4-6-2 Express Passenger locomotives, 11 in 1950, 7 in 1965)
The NRM's Great Hall with locomotives of different vintage ranged around the 70' turntable (enlarged to accommodate York's fleet of Pacifics (4-6-2 Express Passenger locomotives, 11 in 1950, 7 in 1965)
The brass plaque on 'Mallard' commemorating the 126 mph achieved near Grantham on what Nigel Gresley scheduled as a 'brake test' with the Westinghouse Corporation
The brass plaque on 'Mallard' commemorating the 126 mph achieved near Grantham on what Nigel Gresley scheduled as a 'brake test' with the Westinghouse Corporation
One of the NRM's restoration projects
One of the NRM's restoration projects
Semaphore signal gantry in the Great Hall demonstrates signalling used into the 1950s, even at many main line stations. Colour light signalling was installed in many places on the  Main Line, notably on the 'Race Track' between York and Darlington
Semaphore signal gantry in the Great Hall demonstrates signalling used into the 1950s, even at many main line stations. Colour light signalling was installed in many places on the Main Line, notably on the 'Race Track' between York and Darlington
Statue of George Stephenson in the Great Hall at the NRM
Statue of George Stephenson in the Great Hall at the NRM
Class 31 diesel seen here in British Rail blue and dove grey began life in the 60's in British Railways two-tone green
Class 31 diesel seen here in British Rail blue and dove grey began life in the 60's in British Railways two-tone green

Some of us here in 'Blighty' think tourists only come to Britain to see the past.

They might be right! We don't make much any more, aside from the Nissan factory at Sunderland, some scattered shipbuilding, a bit of engineering here and there, some steelmaking - less and less of that, with the Indian company Tata saying 'ta-ta' to Teesside and elsewhere - and open-cast mining or quarrying in the countryside you'd be forgiven for thinking we just get drunk and roll about in the streets at home or in Ibiza or Faliraki (Cyprus), or rob our grannies for dope money. Many of our industries are basically 'screw-driver' operations where cars and things made abroad are assembled here as they arrive in containers at Felixstowe or Tilbury. Hardly any of our industries are British-owned, and when the bosses overseas 'feel the pinch' or think themselves threatened by militant unions they just 'up-sticks' and plonk down somewhere else where the work-force is 'docile', i.e., China, Korea or Taiwan.

But hold on there. We have to ask ourselves why Britain with its memories is so attractive to overseas visitors. Is it value for money, or the comfort of the premises. They may be right on one count, about some of the premises like pubs and restaurants. Value for money? (In a way, yes, although some accommodation in London is a rip-off, as are the hot dog or burger stands! Think about some places in Europe then certainly there's comfort and value-for-money. Then again London has a tarnished reputation as the 'rip-off' capital of Europe, so we have to go further afield).

Where to? Stratford-upon-Avon? Chester? York?

Stratford-upon-Avon is linked with 'the Bard', it gets crowded too, just like 'the Globe' on the South Bank in London, reconstructed in honour of Sam Wanamaker who envisaged the New Globe Theatre (the old one burnt down long ago).

Chester? Walled city, quaint-looking half-timbered houses and Georgian mansions - just the same as Bath in some ways (see the ghosts of Romans in the baths?).

How about York? Well, pretty much like Chester, walled city, museums, quaint old buildings and ruins. There are a couple of castles, lots of Roman left-overs and the remains of an abbey near Lendal Bridge. There's the Shambles leading down to Stonegate. The Shambles, or Fleshammels, is where York's butchers laid out their wares on their window shelves. Don't forget the Jorvik Centre! (Travelling back through time in a dodgem car to the days of the Danes, a gift shop when you come out). And there's a massive railway museum near the main railway station, 17th most visited museum in Britain!

The National Railway Museum (NRM) www.nrm.org.uk/. phone 0870 421 4001. Coo-ee! Seriously, it has to be seen to be believed. Part of it is York North Locomotive Shed, with a viewing gallery and a large 70' (21.34m) turntable that's operated several times daily with a commentary. There's a library for reference, under the gallery is a gigantic 7mm scale model railway that attracts young an old alike and the main viewing floor is filled with static and animated exhibits, short film shows and the world record-holding steam locomotive.

