Thursday 29th April is a big day in Alford as the Grampian Transport Museum opens for the 2021 season with some exciting new changes. Curator Mike Ward is very pleased with what has been achieved during the closed winter period despite lockdown and extensive COVID-19 security measures “Our 2020 season was severely shortened and all tickets now have to be pre-booked on-line, but despite this we were very pleasantly surprised by the number of visitors who did come to see us and the excellent reviews they left on TripAdvisor. It was very rewarding for our wonderful staff, who adapted to the new COVID affected circumstances in the best possible way.

“Over the winter we have been hugely supported by Museums and Galleries Scotland (MGS) who have provided grants from their Recovery and Resilience Funds enabling us to look forward to the future with great optimism. One of the funded projects is the installation of a 27KW bank of solar panels with battery storage and two air to air heat source pumps. We believe this technology will make GTM the country’s first ‘off grid’ museum over the winter months, being fully renewable energy self-sufficient, greatly reducing our carbon footprint and our running costs. Our environmentally friendly and COVID safety measures (to industry recognised ‘We’re Good to Go’ standards) also extend to our very smart new ladies and gents toilets, with the latest ‘non-touch’ technology, and to our new EPOS ticket booking and shop sales systems, all enabled by MGS funding.

“GTM has a great reputation for refreshing our exhibition every year, changing up to a third each time. For this season, even though all the changes for 2020 were only able to be enjoyed by a reduced number of people, we have continued that theme. adding to our Formula 1 Jaguar race car, who’s lineage can be traced back to the team originally created by Scottish F1 World Champion Jackie Stewart and his son Paul. New for 2021 is a stunning MANN steam tractor kindly on loan from the outstanding collection of local supporter Mike Dreelan.

“A potentially ground-breaking addition for 2021 is the museum’s first outdoor exhibit, our Vanhool Hydrogen bus which until recently was carrying people around the roads of Aberdeenshire. A combination of generous local support through a crowdfunding campaign and some top-up funding from MGS means we are having a smart new covered access corridor built and this will be open in June. We hope this exhibit is the first of many as we evolve into an outdoor museum in the future, to complement our indoor displays.

“Also new for this year is a room dedicated the fascinating story of the original GNSR Alford Valley Railway, which has such historic significance for the museum. Opened in 1859 it serviced the world-renowned granite quarries at Kemnay and Tillyfourie, and the original Aberdeen Angus cattle breeder, William McCombie of Home Farm, Tillyfour.”

In a fascinating twist of fate the whole story of this rail line can now be enjoyed in the transport museum which is itself situated in the village which was built on the site of the original railhead, to which Scotland’s only second ever car was delivered by train in July 1896, purchased by Dr Howie from Bridge of Alford!

Mike continues “Regular museum visitors will know that GTM always has a Ford Model T on display as the most significant car ever built in the history of motoring. This year’s version is of special local interest as it is a completely original 1924 local baker’s van. With his inspirational car Henry Ford was credited with ‘killing off the original electric car revolution’. However, electric cars are once again the future and are evolving very quickly therefore our unique ‘Probing the Future’ exhibition has been fully updated. All the latest available technology developments are explained with the help of global industry leaders including BMW, BP and Mapix. Designed to help visitors to understand the current transport revolution, the reaction to this exhibition has been tremendous, as the museum uses the past to help to illustrate the future”

“This year we are pleased to welcome back the very popular ‘climb aboard’ exhibits which were greatly missed by our younger visitors last year.“

From April 29th GTM will initially be open 10am-5pm 5 days/week Thursday to Monday inclusive. With Covid restrictions still in place, tickets for a time slot must be booked on-line. It is a very simple process and can easily be done on your smart phone from nearby if you are already in Alford and would like to visit. Remember too that GTM is a dog-friendly museum and our furry friends are all very welcome!