Beamish Museum’s new Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle is now in service!
After seven years of restoration work, Crosville 716 is now fully operational at the museum.
The 1933 Leyland Cub bus has been specially adapted with a lift fitted on the back so Beamish visitors with access needs can be transported around the museum on a vintage bus.
The bus will share this work with the existing Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV), and means this important service can continue when repairs to either vehicle are being carried out.
Paul Jarman, Assistant Director – Design, Transport and Industry, said: “The seven-year restoration of Crosville 716 has not been without its challenges, but the initial work carried out by Historic Vehicle Restoration and the concluding work by Gardiners Coach Repairs, has produced a tremendous result. It is now, with some relief, the time to hand the bus over to the operating department for our visitors to enjoy and which will make our Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle operation more resilient – as for the first time since the first bus was completed in 2007, we have a spare!
“I am also very pleased that we have been able to restore an interesting vehicle, in a striking livery and which in all honesty probably had little realistic prospect of being restored. The initial phase of the project was supported by the DCMS Wolfson fund, with a grant of £120,000 towards improving access to the museum, and we must record their support in those early stages of this ambitious project, their support was vital in enabling the project to go ahead.
“Seeing 716 in service, and enabling visitors to more fully access the museum site, is hugely gratifying for us all, and serves as a reminder that we have another similar bus, waiting in the wings for its restoration as a WAV, to come!”
Crosville 716 entered service for the first time in July and the first Beamish visitors to travel on the vehicle received a Beamish hamper from our Transport Team to mark the occasion.
Dr Linda Garbutt, Chair of the Beamish Access Advisory Panel, said: “The new Wheelchair Accessible Bus will provide visitors with the option of an independent visit to the museum, knowing that they will be able to enjoy many of the attractions.
“Wheelchair access to many areas of the museum has always been a priority. Keeping this service up to date is important to individual users as well as to Beamish, ensuring the site is accessible to as many visitors as possible.”
When asked about the Beamish Access Advisory Panel, Linda said: “Our role is to work closely with museum staff. The panel has been involved in many aspects of Beamish, from initial planning stages to assessing new buildings/areas before the public visits them.
“The role of the Access Advisory Panel also includes monitoring existing provisions, from access vehicles to the correct placing of a dropped kerb. At the same time, we are aware of the balance between access and authenticity.
“The panel has members with a wide range of disabilities, which enables us to offer advice on issues such as mobility, sight, hearing as well as that of mental health.”
Linda added: “Beamish has always paid attention to enabling everyone to be able to visit and enjoy the museum. It follows from this that it is essential to consult with an Access Advisory Panel who can offer information and advice based on their own experience of both disability and the museum so that it is inclusive.”
Be sure to keep an eye out for 716 on your next visit to the museum!
A Brief History of Crossville 716
Notes by Paul Jarman
- Crosville 716 (registration FM 7443) was supplied new to Crosville, a company which had its origins in Chester in 1906. In 1928 the Railways (Road Transport) Act gave the Big Four railway companies the chance to develop bus services. Rather than start from scratch, they exerted their power to buy into, or buy out, existing bus operators. In February 1929 the London, Midland and Scottish (LMS) Railway purchased Crosville for £400,000.
- Further mergers and reorganisation of holdings resulted in the merger of LMS (Crosville) with the famous Royal Blue of Llandudno and was renamed “Crosville Motor Services Ltd”. The LMS association was apparent in the new livery carried by the buses, based on the railway coach livery then in use by the LMS and made up of a deep maroon with gold lining. It is this scheme that 716 wore when new, and carries once again.
- 716 was delivered to Crosville in early 1933 and was renumbered N33 in 1935. It is thought to have been withdrawn from passenger service in around 1950, being converted for use as a mobile enquiry office for Crosville excursions.
- In 1960 it was sold to a builder in Prestatyn, Wales, where it was to serve another decade as a site office. In between these dates it was fitted with a later design of radiator, of a deeper profile, and one which quite markedly changed the appearance of the front end of the bus. Later on it was saved for preservation by renowned bus preservationist Tom Hollis, moving to his yard in Queensferry, Wales, before again passing on to David Moores, who placed it into storage in a barn in Daresbury, Cheshire, where it remained until June 2014 when it was purchased by Beamish for restoration and adaptation.
- In 2007 a new wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) entered service at Beamish Museum, where it has been in constant use ever since, covering tens of thousands of miles and assisting hundreds of thousands of visitors during their visits to the museum.
- In 2013 the lack of a spare WAV was becoming an operational challenge. The DCMS Wolfson grant awards scheme was approached and they agreed to fund a new WAV for the museum.
- By July 2014, the bus had been moved to the workshop of Seb Marshall of Historic Vehicle Restoration (HVR) and a programme of dismantling and restoration commenced. The work that lay ahead was literally a nut and bolt restoration, with the remains of the bus being completely dismantled.
- At an early stage of work, a spare Cub engine was obtained and, being found to be in better condition, was substituted for that latterly fitted to 716.
- The HVR team also commenced construction of a replica body, retaining any items from the original that could be salvaged. A historic and morale-boosting moment came in May 2015 when the engine was started and 716, albeit in skeletal form, was driven around HVR’s car park for the first time.
- Carrying out a restoration as thorough as this one had inevitably become more expensive than was originally anticipated, and so, in the summer of 2016, work was paused as it was clear further funding would be needed for the project. The bus was placed into storage at Beamish whilst the next steps were explored.
- In July 2018, with funding in place to complete the project, 716 moved to a company local to Beamish, Gardiners of Spennymoor. Work recommenced in October 2019. The largely complete coachwork was finished, including the adaptations to the rear of the bus to accommodate double doors and a powered lift, for passengers in wheelchairs to board the saloon. The bus was also wired, painted and assembled during this phase, many components having been previously restored and placed into store.
- The first rollout took place in October 2020, with the external work on the bus complete and with only a few remaining jobs to finish.
- The various national lockdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic delayed the final completion of work on 716, however it was finally complete and ready for testing in May 2021.
- Crosville 716 entered passenger service in July 2021. It stands as a testament to a number of talented craftspeople and engineers, looking glorious in its 1930s crimson livery and ready and able to assist visitors around the museum site for many years to come.