'Mallard' is there in all her LNER garter blue livery with brass commemorative plaque and a viewing platform alongside for you to climb and inspect the spacious cab. Nearby are several historic locomotives, including a huge one built by North British for the Chinese Railway.The cab floor of this monster is big enough to hold a disco dance floor! Not far away is a carriage from the Japanese Shinkansen 'bullet' train. Although not built in Britain, this is a 'nod' toward the historic birthplace of the railway networks, George Hudson's York & North Midland Railway of the 1840s and early 1850s. Compare this high-speed tilting vehicle with one of the Victorian four-wheeled 1st Class carriages of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway and you'll understand just how far the railways have come since George Stephenson's inaugural train on the Stockton & Darlington Railway one hundred and eighty-seven years ago in September this year (2012).

Take the underpass to the other side of Leeman Road where the later addition to the NRM, the former goods depot is situated, known as the Peter Allen Building. The platforms still have track laid in, and at one side are carriages of Queen Victoria's royal train with a period locomotive sporting banners and plaque. Along the other platforms are other period railway company locomotives and respective passenger or goods vehicles. In the entrance hall is a motor-baggage car of a Southern Railway electric train in its shiny green livery.

Finally, right there in the lobby, on your way in/out is the larger gift and souvenir shop with a wide array of collectables, postcards, posters, books and smaller items like pencils, pens, rubbers, notepads etc.Just as you thought you were home and dry. A magnet for the kids (well the children in all of us)! I always stop off here to look for items I feel might be useful downstairs on 'Thoraldby'. Those of us with bulging wallets or healthy bank accounts need not fear here, but I warn you, let your kinds off the leash in here and you'll be sore-tried to get them out again. The NRM on this site (the former 50A, York Shed) was opened in 1975 by Prince Philip to coincide with the Shildon 150 Pageant, the inauguration of the S&DR. The previous, cramped site was next to the 1877 Thomas Prosser-designed York Station, with access for pedestrians by was of metal steps from the incline on the way from Micklegate. I remember visiting in October 1971 when I went to York on honeymoon with my first wife Karin.

What did I say about Britain being a big museum? It's fun, though, isn't it. It gets better! Travelling north of here, up the A1 and westward across the north of Chester-le-Street on the A693 to Beamish. What's so special about Beamish you ask? This is the open air museum with laid-out streets, trams, a store with pulleyways to transfer change to the counters, where you pay in pennies.

All right, what's so big about spending a penny, I hear you ask (go on then, ask)? Have you seen the size of pre-decimalisation pennies? Come to think of it, all pre-decimalisation coins were 'chunky'. Florins (two-shilling pieces, also known as 'Two Bob bits' now worth 10p), Half-crowns, (two shillings and six pence, 12.5p, or 'Two-and-a-kick'), Shillings (or 'Bobs', 5p now) and so on down to farthings with the image of a wren on the reverse side. The 'Thruppeny bit' had an interesting shape, with twelve sides dated from the early 20th Century. In Victorian times it was nickel silver.

Getting off coins, nose around the streets. There are several different locations reflecting different eras from Victorian times to later. There is a Sunderland trolleybus that dates back to the 1950s, still running probably until the 1970s when the trolleybus routes in the North-east were broadly withdrawn and replaced by diesel engined buses. You can dress up if you're that way minded, in Victorian garb. The kids enjoy the Victorian schoolroom - they didn't have to go to school in Victorian times, when teachers could cane a pupil for minor 'offences', and 'teacher's pet' would be promoted to ink monitor or whatever - where they go through the motions of learning the Alphabet by rote. You can buy old pre-decimalisation coins to use in the shops (harking back to money, it's never far from our thoughts).

Admission prices and other information on activities and events are available from www.beamish.org.uk, phone 0191 370 4000. A ticket entitles you to visit more than once over twelve months, concessionary prices applicable for the over-60's, students and under-16's. It needn't be just a once-in-a-lifetime's experience unless your visits are limited by distance (different continent/country outside the UK).

Relive the 20's,30's and 40's through a collection of the railway posters, see 'the Big Four', Britain's railway companies' networks the way famous poster artists 'sold' them to the travelling public, business and industry

Beamish Open air Museum

A markerRegional Resource Centre, Beamish, Durham, DH9 0RG -
Beamish Museum, Regional Resource Centre, Beamish, Durham DH9 0RG, UK
[get directions]

Beamish Open Air Museum, walk into Victorian, Edwardian & wartime northern England - trams, trolley buses; handle pre-1971 coins, hop on a bus, sh

