The little known collection of vintage rides and vehicles on the Yorkshire coast

It may be the biggest collection of its kind in the country, but tucked away as it is between the caravans of Yorkshire’s coastline, not too many know about the vast assembly of old fairground organs, traction engines and vintage vehicles owned by Graham Atkinson.

Volunteer curator Keith Kitching cleans a 1937 Wurlitzer theatre organ. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

A small number of enthusiasts run the Scarborough Fair Collection and Vintage Transport Museum - set within in the grounds of the Flower of May holiday park, though separate from it - and volunteer curator Keith Kitching says the reminiscing that goes on there reminds him of Holmfirth’s Last of the Summer Wine.

“Being up there...I couldn’t wish for anything better,” he said.

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“Where else could I play with this stuff?”

Manager Julie Kennedy with a 1893 Golden Gallopers fairground ride. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The “stuff” he speaks of includes vintage fairground attractions, classic commercial vehicles, tractors, cars, motorcycles and motoring memorabilia.

The local Atkinson farming family own several holiday parks around the area and one member, Graham, purchased his first steam engine and a mechanical organ in the 1980s.

Now the museum’s fairground collection consists of several showman’s engines and traction engines, the 1937 Scammell showman’s towing tractor “The Moonraker”, which was previously owned by the Edwards family of Swindon, the Tidman Golden Gallopers fairground ride of Chipperfield’s Circus fame, eighteen mechanical organs, two Wurlitzer theatre organs and more.

Around Christmas, one of the mechanical organs can usually be found playing carols at Scarborough or Whitby.

The Scarborough Fair Collection and Vintage Transport Museum volunteer curator Keith Kitching polishes a late 1940s Showtrac. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Every year at least one of the fairground organs and showman’s engines visit steam fairs across the UK, including the Great Dorset Steam Fair.

What had started out as a collection of fairground exhibits is now a “first class” transport museum as well.

Some of the transport exhibits are also road legal and are taken out on occasions.

In June 2018, when the facility celebrated 10 years of being open to the public, the name was changed to the Scarborough Fair Collection and Vintage Transport Museum.

Retired bus driver Mr Kitching, 70, said: “It’s unique because it’s one person’s private collection.

“It’s the largest collection of mechanical organs, certainly in this country, possibly in Europe.”

He added: “Everything in that museum has got its own history.”

While a small number of volunteers work with the fairground attractions and museum vehicles, paid staff man the ballroom and cafe, where tea dances are held, with resident organist

Michael Carr entertaining on the Wurtlitzer.

It is also where Mr Kitching’s wife Chris, a retired postmistress, can be found on reception.

The museum had meant to open for spring but lockdown stopped that from happening, and an intended September restart has been called off because “it would be impossible to keep staff and visitors 100 per cent safe”.

It is hoped the facility will be reopened from March 2021.

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James Mitchinson