THE wraps came off one of the town's hidden treasures last weekend when the North West Museum of Road Transport, re-opened after the superlative collection of historic vehicles under its roof spent more than a decade in the shadows. It's hoped the exhibition will become a magnet for transport fans nationwide.

More than £1million has been spent on restoring the Hall Street attraction to its former glory, and on Saturday(September 9 it opened to the public for the first time since 1994.

The museum is seen as a key component in boosting tourism to St Helens, and generating extra revenue for the local economy.

The building, which first opened in 1881 as a depot for privately-owned horse trams, now has dozens of impeccably restored vehicles, a new roof and reception area, modern lighting and blasted-clean walls and floors.

Geoff Sandford, the only one of the five museum founders who is still alive, said: "I love this old building. I've been coming in here since I was a kid but I've been in here so much recently that, after the opening weekend, I'm not going to step foot in here for at least a month. I need to remind my wife who I am!"

Among the rows of wonderful historic vehicles featured in the museum are many old buses, fire engines, lorries, old-fashioned carriages and classic cars - many of which date back to the 1930s, '40s and '50s.

One stirring gem, an Australian mobile home, has quite a story attached to it.

Built in Britain by AEC in 1950, it was shipped to Sydney and served there as a bus for 20 years.

A family then converted it into a mobile home and travelled the length and breadth of Australia in it - through the deepest outback - before embarking on a trip around the world.

Eventually the vehicle broke down on the M62 near Burtonwood! As Geoff pointed out: "Very few of today's buses could do what this vehicle did."

And Geoff, who has written a book about St Helens Trolleybuses, added: "We plan to rotate the vehicles regularly with collections from other museums to keep the exhibition fresh and hope to run tours in some of our more roadworthy buses."

The museum will open every weekend between noon and 4pm.

Yearly membership is available for £12 for adults, £18 for families and £6 concessions. The standard entrance fee will be £3.50 for adults, £10 for families and £2 concessions.

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