From Beamish's Great North Steam Fair to the Big Screen

April 12th 2019

A regular Beamish exhibitor was contacted by The Walt Disney Company after they were spotted in a promotional video recorded by the museum.

Brothers Peter and David Ingalls’ 1929 Seagrave Pumper Truck features in the recently-released, live-action remake of Dumbo.

The unique engine, which the family bring to Beamish every year for the museum’s Great North Steam Fair, features in one of the movie’s final scenes.

The fire engine, which attended the Great North Steam Fair 2018, featured in the live-action remake of Dumbo

Peter, 64, from Rand, Lincolnshire, said: “Someone from Disney saw a video on Beamish’s YouTube channel that featured the engine and they got in touch to say they were interested in using it for an upcoming film.

“At first I thought it was a wind up. You don’t get phone calls from Disney in Florida!”

Upon realising it was genuine, Peter said: “I was delighted. I thought ‘my fire engine’s going to be in a movie!’”

Peter’s wife Jane, 61, added: “We couldn’t believe it. We were contacted in August 2017, and filming started in the October. We were asked to go down to Cardington Studios in Bedford. We were there for two weeks of filming. It was a huge production, the chance of a lifetime.”

Peter said: “Every day we got security bracelets and they said we could go anywhere. We watched Danny DeVito and Colin Farrell on set. It was actually like Beamish. The actors were just walking through set, passing us and saying hello. After two weeks we got friendly with everyone, they were all really lovely people.

“We were told it took nine months to build the three sets for the movie. In one, which was 170ft high, they built a whole theme park. There were roller coasters, a big top marquee, everything that would be in a theme park. In another, they built the side of a ship!”

Peter added: “They’d also set up a huge marquee, which was for wardrobe, make-up and hair. Every morning, 750 extras got off a coach and went in one side of the marquee and came out the other ready for filming.”

Jane said: “What a privilege to have been involved, it’s something we might not ever do again, and it’s all thanks to Beamish’s video.”

Jane and Peter said everything was top secret, “everyone involved had to put their phones in secure place during filming, and we weren’t allowed to say anything to anyone until the film was released in the UK on 29th March this year,” said Jane.

Peter said: “Once the family found out, they were all very excited. The kids haven’t seen the film yet, but we have. It felt very strange to see our engine on the big screen.”

Peter and Jane have five grandkids – Henry, 9, Daisy, 5, Frank, 6, and twins Charlie and George, 2 – and, despite the Seagrave’s new found fame, the family are still very keen to keep coming along to Beamish for the Great North Steam Fair.

Jane said: “We love coming to Beamish. This event is a highlight for all the family. We’re always made to feel very welcome and it’s always very enjoyable. The kids love Beamish that much that, when they don’t behave, we actually tell them they won’t be able to go along to the museum the next time – this sharp changes their behaviour!”

Peter said: “Nothing compares to Beamish’s steam fair, it’s beautiful. To hold a steam fair in this setting, it’s like stepping back in time to Edwardian England. It really brings history to life.

“It also draws a different crowd to the usual steam fairs around the country, people come to this event who have never seen a steam engine before, so it’s really good for the younger generation to see what times used to be like.”

Manufactured in 1929 by Seagrave Fire Apparatus company, Ohio, USA, the pumper truck was delivered new to Cleveland fire department where it served until 1959, finishing service in the reserves brigade.

Peter said: “After being abandoned for many years, we believe the Seagrave was sold to a dealer in the UK, we think in the eighties. It changed hands a few times in a dismantled state.

“A Grantham businessman inherited it from his late father, who had assembled and painted it.”

Peter and his brother David, 70, actually stumbled across the fire engine by accident one day in 2004 when they went to see a vintage bus for sale, and bought it from the businessman. Since then, they have taken good care of the engine. When asked why he does it, Peter said: “I just love doing the work and job satisfaction, and to be able to bring it to places like this, it makes it all worth it.”

The brothers and now own over 100 historic vehicles, ranging from fire engines and steam engines to classic cars, buses and vintage farm equipment.

Peter and his family have brought along other impressive vehicles for previous Great North Steam Fairs, including a 1928 Lincoln car, the only one of its kind in the UK, and a Ruston general purpose traction engine.

The family also attended the Christmas Launch Parade, in fact, it was Peter who made Father Christmas’ impressive sleigh last year.