Beamish shop interior
Beamish shop interior | Source
Beamish double-decker tram
Beamish double-decker tram | Source
Barry Miller shot of a period single-decker omnibus
Barry Miller shot of a period single-decker omnibus | Source
North Eastern Railway Wilson Worsdell Class H 0-4-0 at Beamish as Class Y7 985 in LNER livery
North Eastern Railway Wilson Worsdell Class H 0-4-0 at Beamish as Class Y7 985 in LNER livery | Source
Wallis Advance steam powered road roller
Wallis Advance steam powered road roller | Source
Beamish street scene with early double-decker 'knife-board' bus passing a double-decker tram. Double-decker trams were still fairly common on Britain's city and town streets until the 1950s
Beamish street scene with early double-decker 'knife-board' bus passing a double-decker tram. Double-decker trams were still fairly common on Britain's city and town streets until the 1950s | Source

A must for railway history enthusiasts - visit Shildon, the railway town that grew around Timothy Hackworth's 'Soho' Works, the Stockton & Darlington Railway features along the way to the modern 'Locomotion' exhibition hall that houses much of what you might not see at the NRM, York.

See 'Locomotion' and then take a walk or brake van ride to Timothy Hackworth's Soho Works where he produced locomotives and rolling stock for the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR), see where goods were handled, wagons built, where Timothy Hackworth and his family lived close by. See Timothy Hackworth's original 'Sans Pareil', the engine that lost to Stephenson's 'Rocket' at the Rainhill Trials near Liverpool.

Age of Steam at 'Locomotion'

In 1892 Wilson Worsdell introduced his North Eastern Railway Class M1. Locomotive No. 1621 is seen here in all her finery, Darlington apple green livery with gold sizing on the cabside numbers
In 1892 Wilson Worsdell introduced his North Eastern Railway Class M1. Locomotive No. 1621 is seen here in all her finery, Darlington apple green livery with gold sizing on the cabside numbers | Source

Locomotion Shildon

A markerShildon, County Durham, DL4 2RE -
Shildon, Shildon, County Durham DL4 2RE, UK
[get directions]

Guide to the railway museum at Shildon, including Timothy Hackworth's Soho Works

Alternatives to Steam at Locomotion, Shildon

Prototype blue 'Deltic' diesel, 'Alycidon' with speed whiskers poses on the floor of the museum adjacent to 'Green Arrow'
Prototype blue 'Deltic' diesel, 'Alycidon' with speed whiskers poses on the floor of the museum adjacent to 'Green Arrow' | Source
Southern Railway third rail electric shunting locomotive from the Waterloo & City line (now part of London Underground)
Southern Railway third rail electric shunting locomotive from the Waterloo & City line (now part of London Underground) | Source
Wilson Worsdell's electric shunting locomotive with pantographs to pick up from overhead wires and 'shoes' for third rail. Two were built and used on the Redheugh Incline at Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Wilson Worsdell's electric shunting locomotive with pantographs to pick up from overhead wires and 'shoes' for third rail. Two were built and used on the Redheugh Incline at Newcastle-upon-Tyne | Source
Whickham Gangers Trolley, used by track maintenance gangs to cover several miles of rails - speed was restricted to 20-30 mph with a two stroke engine similar to motorcycle motors
Whickham Gangers Trolley, used by track maintenance gangs to cover several miles of rails - speed was restricted to 20-30 mph with a two stroke engine similar to motorcycle motors | Source

'Head of Steam'

The original North Road station of the Stockton & Darlington Railway was to the right of the Durham Turnpike, across the road from the present site. This building was opened not long after, the first purpose-built railway station in Darlington. There is history, ghosts dwell here, and Robert Stephenson's 'Locomotion No.1' as well as early S&DR passenger and mineral rolling stock - this station is steeped in history.

On weekends across the way there are the workshops of the A1 Locomotive Trust and the North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group - whose other workshop is at Grosmont on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway - always worth a look for new developments.

Use the web link above to check opening hours. Stop off at the Cafe; coffee is also available in the entrance lobby if you're 'on the go'. One Saturday every month there's access to the NELPG and A1 Locomotive workshop across the road, where soon a new locomotive is to take shape. The Gresley P2 2-8-2 class used to perform north of the border on heavily loaded passenger workings.

