Following extensive work to ensure the safety of staff, volunteers and visitors, the Grampian Transport Museum at Alford has opened its doors to visitors for the 2020 season. Normally opening in April, four-star attraction GTM was just three weeks away from revealing its exciting 2020 exhibition when the Coronavirus struck and, like the rest of Aberdeenshire’s tourism industry, it was forced to close during Lockdown. For the rest of 2020 its opening hours will be Thursday-Sunday 10 am-5 pm by pre-booked tickets and time slots only for safety reasons, with all details at www.gtm.org.uk  

Following the Scottish Government’s lifting of lockdown for visitor attractions this week a small team has been working flat out to install all the necessary safeguards and systems to guarantee the safety of the staff, volunteers and the visitors for the rest of the 2020 season, as Curator Mike Ward explains “ It is vital to our industry that the public has confidence in their own safety when visiting attractions. We have in place all the safeguards which have enabled GTM to achieve the industry standard ‘Good to Go’ certification confirming the thoroughness of our systems, including hand sanitiser, protective screens, one-way directional flow around the museum, and comprehensive cleaning regime, all to a risk assessment which has been praised as setting a high standard.

“Regular visitors will see a big difference but it is one with which we are all becoming familiar as being the ‘new normal’ in life. These changes are all on our website at www.gtm.org.uk  .The biggest difference to emphasise is the need to book a visit time slot and pay on-line. We will not be handling cash anywhere in the museum so bring your card for the tearoom and shop too, both of which will be open.”

Plans for the 2020 exhibition were well advanced before lockdown and as usual there are exciting new exhibits as well as the favourites from recent years. Mike explains “The museum has a TripAdvisor ‘Certificate of Excellence’ rating because we offer so much in the exhibition and change up to a third of it every year. For 2020 we have some really significant new displays. There is the biggest vehicle we can get inside the museum – a post WW2 Scammel Explorer 6WD tank recovery vehicle, it is huge! It has been superbly restored with all its accessories and is truly awe-inspiring. For our ‘It’s electric’ exhibition the replica of Aberdeen inventor Robert Davidson’s original electric motor has been refurbished through the generosity of Whittaker Engineering in Stonehaven and will be spinning merrily alongside a very interesting and rare fully electric Westfield sports car. As with our Tesla chassis, these are the only ones on display Scotland, helping to explain the development of today’s growing electric car revolution.

“In our ever-popular Guy Martin exhibition – the only one in in the UK – this year Guy has loaned us his very rare ‘Foggy Petronas FP1’ Carl Foggerty Grand Prix racing replica, also his 2020 Royal Enfield which starred in a recent TV programme. He bought it in India to ride across the sub-continent and even won a race on it along the way!

“Of great Scottish interest, we have the ex-Eddie Ervine Formula 1 Jaguar on display. This is the team which evolved when they took over Stewart F1 Racing, run by Jackie Stewart’s son Paul. It is a fabulous looking piece of racing history.

“Of great local interest our recently retired Lord Lieutenant James Ingleby was a long-distance international rally driver of some note and has kindly lent us his amazing 300bhp Rover P5 V8 rally car, exactly as it was last driven in anger, it is really worth seeing.

“Perhaps one of the most internationally recognised exhibits this year has been loaned to us by the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust, based at the British Motor Museum, Gaydon. 2021 will be the 60th anniversary of the iconic E-type Jaguar and exclusively here in Alford, we have the actual E-type V12 coupe made famous in the advertising campaign which features it racing down the runway with a Jaguar fighter aircraft taking off over it. A wonderful exhibit.

“The upstairs cycle display is open, with everything from a 19th-century hobby horse to the very latest racing cycles from John Entwhistle.

“Inevitably there are some things which we are unable to open again yet due to the social distancing or which previously involved climb-on exhibits, and our events programme is cancelled for 2020, but we hope to be able to re-introduce these in 2021. In the meantime, our main museum exhibition is as interesting, exciting and varied as ever and in a very safe and welcoming environment. We are really looking forward to safely welcoming our members and visitors for the rest of the season.”