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Restoration of Vintage and Veteran Cycles.

Penny Farthings and Many Others.

Photograph: Penny farthing bicycle.

Photograph: Penny farthing bicycle restored by the Friends' workshop.
With alternative description for non graphics or blind users.

Cycles Restoration and Maintenance is Continuous at Beamish.

Cycle Section Contents.

The Beamish Collection of Cycles.

The oldest cycles in the collection are the Velocipedes or Boneshakers of which we have four. These were made around 1868 to 1870 and after this they would evolve into the high bicycle or penny farthing over the next ten years. Although these were made by many manufacturers in many countries they tend to vary very little in design details.
Price new was around £10 to £14 depending on the size of the front wheel. Weight was around 56 pounds, and evolving into the high bicycle would lose 10 pounds.

Though the Velocipede was preceded by the Hobby Horse earlier in the century it was the Velocipede that started cycling as we know it today, with riders starting to travel further afield and the first organised cycle race starting at Paris in 1869.
The race covered 77 miles and was won by Englishman James Moore.

Construction details.
Frame: Solid iron with spring steel leaf for mounting saddle.
Wheels: Wooden wheels with iron tyres.
Bearings: Plain bearings to wheels, pedals and steering head.
Brakes: Braking by resistance to pedal cranks on front wheel and twisting the handlebar pulls a cord which applies brake lever to rear tyre.
Mounting: Grasp both handles, make a short run to get cycle moving, vault into saddle and pick up pedals with the feet.

All four velocipedes have been restored and rideable. Three have painted finish and one is finished all-bright, where the steel frame is polished and left bare, a finish that was still available over ten years later in high bicycle times.

Cycles on the Internet?.

  • The Beamish Cycle Collection consists of both vintage and veteran machines. So what's the difference between a vintage and a veteran cycle? Is a Pennyfarthing a vintage or veteran? the National Association of Veteran Cycle Clubs may have the answer.
  • Lots of cycles' photos from the past. Mostly American but worth a visit by anyone. See some rare and unusual bikes and trikes

Some Cycle Project Reports from the Past.

(Just a few examples of work carried out by Friends' volunteers - as printed in the Friends' Newsletters.)

Autumn 2001.

Bicycles - Four bicycles are being restored by Tommy Thompson, Ernie Seymour and Jim Bennett; a Rudge sports and a New Hudson sports, a ladies Raleigh and a gents Rover, all pre World War 1.
These jobs are moving on rapidly now that the preparation is over and the re-assembly has begun. New saddles have been bought for them and new tyres, chains and handle bar grips. Once they have been ridden and adjusted, they will go on display in the Garage.

Summer 2002.

Pre-World War One Bicycles: Elsewhere in the workshop three pre-World War One bicycles are ready to go onto display - Rudge, New Hudson and Raleigh - and the newly cast copies of a period cycle stand are being prepared to support them.
A Rover from about 1920 is almost ready too, and work is just beginning on a Rudge Ordinary bicycle and on a Velocipede, believed to have been made in Darlington.

Cycles Report.

The c.1880 C.M.C. [Coventry Machinists' Company] Club 'Special' 54" Ordinary bicycle is having some wear taken up in its front wheel main bearing. The 'Excelsior' tricycle has already had some adjustment done to its driving gears and the steering head and, like the items above, it is now ready for work next Season.

Work is advancing steadily on two other bicycles. A 54" Rudge Ordinary is progressing well. We are waiting for spokes to arrive so that its wheels can be rebuilt. Like everything else we restore, it will be made usable.

The Velocipede which is being worked on, will be rideable too, when it is finished. Its front wheel has just been delivered to the wheelwright for a new knave to be fitted. A saddle will have to be made and we need yet to fathom the method of working of its brake, so that the mechanism can be replaced.

Autumn 2003 Report.

(First printed in the Friends' Newsletter Autumn 2003.)

Bicycles: On display recently, too, are three bicycles, which can be seen in the Garage Showroom. The oldest is the New Hudson made in 1903 and purchased then at a cost of ten guineas [£10-10-0d].

It has a coaster hub and only a back pedal brake, which is effective once the rider has remembered what to do!

The Rudge was made in 1906 and has beaded edge tyres and only a single brake lever working the coupled back and front brakes together.

The 1913 Raleigh was originally owned by Lady Ravensworth, who later sold it to Lady Irving of Alwinton. All three are supported by replica stands which we have had cast up from an original.

When we make items like this for display they are all marked and these have 'RepO2 engraved into their bottom faces. The Rover, which is thought to be 1923/24, and which was formerly owned by Dr. Gibby of Durham University, is almost complete and ready to leave the workshop.

End of page.


Text Equivalent of the Photograph on This Page.

Screen Reader version for people who cannot see the image for what ever reason.

Photograph: Penny farthing bicycle restored by the Friends' workshop.

Man in 1913 costume riding a penny farthing bicycle looked on by two visitors to the museum during the Friends Open Day 2004. Taking up the centre and right of the picture facing to the left is the penny farthing with its very large front wheel and very small rear wheel. Hence "penny farthing". The frame and wheels are a dark colour but with white wheel rims.
The rider is a man in profile wearing a light brown cap, a darker brown sports coat and a pair of light brown trousers with cycle clips. He sits, with a look of concentration, on the saddle with both hands on the centrally positioned short handlebars.

To the left stand a man and a woman looking on facing the camera. The man on the left is wearing a grey and blue sweater with grey trousers and black shoes. The woman standing next to him has long red hair and wearing a white top, grey trousers and white trainers. She is holding a small plastic bag in her left hand.

Foreground is a reddish grey roadway. Behind the Penny farthing and the visitors at half height can be seen a band of low simple fencing behind which a strip of grass. Directly behind the man and woman stands a thin tall green tree. Further back is a band of green rolling hills which are tree topped. It the far distance a horizontal band of cloudless pale blue sky. TEXT.



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