The Old Timers, pioneers of the iron road at North Road, Darlington

Star attraction at 'Head of Steam', Darlington, the Grand-daddy of them all, S&DR 'Locomotion' hauled the inauguration train on 25th September, 1825
Star attraction at 'Head of Steam', Darlington, the Grand-daddy of them all, S&DR 'Locomotion' hauled the inauguration train on 25th September, 1825 | Source
Later S&DR locomotive 'Derwent' stands in front of NER Tennant Class 1463. This engine graced a plinth at nearby Bank Top Station with 'Locomotion' close by at the end of the south-facing bay platforms
Later S&DR locomotive 'Derwent' stands in front of NER Tennant Class 1463. This engine graced a plinth at nearby Bank Top Station with 'Locomotion' close by at the end of the south-facing bay platforms | Source
A section of the S&DR model railway at the back of the museum - the model 'reaches' from Shildon Colliery in the west to Stockton Quayside in the east
A section of the S&DR model railway at the back of the museum - the model 'reaches' from Shildon Colliery in the west to Stockton Quayside in the east | Source
Owned by the NRM, recently in the care of NELPG, this is the last NER-built T3 0-8-0.  Re-classified by LNER as Q7, BR changed nothing but the livery. Last of the class, no. 901 built in 1919. Earlier Class Q6 outlasted them in service by five years
Owned by the NRM, recently in the care of NELPG, this is the last NER-built T3 0-8-0. Re-classified by LNER as Q7, BR changed nothing but the livery. Last of the class, no. 901 built in 1919. Earlier Class Q6 outlasted them in service by five years | Source
 Driver's eye-view of the way ahead. The front aspect was a split window with adjustable glass panels for extra ventilation.
Driver's eye-view of the way ahead. The front aspect was a split window with adjustable glass panels for extra ventilation. | Source
The fireman's domain: the fire door where the shiny black stuff went in by the shovel-full. These were hungry, heavy freight engines at one time diagrammed to take the 50-ton ironstone wagons from Tyne Dock to Consett via Beamish
The fireman's domain: the fire door where the shiny black stuff went in by the shovel-full. These were hungry, heavy freight engines at one time diagrammed to take the 50-ton ironstone wagons from Tyne Dock to Consett via Beamish | Source

Head of Steam Railway Museum, North Road, Darlington, County Durham

A markerNorth Road, Darlington, DL3 6ST -
North Rd, Darlington, Darlington DL3, UK
[get directions]

Head of Steam, North Road, accessible from North Road Station, a stop away from Bank Top Station, East Coast Main Line; A1(M) within three miles north

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Comments 5 comments

UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Another nice hub, alancaster. I think a lot of Americans love the history and the countryside-- and the "authenticity" of the old places. Sure, there are reconstructions, especially in some castles, but when you figure the reconstructions happened hundreds of years ago, well, that's historic in its own right.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Thanks Unnamed Harald. Much 'restructuring' is down to Henry VIII and Oliver Cromwell, but there are a lot of neglected buildings here as well. Beamish consists of buildings dismantled elsewhere and rebuilt with the last couple of decades, no more. There's a talent in 'planting' buildings to make them look as if they 'belong'. The NRM is a case of 'marrying' old, not so old and relatively new.


thranax profile image

thranax 4 years ago from Rep Boston MA

Alancaster - wonderful hub! Plenty of pictures and details of a place I never really see the history of here in the US.

~thranax~


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi alan, I think that we do love the history and play on it for the tourists, but behind the scenes we haven't lost our skills, we just don't do them 'out there' any more. I think we have the best scientists, techno's and doctors, along with the phycicists and so on. We invented the internet, we are behind most of the buildings around the world, ever watch The worlds greatest buildings? on tv I think its on Quest, we go to the middle of the deserts and make a huge pyramid with moving walls for conferences! haha! everywhere there is construction, there is a brit. It never fails to amaze me how we are always the ones in charge even in countries where I have never even heard of! Did you see the building of the new inland river in one of the Arab countries? No? we did that too! you have got to watch Quest! haha! the funny thing was about the river one, was that when it was finished with all this hi tech stuff, the Sheik turned around and said thanks to the other arabs but forgot to mention us! We did it all! and thats the point, we do all the highly intelligent genius stuff, but then stand back and be modest, but believe me, we are the best! let me know if you watch them, they are amazing!


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Hello again Nell!

Trouble is, we often get taken for granted. We've built half the world's railways and bridges as well. Again, trouble is they're taken for granted. Robert Stephenson (son of 'Geordie' George) built railways and bridges not only in North and South America but also in Europe, around the Alps - not a lot of people know that. Some of the best examples of British engineering are a long way away, but at least we can get to Beamish and York etc.

Hello also 'thranax', welcome to the 'museum islands'. You also have a lot in the US., maybe it's not effectively collected together for viewing.

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