Did you know that England’s only cog railway is at Beamish? And visitors can have a go on the unique 7¼ inch gauge track during special events?
Located next to the museum’s Regional Resource Centre, the Beamish Cog Railway now operates on more dates throughout the year and offers rides for passengers.
The miniature railway was built and is operated by the Beamish Model Engineering Group (BMEG), who are excited that more visitors will have the chance to enjoy this special exhibit.
Steve Lowe, Lead Operations Officer of the group, said: “We are working closely with the museum to improve and enhance the customer experience of the railway and to make it a fully integrated part of the Beamish experience.”
Steve, 61, from Low Fell, Gateshead, added: “The line is very important within the context of the model engineering fraternity because of its unique existence and as a venue for builders of these types of locomotives to test and enjoy them under real rack conditions.
“Beamish Museum is clearly unique in having this resource as part of the attractions and it is very much a talking point for visitors who understand the significance of its existence.”
A cog railway, also known as a rack railway, is a steep grade track with a toothed rack rail, usually between the running rails.
The trains are fitted with one or more cog wheels or pinions that mesh with this rack rail.
Steve was previously a Driver Manager of Virgin Trains East Coast and a mainline railway driver for nearly 42 years. He said: “Ken Swan was the mastermind behind the Beamish Cog Railway. The track was built to have somewhere to run the rack locomotive, Koppel, that he was building. It was based on a full size Orrenstein and Koppel locomotive.”
Initially BMEG, which was set up by Ken in the early 1990s, was closely associated with the Friends of Beamish but has been a separate group within the Beamish volunteers for several years now.
Members have built everything from the locomotives and rails to buildings and bridges, and ages range from 13 to 90 years old!
Steve added that, although the railway is a fun experience for visitors, there’s something more to it than that. “We are focusing on engaging with the public and fostering the interest in the engineering skills that are central to building and running the models that we operate.
“We have a very active younger membership who are key to the continuation of the hobby and who are also important to the constant development and improvement.”
Sam Wake, 19, from Sunderland, has volunteered with the group for nine years. He said: “I am a steam engine driver on the cog railway. I love it. Working on such a unique railway is certainly different from volunteering on any other railway.”
Sam, a Machinist Apprentice at a firm in Sunderland, added: “I’ve learnt machining skills and, because of BMEG, I wanted a job in engineering. At the same time I’ve learnt how to drive and maintain steam locos in this gauge. So much so, I’ve recently bought my very own steam engine for use at Beamish!
“We are currently trying to promote our running days through social media. Please give our new
Facebook page a like. It really does help in getting the word out there! Simply search Beamish Cog Railway on Facebook to find us.”
The railway will run on selected days throughout the year and visitors will need to pay a small charge to have a go. Sam said: “Recently the railway has got to the stage where fare paying passengers can be carried and the money is ploughed back into the railway and its upkeep.”
Please visit the What’s On section of our website for information on the Cog Railway’s operating days: http://www.beamish.org.uk/whats-on/.