“ Steam Railway Line. Bowes Railway, Springwell Village, Gateshead, Tyne & Wear NE9 7QJ. Tel: +44 (0)191 416 1847. „
Beamish is an open-air museum and situated near County Durham in The North of England, it is dedicated to the life and times of the 1800’s. Here you will find everything you need for a brilliant family day out, in fact you need a long day to actually give credit to Beamish. Prices are quite high but a family ticket can save you money its around £24 for 2 children and Two adults. Once you have paid though there is no real need to spend a lot more, I do however recommend you buy a guide book at £2 or else you will be struggling! Once through the gates you will see the Tram platforms, now these are there for a reason, the whole of Beamish is so vast that, although you could walk it, the trams make it a lot more enjoyable to get from place to place. These come along at intervals of every 15-20 minutes so you never need to wait too long. First stop doesn’t involve a tram and is the children’s farm and village area, pigs, goats and a bird enclosure are amongst the sights, plus a line of cottages that you can actually look round, in these people dress in period costume and carry on as if they are really living in these houses, either knitting, sewing or even baking bread which bakes over an open fire. Next you will need to hop onto the tram to go to the Drift mine, this was once a real worked mine and various pieces of equipment and a tower are on view. But the fun doesn’t stop there! oh no, you are actually allowed to go down the mine if you so wish…….er not me, but unfortunately a whining 8 year olds dream is to go down a coal mine!!. So we queue for 30 minutes then are presented with a badly fitting hard hat, and off we go with our guide, Now I am not really sure what I was expecting a coal mine to be like, however it certainly was the real thing!!, no lights , pitch black wet and very narrow. There wasn’t even enough room to stand up and you sort of had to walk d
oubled up!!, certain parts got narrower and narrower and I started feeling pretty claustrophobic and panicky, all I can say is I was very pleased to see daylight again. However it did make you think how awful it must have been to be working in such dismal conditions. Right out of the mine thank god and back onto the tram, next stop the PockleyManor, here a perfectly made manor house complete with peacocks and fancy trimmings, a complete replica of it’s 1820 status. Further along the miner’s cottages, these are the poor persons homes and little comforts here just the basic necessities. Across the road the Board School, this permits you to sample a quick game of hopscotch or a little skipping before you enter the classroom. Just to get you in the mood, a stern looking teacher wielding a cane greets you, once seated at your desk you undergo various sums that you chalk down the answers onto your own board. Next stop the main street, Beamish’s equivalent to Oxford Street, This area being one of the larger ones at Beamish. Houses here include doctors, solicitors and a dentists…ewww, believe me if you are as scared of dentists as I am then looking at the tools they used to use will not make you feel too good at all!. Here again in all these walk round houses, people re-act the normal daily routine to make them even more realistic. To the shops I think after that!, Jubilee confectionary is the sweet shop, shelves and shelves of old fashioned sweets and jams etc here, although most are not for sale you can buy certain ones that are actually made in the shop if you fancy a souvenir to take home with you. The grocery store has all the old tins and packets; all beautifully preserved and even accurately priced for the day there were sold. Next Door the bank, this was excellent and had even realistic cashiers behind the counter who will write your child a Beam
ish cheque with a real quilled ink pen, this my son really liked and though he was rich, as they ask the name and how much you would like! Thirsty work…well next door the pub, again Olde Worlde of course, complete with sawdust floor and basic seating, however the good thing here was real beer and larger, but unfortunately not at the old prices!. After that a stroll in the park?, this area also contains some old children’s rides, such as merry go rounds and see saws, and again the park is very well maintained with even a small bandstand. The only modern thing you will find at Beamish is the café, and as it is the only one it gets very busy indeed at lunch and teatimes. The food here wasn’t bad, but then again I wouldn’t recommend it either!, Even here there is another opportunity to part with money in the form of a Victorian photographer, who for £10 at the least will dress you and your party up and give you a photo to remember!. I cannot stress how huge Beamish is or how time consuming it is queuing for viewing houses or whatever. Even here there is another opportunity to part with money in the form of a Victorian photographer, who for £10 at the least will dress you and your party up and give you a photo to remember!. I cannot stress how huge Beamish is or how time consuming it is queuing for viewing houses or whatever. You really need as long here as you can possibly manage and it doesn’t actually close till 6pm. It is a fascinating view into days gone by and couldn’t be more realistic, the buildings are actually real, and even the cobbles and the old signs on the street walls all add to the attraction. I highly recommend it to any family for that just a little different day out.
Bowes Railway is situated at Springwell Village, which is located between the A1 and theA194M near Gateshead, just south of Newcastle. After leaving the A1 there are plenty of signs to the village and the railway, but be prepared to travel back in time as you enter the car park. From the moment you arrive you feel that you have travelled back in time by at least 50 years. The whole set up and pace of life at this railway is so laid back that you soon become part of the very relaxed atmosphere that surrounds you. The first building is a combined tea room, souvenir shop and ticket office. We bought our tickets and asked when the steam train would be leaving. A gentleman sat at one of the tables looked up and said, “just tell me when you are ready”. Yes, he was the engine driver. You can wander all around the engine sheds and the other buildings, which include an exhibition/museum all about the history of the site and the railway. The vast majority of the steam engines and wagons are from the mining industry as these train lines were originally used to take coal from the local collieries to the River Tyne at Jarrow. When you take the train trip you have a terrific uphill ride from the museum centre to Blackham’s Hill in traditional brake vans hauled by immaculate saddle tank steam locos. At Blackham’s Hill you get off the train and walk about 400 yards to see the two working inclines. Inclines were built to take coal wagons over a hill, without using a locomotive. A large engine (originally steam and later electric) hauled the wagons up the hill and then lowered them down the other side. But this was not a gentle operation, as the ropes hauling the trucks did not stop and were continually hauling and lowering trucks all the time, so working here was furious and often dangerous. The staff from the centre spend a long time explaining the whole process and show how the workers of the day risked life a
nd limb to keep the wagons rolling. Their enthusiasm brings alive the area and you can picture how the whole process used to work. This is apparently the only preserved pair of inclines, on a standard gauge rail line still in operation. There are only certain days of the year that the inclines are in operation and you would need to ring first (0191 416 1847) to check when these days are or look it up on their web site: http://www.bowesrailway.co.uk The cost of a visit, with unlimited steam train rides, is £1 for adults and 50p for children. There is also free car parking. This is not a dear day out! If you enjoy steam trains or are interested in the coal industry of this area then spend a few hours visiting the Bowes Railway, it is a very pleasant visit. As well as the train ride there is plenty to see and the staff are so friendly that you feel you want to sign up and join the team. Because of my enthusiasm about the place my family bought me a small lapel badge saying “Engine Driver”. It must be that dream we all had as small boys, to be a steam train driver.