All aboard!

Transport will be a key theme up and down the country during Heritage Open Days. From Merseyside Transport Trust’s classic bus rides to Newcastle’s Victoria Tunnel tours, or a walk along the old Scarborough to Whitby railway in North Yorkshire to a talk about airships on the Humber Estuary in Hull – our rich transport heritage will be explored at various locations.

© Electric Railway Museum - Electric Railway Museum

The history of transport is crucial in understanding the technological, social and economic developments that have shaped the country we live in today, and continues to fascinate old and young alike. Who can resist the romance of a steam engine in action or the majesty of a WWII airplane flying overhead?

Electric Railway Museum in Coventry

Close to my heart this year will be Electric Railway Museum, Coventry, where I work as a volunteer. Electric Railway Museum aims to promote the heritage of all electric trains in the UK through traction and rolling stock restoration, display and operation along with work in gathering historically relevant technical and photographic archives.

From high-speed rail travel (such as the Channel Tunnel) to underground railways and commuter travel, electric railways continue to be important in our lives today and the Electric Railway Museum aims to preserve what has come before. The work of the museum is entirely run by volunteers and funded by donations from the public. The Open Weekend will provide an opportunity also for you to meet the team behind Electric Railway Museum and learn more about future plans.

2011 marks the first time the Baginton site has open its door for visitors as part of  Heritage Open Days. On display will be an extensive array of electric locomotives and multiple units, including the Clacton Class 309s, the Wirral Class 503 and the ever-popular 2-EPB unit complete with street art livery by Warwickshire-based artist Rumah, which depicts the history of electric railways.

Visitors will get the chance to see trains in action too, as both the Spondon No. 1 and MAZDA locomotives will be performing shunting duties across the site. During the weekend, members of the public will be able to climb aboard the Class 503 and one of the Class 309s, complete with the museum display (Museum 309) and café, serving hot and cold beverages, snacks and light bites.

New acquisitions will be proudly displayed during the train-tastic weekend, including British Railways Classes 307 and 308, as well as the power car for the record-breaking Advanced Passenger Train Prototype (APT-P), on loan from the National Railway Museum.

Also, volunteers at the site have been painstakingly landscaping and painting their LNWR station building. Originally part of Welford & Kilworth station in Leicestershire, it now survives as one of the most complete examples of a LNWR waiting shelter in existence. 

Electric Railway Museum will be open on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 September from 11am – 5 pm both days. In addition, Coventry City Council and Coventry Transport Museum have arranged a free bus service to bring visitors from the city centre to Electric Railway Museum.

Chairman of Electric Railway Museum, Graeme Gleaves said: 

"The Electric Railway Museum is delighted to be able to participate in Heritage Open Days. This is an important event not just for Coventry and the surrounding area but nationally, with the whole population given the chance to explore our nations’ fine heritage free of charge!

"We really hope that many people take up the opportunity to come and view our unique collection. I'm sure there will be more than a few that will recognise something from their own past that used to take them to work or school and that they thought was long gone, but thankfully survives with us in Baginton. That is what we are all about."

Aston Manor Road Transport Museum in Birmingham

Certainly, Heritage Open Days offers a perfect platform to promote places that are struggling for exposure, visitors and, indeed, finances. This is the case with the wonderful Aston Manor Road Transport Museum, which is also offering an exciting programme during the weekend of 10 and 11 September. The museum houses a collection of historic road vehicles and related exhibits that bring back memories of a bygone era, all featured in the original setting of a Birmingham Tram Depot.

Recent funding cuts mean the museum is under serious threat of closure and any support given to them during this time, especially during Heritage Open Days, will be extremely welcome. I'm sure this isn't the only venue facing such a future in these troubled times, but we have to ensure these places are preserved for future generations, as they offer a window into our shared history. They represent the dedication of staff and volunteers, who work painstakingly to ensure what has come before us can be remembered and cherished in the future. Even by simply visiting one of these places during Heritage Open Days, you are highlighting the need for struggling venues to be kept open for the public, alongside our greater understanding of people and objects that have preceeded us.

For more information about Electric Railway Museum, visit www.electricrailwaymuseum.co.uk or www.facebook.com/electricrailwaymuseum. For more details of the free bus route and times, visit www.coventry.gov.uk/hod. If you are arriving by car, free on-site car parking will be available during the Open Weekend.

For Heritage Open Days Aston Manor Road Transport Museum will be open free of charge

Also, watch out for vintage car displays organised by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs at many Heritage Open Days properties this year! For a list of places hosting these special displays, please contact the Heritage Open Days team.