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Horse Drawn Charabanc (Happy Days) Restoration

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A Rare Example of a Classic Charabanc.

Restored to Give rides to Friends and Visitors.

Historical Background.

Charabancs, introduced into Britain from France in about 1850, varied much in construction, design and size. They were pulled by four horses, and initially were popular for transporting shooting parties. Happy Days represents a type used by the public for sightseeing or touring between 1850 and 1910, when it went out of general use.

Although heavy and ungainly in appearance, charabancs had very good roadholding, and for this reason they were often used in training inexperienced horses and drivers so as to enable them to get practice working as a team.

"Happy Days" Horse Drawn Charabanc Restoration is Complete.

Chronological History of Project Reports.

(First printed in the Friends' Newsletters.)

Summer 2002.

The "Happy Days" charabanc, on which you may have ridden some time ago, is now undergoing a full rebuild. The wooden parts just need repainting, but the metal work will be sand blasted, before being repainted, and the springs reset to make the vehicle 'stand up'.
Original fittings will be re-instated and some nonoriginal ones removed, so that when you next see it, it will again look as it did when it ended its working career on the sea front at Morecambe Bay, before Gavin Allen bought it and brought it to Beamish to begin a fresh working life.

When Gavin finished carrying passengers at the Museum, he took the chara home to Sheffield, and it stood in his yard there until we managed to purchase it from him, and return it to work carrying our visitors.
We don't know much about its early life, but it is probably a Lake District charabanc judging from the double brakes on the rear wheels. In dismantling it, the date 1902 has been found on the axles.

Autumn 2002.

"Happy Days" Charabanc: Most of the work in the workshop is on horse drawn vehicles, some of which will appear in the Carriage House and in use around the site. The "Happy Days" charabanc is currently in a thousand pieces and the springs have been reset and, along with all of the other metalwork, have been sand blasted and primed. The woodwork will now be stripped and prepared for repainting and lining and any refurbishment will be done as we go. The wheels have been checked and only need repainting and a couple of bolts replacing.

Winter 2002.

Work continues apace on the charabanc, which is now being refitted with its metal work and the seats are being scraped down in preparation for a fresh coat of varnish.

Summer 2003.

The 'Happy Days' charabanc is coming together, and is the current focus of activity in the Workshop, because we want it out for visitors to ride on this Season.

Autumn 2003.

The 'Happy Days' charabanc is now complete, ready for a few weeks trial running, whilst it beds in the work which has been done. After that we will take it back into the workshop to make the necessary adjustments, before sending it out again for regular running, after which we hope only to have to maintain it.

The second charabanc in the collection is being evaluated and parts sourced before we set off to rebuild it too. There cannot be many places where it will be possible to see two charas working!

Spring 2004.

The "Happy Days" Charabanc has been completed and handed over to the Museum for display, and to be set to work around the Museum carrying visitors.

Summer 2004.

"Happy Days" - Horse drawn Charabanc.
In October last year, we finished the complete rebuild of the charabanc 'Happy Days'. It has had an inspection by a British Driving Society representative and has gone into work on site carrying visitors regularly.
A second charabanc is stripped and the refurbishment of its parts has begun. It will also be a complete rebuild, including a set of new wheels and a replacement back axle. It will be known as 'Blaydon Races'.

When it is completed and in service, Beamish will probably be the only place in Britain where two charabancs can be seen working together.They appear to have been built about two years apart and may be by Marston, a noted builder.

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