Preserving the past: The Treasures of Beamish

Mark Smithers visits Beamish Museum, one of the North East’s leading regional heritage attractions, featuring several unique railway exhibits.

IN THE January 2016 issue of The Railway Magazine, my feature looked in detail at the Tanfield Railway and its important collection of industrial locomotives, many of which have a strong connection with the north-east of England.

The industrial heritage portrayed by the Beamish Museum is typified by Lewin 0-4-0ST No. 18, which dates from 1877, and is seen working chaldron wagons near the colliery screens on March 19, 2015. ROBIN STEWART-SMITH

Indeed, Marley Hill Shed, now part of the Tanfield Railway, was originally acquired by Beamish Museum as a store for its own railway items. It is therefore important to complete the picture and look at the railway attractions at Beamish Museum.

Unlike the Tanfield system, which is a railway preservation venue pure and simple, the railways at Beamish Museum are part of a much larger and more generally focused entity.

The history of Beamish Museum goes back to 1958 when the then director of Bowes Museum, the late Dr Frank Atkinson, prepared a report for Durham County Council urging the establishment of an open-air museum utilising a collection of everyday artefacts of disappearing local industries and communities. The intention was to create a ‘living history’ of ordinary life from the region.

Following the establishment of a working party some eight years later, Beamish Hall and its surrounding area – previously in National Coal Board ownership – was selected as the site for the venture, and after the staging of an introductory exhibition in Beamish Hall in 1971, the new museum was opened to the public during 1972.

Read more in the May issue of The RM – on sale now!



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