The Pit Head

The Pit Head

Narrow Gauge Railway

Narrow Gauge Railway

 

Should you consider a trip to a colliery to be rather dour then, rest assured, there is a fine Narrow Gauge Railway to buoy your spirits. The museum depicts the lives of coal mine workers and features original buildings and equipment from the former colliery, including the two headframes, a winding house, other engine houses, a steam winding engine, stables, a building with ventilation equipment, a blacksmith and joiners shop, and the office. Several buildings contain original equipment and mining exhibits, while others have been converted to museum exhibit areas or conference and event facilities. In addition to exhibits about the mine and the life of a miner, the museum features a permanent collection of art created by the Ashington Group. There are also changing exhibits of history, art and science. The new building, 'The Cutter', has been described as 'stunning'. Tony Kettle was inspired by monster coal cutting machines when redeveloping the new building which sits alongside the original colliery buildings. The architecture and the museum contents, through emotive displays, paintings, temporary exhibitions and archive, tell Northumberland's story. Coal Town is Woodhorn's engaging and interactive permanent exhibition. Through the eyes of the Ashington community, you’ll discover the true story of coal mining in Northumberland. You’ll set off in 1918, walking to work at one in the morning. As the decades fly by, you’ll encounter some fascinating folk. They’ll take you into their homes, on picnics, marches and even on strike. You’ll cram into the ‘cage’ like a sardine, experience the joys of washday, learn to love leeks, discover the art of the ‘Proggy’, and what grinding hardship does to people.

 

The original colliery in the village of Woodhorn opened in 1894 and closed in 1981. The Woodhorn Colliery Museum opened in 1989, using the original pit buildings. The pit yard was designated a scheduled ancient monument in 1999. Woodhorn Narrow Gauge Railway is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge railway at Woodhorn in the Queen Elizabeth II Country Park. There are two preserved locomotives. One is a Hunslet Locomotive, which was built in 1975 for work at Vane Tempest colliery in Seaham. The second is a German Schoma locomotive, called Edward Stanton, which was used in the factory where the concrete sections were made for the Channel Tunnel. There are also three carriages called Eddie, Harry and Ken. They and the Schoma are named after original members of the society. The park also features a 40-acre (160,000 m2) lake and hiking and biking trails. A medieval bell at Woodhorn, inscribed "Ave Maria", is said to be one of the oldest in existence. The site of the old pit is now the location for Northumberland Record Office, a purpose-built building having been constructed to replace the two previous buildings at Morpeth and Gosforth. The Northumberland Archives are the best place to research family history or the people of Northumberland. All visitors to Woodhorn will find a visit rewarding with almost all of the buildings open to the public fully accessible: only one or two places in the old colliery buildings are a little more challenging. Visitors are welcome to borrow one of three wheelchairs or a motorised scooter during their visit, and staff are happy to discuss any special requirements in advance of a visit. Please note that the Dark Side guided tours are only suitable for able bodied visitors. There is a Braille map of the museum available at the entrance. Assistance and Guide dogs are welcome. They encourage people to touch most objects that are not cased. In the majority of public buildings on site interpretation is available in both audio and text panel formats. Guided tours are available to guide visitors through the Cutter museum and archives building and colliery buildings. There is a small charge for this service. There are accessible toilets.

 

You can travel aboard the two foot gauged railway from Woodhorn Museum to the Woodhorn Grange, totalling a comfortable two mile round trip. They operate a combination of modern and ex-mining stock. All of the coaches are fully "air conditioned", but also sheltered with roofs keeping the rain off. They are also wheelchair friendly, able to cater to up to four wheelchairs at a time. In 1991, The Woodhorn Museum (Wansbeck Council) was given an ex mining locomotive and three man-riding cards by the NCB, following the closure of Vane Tempest Colliery in County Durham. It was decided rather than allow these vehicles to become a static exhibition, it would serve the heritage of the community better if they were made operational and allowed to develop their potential as a visitor attraction.

 

Location : QEII Country Park, Ashington, Northumberland NE63 9YF

Transport: Morpeth (National Rail) then bus. Bus routes 35 and 35A stop a 15 minute walk away (discounted taxis available)

Opening Times: Wednesday to Sunday 10:00 to 17:00

Railway: Weekends 10:00 to 14:30

Tickets: Free (All day parking £3.50)

Railway Return: Adults £2.00  Concessions £1.00

Tel: 01670 624455