New Book! 50 YEARS OF RAILWAYS AROUND BRISTOL

Followers of this blog will be interested to know that Paul Stanford, whose photos appear on this website along with those of his father, has published a book all about the railways of Bristol!
Follow this link to purchase the book.

Telling the story of Bristol area railways over the last 50 years, this publication is lavishly illustrated, including many photos taken by rail employees that give a unique insight to railways around Bristol and the surrounding area. Included are well known locations but also railway byways and those serving industrial Avonmouth, now long lost. Also with photographic insights taken at train-care and maintenance depots, industrial plants and within signal boxes in the area; which still exist or have long now disappeared.

The book charts the decline and resurrection of railways around Bristol and its surrounding area, coming right up-to date with latest electrification works, coming from Bristol Area re-signalling in 1970.

Featuring relevant extracts of official rail publications including unique archive material and a unique set of maps over each decade recording the changes to the railways around Bristol to give a unique insight and record of railways around the city and surrounding area where rail was and is key to its success.

About the author: Paul Stanford is a 4th generation railway worker. He started his railway career at Bristol 35 years ago when he was 16. He worked in operations and commercial functions – including working there in the 1980s and 90s. In his formative railway years he worked Avonmouth Area Signal Boxes on his days off; to improve his railway and rule book knowledge. The past 5 years has seen him lead efforts to renew and enhance the railways on the Western Region. He is currently a Programme Director for Network Rail. As a keen cyclist he enjoys the countryside; combining this with an interest in photography; bird-spotting and architecture. He has volunteered in the heritage railway sector since he was 14; notably over 30 years spent on Bristol’s Avon Valley Railway and more recently on the Lincolnshire Coast Light Railway, a narrow gauge railway, home to a Bristol built steam locomotive named Jurassic. He is married to Fiona and their two sons Oliver and Toby are both at University.

Photo Exhibition – ‘The Floating Harbour: Jem Southam’

Readers of this blog may be interested to know there will be an exhibition of photographs at Underfall Yard as part of Bristol Photo Festival 2021.
The exhibition opens on June 18 2021 and depicts the harbour in decline in the late 1970s, as buildings were being torn down and business was moving away or closing for good.
A fascinating insight into the city’s past before the rejuvenation of recent years.

Read more about the exhibition here.

Oops! – Collision on Cumberland Road (1950s?)

Following on from last week’s post about Ashton Avenue Bridge, it features in the background of this photo (with thanks to Jonathan and Bob Edwardes for sending the photo).

Details are scant but a pannier tank has clearly come to grief after striking a truck (looks like it may be an ex-military workshop truck) on the old level crossing at the end of Cumberland Road.

Judging by the recovery truck the scene looks to be 1950s although the loco is likely still in GWR livery (no smokebox numberplate).

Also of interest are the layout of sidings in the background. The proposed new station layout is quite close to this setup. The old signal box is still extant, guarding the junction to Canon’s Marsh.

If you have any information about this scene please do let us know!

The End of Ashton Avenue Double Decker Bridge – 1967

This photograph was published on Geograph.co.uk by Martin Tester and is shared here under a Creative Commons Licence.

It is dated around 1966-1967 and shows the upper deck of Ashton Avenue Bridge in the process of being dismantled. At this time the lines across the bridge were still double track, the West line was not removed until some time later.

“At one time this bridge over the New Cut was a really extraordinary structure – it had 2 decks, road above rail, & swung, using power supplied from the City Docks hydraulic system. The control cabin was on an elevated structure spanning the roadway. Built by Bristol Corporation & opened in 1906 it allowed the GWR’s line to Wapping Wharf (from Temple Meads) to be extended to serve more wharves, a new goods shed at Canon’s Marsh, & to connect with the Portishead Branch. A swing bridge was needed because the New Cut was used by river traffic to access Bathurst Basin. It was last swung in 1934 & formally fixed in 1951. The roadway & control cabin were removed in 1965-66 as part of major road changes around Cumberland Basin.”

This photo (source unknown) shows the bridge when both decks were in use. Note the tracks crossing left to right to access to other sidings next to A Bond, where the Create Centre car park now is. The diverging line at the bottom of the photo is the one to Canon’s Marsh.

GWR 1338 at the BHR (2000)

On 8th July 2000, visiting loco No.1338, built by Kitson for the Cardiff Railway and later absorbed into the GWR, was used in a photo charter down the New Cut branch. This locomotive is now based at Didcot on static display.

1338 rounds the corner at Butterfly Junction (image courtesy Pete Doel, with thanks)

Youtube channel ‘Classic Traction’ published a slideshow of the event.

Festival of the Sea 1996

From the 24-27th May 1996, Bristol Harbour was host to the International Festival of the Sea. This was a huge event featuring many guest ships and attractions, and of course the BHR played a part. A shining and fully-lined out ‘Henbury’ and ‘Portbury’ were joined by LB&SCR E1 class 0-6-0T No.B110, then based at the East Somerset Railway (Now being restored to service on the Isle of Wight as No.W2 ‘Yarmouth’). The two locos operated a shuttle service between the station at Ashton Meadows and the Bristol Industrial Museum with 3 loaned coaches.

Thanks to Eric Gates for these photos.

Phil Cass was also there to capture these photos, thanks to Phil for sharing them.

Before the BHR

Before the Bristol Harbour Railway as we know it today was opened, the locomotives ‘Henbury’ and ‘Portbury’ travelled around a bit, spending some time at Radstock before relocating to Bishop’s Lydeard on the West Somerset Railway.

Whilst looking through the Cornwall Railway Society’s website I found these two photos by Ron Kosys showing the motley collection of industrial locos in 1976.

Click the images to go to the website. The photos are the copyright of Ron Kosys.

Poor Portbury looks in a rough state, Henbury had last been in steam at Radstock in 1973, and would not run again until the opening of the BIM’s line in 1978.

BHR in 1991 – Video

Nicholas Tozer published this rather lovely video of a blue ‘Portbury’ operating trains in the early 1990s. It’s amazing to see the differences in the background, like the old sidings, the sleeper wall where the flats near SS GB halt now are. Also note the W.Vincent wagon being used for passengers, these days it is back to being a coal wagon.