On Saturday March 24th 2018, the Bristol Harbour Railway celebrated 40 years of operation on Bristol’s Harbourside, accompanied by the Lydney Town Band and of course a cake to commemorate the occasion! 101-year old ‘Portbury’ did the honours, pushing and pulling the freshly-refurbished passenger train up and down all day. What started as a group of enthusiasts, one locomotive (Henbury) and a brake van has seen dozens of changes on the harbourside, with the disused industrial area changing into a vibrant tourist hotspot. Long may it continue to bring delight to passengers, giving a unique experience in UK preservation.
The Bristol Harbour Railway is 40 years old this year!
In 1978 a group of keen and like minded people began operating steam train rides on Bristol’s harbourside. They had one working locomotive and an ex-GW brake van.
Henbury and the TOAD outside M Shed in 1979 (Courtesy John Law)
Since then, the van has given thousands of passengers rides up and down the line. It is essential to the running of the railway, becoming the leading end of the train when being propelled, and the large veranda gives a good field of vision for the guard.
Over the winter of 2017-2018, the van has been taken into the shed and been given a makeover. Rotten wood has been repaired, the whole vehicle has been sanded down and repainted, and it now sports a ‘Bristol’ allocation.
It looks very smart and is a credit to the volunteers and employees at M Shed.
I am trying to find out more information on the history of this brake van before it came to the BHR. If anyone does know of its past life, please do leave a comment below.
YouTube channel Unseen Steam recently posted this video of a railtour visit to Avonmouth in the days of steam.
On 21st July 1963 the RCTS ran what has been described as a “chaotic” railtour (not their fault) from Paddington to the Bristol area behind ‘Grange” class no. 6841 “Marlas Grange” which got the train to the Docks almost bang on time after a good run down the GWR main line to Swindon and then the connection to the Docks at Hallen Marsh Junction. In the Docks the train was worked by one of the Port of Bristol Authority’s tank locomotives, no S11 “Bristol”. All went well until the train was due to leave the Docks which took place around half an hour late. Further troubles ensued, with the train returning to London some one and a half hours late – many passengers had detrained at Stroud to try and find a quicker train home! (Information from http://www.sixbellsjunction.co.uk, with thanks to Gary Thornton)