A FAMILY-RUN vintage vehicle museum could be forced to close due to a dwindling number of visitors.

More than 3,000 people a year visited Vintage Vehicles Shildon, in County Durham, after owner Mike Bowman opened the doors in 2005.

However, last year that number fell to 2,000 and Mr Bowman said income from the £2 entry charge may soon no longer cover running costs.

“The museum is a labour of love for me and I’ve enjoyed running it over the years,” he said. “It would be a sad day if I had to close, but if the visitor numbers don’t increase then I will probably have to close it in the near future.”

He stressed that the museum – on the Dabble Duck Industrial Estate, about 300 yards from Locomotion: The National Railway Museum at Shildon – will open this year after its winter break, but the situation will be reviewed in 2013.

The privately-funded museum, which has charity status, is run by volunteers and is home to 45 exhibits dedicated to a history of commercial vehicles, many painstakingly restored.

They include a Darlington bin lorry, a railway parcels lorry and a 1934 mobile shop.

Other vehicles were used by the Bowman family in their own haulage business.

Mr Bowman, whose grandfather began a horse and cart haulage business in the Tyne Valley in 1890, stressed the museum is privately funded and does not receive any grants.

He was a lorry driver himself for more than 30 years and established the museum in a former factory as a way of sharing his passion for lorries with others.

Christopher Booth, who visited the museum at the weekend, said: “It’s an excellent collection and it saddens me to think it might close because I’m a big fan of nostalgia. It’s great someone can have so much passion for something.”

The museum is open every weekend and Bank Holiday until October, from 10am to 4pm, with entry £2.