THINGS are really taking off at the North East Aircraft Museum.
The museum, next to Nissan, is expanding after joining forces with two other collections to create a new organisation – the North East Land, Sea and Air Museums.
The trust is in the final stages of signing a new lease with Sunderland City Council which will allow it to expand and apply for Heritage Lottery funding after joining forces with Newcastle’s Military Vehicles Museum and the Gateshead-based North East Electric Traction Trust.
Chairman Hugh Newell explained the move had been in the pipeline for some time.
“An aircraft museum only covers a third of the armed forces and we wanted to expand to cover all three military services,” he said.
“We wanted to expand to cover all three military services.”
At the same time, the Military Vehicle Museum was having problems with its home in Newcastle’s Exhibition Park.
“They decided to join forces with us and it has taken two or three years for them to move in,” added Hugh. “All their stock is here now and some of their street scenes from the Second World War have been re-erected here.”
With land and air forces represented, Hugh is keen to pay tribute to the North East’s marine tradition – even if he’s not yet sure how.
“How quite we are going to do the navy will develop a little bit over the next three years,” he said, “but think of the aircraft carriers that were built on the Swan hunter and the Liberty ships on the Wear.”
In the meantime, work is underway to prepare for the arrival of the Traction Trust’s collection, with a new building created on-site, thanks to a helping hand from Metro operator Nexus.
“There will be three railway tracks for the collection’s trams,” said Hugh.
Nexus has donated the tracks after carrying out renovation work on the Metro system.
“In the last four months, they have done a long stretch of line, so they have given us in excess of 600 tonnes of ballast and umpteen 20ft lengths of railway track.
“The idea is that is going to go into the ground soon and then the building will be erected around it.”
The new museum’s civilian vehicle collection has also been boosted by the arrival of three fire engines passed on from a collection in Shildon, while there could be more new arrivals further down the line.
“We have had discussions with a bus collection and they will hopefully be joining us in the years to come,” said Hugh.
“The aim is eventually to represent 50/50 military and civilian vehicles.
“I want the museum to become an educational resource and teach young people about the North East’s tradition of engineering and manufacturing.”