The main word that springs to mind with this museum is vitality. Its alive with its own population of staff, dressed in period costumes, and the transport system is a delight. Its a circular track of just under 2 miles and the trams are authentic and I for one would visit this place just to look at the trams. The tram system provides the access to the numerous places on the circular route. Each has its own flavour, and individual delight. There is the town, with a railway station, which is permanently in 1913. A well chosen year, prior to the horrific world war. The staff make it really quite special. They are very knowledgable, and the atmosphere they create is uncanny. Its so authentic that its almost disturbing to the point where you feel like you are really back in time. There are shops where you can buy things, like authentically made sweets, or bread, and a pub which serves real beer, and much to my delight, pickled eggs. A rare treat, and if you havent had a pickled egg and a pint of real ale then you havent lived.
The drift mine is superb. Its a mine set into the hills which surround Beamish. Inside the mine, its cold, wet, dirty and low head height. This makes it a superb experience as its as authentic as you are going to get without actually being a miner.
The pit village is fascinating. The staff there dress in period costumes, and have real fires, real cats, and almost live the life of a miner in 1913. The school there actually had a class of real pupils being taught there.
There always seems to be something happening. Sometimes its a miner's gala, sometimes its a parade of vintage cars, but its never still.
Beamish is a place to wander around. There is always something fascinating around every corner, be it a pig in sty or a shed full of old horse carriages (and they arent for show either, the horses there arent for show. They work there too.) Or a fish and chip shop, which serves chips as they should be, cooked in beef lard. Not for the vegetarians I suppose, but again authentic.
The only thing that is not old is the toilet and disabled facilities. Considering the size of the place, there is no mess, no litter, and the toilets are spotlessly clean, and there are plenty of them, at each place on the map.
The attitude of the staff is worth a mention. They are as interactive as the museum is lively. They just dont stand there and wait, they will talk to you, ask if you are having a good day, and are delighted if you ask questions about the trams, or the dentist, or the care of the animals, or anything. I spent a good half an hour on a wet March afternoon talking to the tram drivers.
I have a ticket which allows me access for a year, and it was not horrifically expensive either, so its superb value. Its good because you cannot possibly experience everything this museum has to offer in one day. I have visited it about 5 times and I still find something new.
They do packages such as learning to drive a train, or a tram, or even to make Edwardian food! I would love to do the full day of learning to drive a tram, but at £175 per day its a bit beyond my pocket, but as a gift, I cannot image anything better.
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