Happy 150th Birthday Coffee Pot No.1!

April 30th 2021

One of the world’s oldest working railway steam locomotives, Beamish Museum’s Coffee Pot No. 1, is celebrating its 150th birthday.

Coffee Pot was built in 1871 on Teesside by Head Wrightson & Co for Dorking Greystone Lime Company for use at its Betchworth Quarry in Surrey.

To celebrate the locomotive’s amazing 150th anniversary year, visitors to the museum will be able to watch Coffee Pot in action this Saturday, 1st May, on the museum’s 1900s Colliery Railway. Coffee Pot will be joined by four other steam locomotives on the museum’s Colliery and narrow gauge railways during the day. The celebration will be part of our participation in the national online #TwitterSteamRally2 event.

A 1938 photo of Coffee Pot No. 1

A 1938 photo of Coffee Pot No. 1

Coffee Pot, which joined Beamish more than 50 years ago, was built when Queen Victoria was on the throne and still has many of its original components.

Paul Jarman, Assistant Director Design, Transport and Industry, said: “Reaching its 150th anniversary is impressive enough, given the relative obscurity of the locomotive, but to do so in working order is no mean feat, and really does reflect the basically sound design, enduring engineering and simplicity of concept evident in the locomotive.

“We are proud to have such a resilient little machine in our collection – Coffee Pot being one of the oldest railway locomotives in working condition in the world.

“The locomotive is something of an acquired taste to operate, but it is so unusual and distinctive that it attracts attention wherever it operates.

“The survival of a machine built down to a price and intended to be one step up from the use of a horse is fascinating, as so few locomotives from that era, and of that lowly industrial status, have survived today.”

An early photo of Coffee Pot No. 1 from the Beamish archives

An early photo of Coffee Pot No. 1 from the Beamish archives

Coffee Pot, a 0-4-0 vertical-boilered geared locomotive, was supplied by engineer TH Head of London in 1871, and cost £462.9.6. It was ordered in May 1871 and delivered later that year, and it is believed to have last worked at Betchworth in 1949, though some sources indicate an overhaul in 1952.

Coffee Pot returned to Teesside in 1960, after being sold to Head Wrightson to display at its Thornaby works. It was later offered to Beamish Museum’s first Director Frank Atkinson, who was collecting items for the planned open air museum, which was still in development before being founded in 1970.

Coffee Pot was collected in 1969 and stored until it eventually moved to Beamish in 1975. Once at the museum, steps began to return Coffee Pot to steaming condition and it made a number of appearances in action from around 1978.

After an overhaul in 1983-84, when Coffee Pot was returned to 1920s/30s appearance, it was relaunched at Beamish in May 1984 and ran throughout the 1980s.

By 2006, Coffee Pot had been out of use for a number of years, and its most recent restoration began, which included the construction of a new boiler to the original pattern and restoration of other features to take the locomotive back to its original 1871-73 appearance. The newly-restored locomotive was unveiled in March 2010.

Since then, Coffee Pot has been regularly used at events and has visited other railways around the country.

Visitors will be able to see Coffee Pot in action on our Colliery Railway on Saturday, 1st May. Also taking it in turns to run will be Peckett 1370 and No. 18 on the standard gauge railway, and Samson and Glyder on the narrow gauge railway.

Visitors can watch the engines in person at Beamish on Saturday and the museum will also be covering the day digitally as it takes part in the online event #TwitterSteamRally2, a virtual steam rally based on Twitter and Facebook. #TwitterSteamRally2 is an online event created so that the worldwide steam fraternity can show off steam exhibits digitally whilst they are unable to take part in the usual steam events and rallies due to the coronavirus pandemic.

We have opened our outdoor areas only under Step 2 of the government’s COVID 19 roadmap. You can enjoy a stroll through the museum grounds and enjoy takeaway treats, including from Davy’s fish and chip shop, Herron’s Bakery and Jubilee Confectioners. Take a ride on the gallopers at The Fairground, do a spot of Edwardian shopping at The 1900s Town stall and complete the family flower trail around the museum.

Under the Step 2 rules, we cannot yet open our indoor attractions and buildings, or run its transport, with the exception of the wheelchair accessible bus, which will be operating on an on-call basis.

We’ve introduced a range of COVID-19 Secure health and hygiene measures across the museum, including pre-booked timeslot entry tickets, social distancing, enhanced cleaning, hand sanitiser stations, one-way systems and contactless card payments. The museum has been awarded the “We’re Good To Go” standard.

All visitors must book a timeslot entry ticket online in advance, click here to find out more and book your visit.