It’s been a week since the first public outing for the working exhibits in over a year, Docks Heritage Weekend. What a blast! So great to have the volunteers working with the public again. Both Portbury and Henbury were on display and the capstan was back in operation both days, and crane 30 was kept busy loading and unloading the lorry. Quayside operations were bolstered with audience interaction from the Show of Strength Theatre company. Thanks for Bob, Bruce and the M Shed social media channels for these photos of the weekend.
The active fleet seen outside the shed today as ‘Portbury’ warms up ahead of DOCKS HERITAGE WEEKEND making a comeback after the pandemic.
Activities at M Shed Trips on electric crane No.31 (charges apply) Trips on the John King tug (charges apply) Cargo handling demonstrations with Crane 30 and the electric capstan Dramatic interludes from Show of Strength Theatre Company exploring characters from the docks’ past, Saturday and Sunday, 11am – 4pm Visit the Fairbairn steam crane Trips to see a stationary steam locomotive (charges apply) – Portbury is rostered for this Visit the Bristol Port Company stand See a Bristol Steam Navigation Company display Events at SS Great Britain Pre-booked free tours of the Albion Dock Brunel Institute will be open (free) between 11am to 3pm on both days for visitors to drop in to meet a curator and see some of the collection objects celebrating Bristol’s docks heritage Victorian street games on Brunel Square on Saturday Shanty Festival performances on Brunel Square on Sunday ‘Mr Brunel’ will be on Brunel Square both days Photography festival ‘Opening Up’ on Brunel Square both days Activities at Underfall Yard Demonstrations of traditional blacksmithing skills Appreciate engineering in miniature with model steam engines and workshops Discover the tools of yesteryear with the Tools and Trades History Society Try your hand at nautical knots Watch the pumps that powered a port running throughout the weekend See our magnificent machinery workshops in action Enjoy songs of the sea performed by several sea shanty groups as part of Bristol Shanty Festival (Sunday only).
Last week, after a few discussions, 2 of our members visited the currently closed Bristol Harbour railway whilst on holiday. This unusual railway is part of the M Shed (Bristol Museums group). Based in L shed as part of the transport division, the L shed team look after all forms of transport items owned by the M Shed. We were greeted by Chris and taken through the transport section (including the first Concorde crew cabin mockup) to the locomotive workshop. Currently stored at the main shed are locomotives “Henbury” (Peckett No.1940 of 1937), “Portbury” (Avonside No.1764 of 1917) and the Coles rail crane (14090). Portbury and the Coles Crane are both operational. “Henbury” is an 0-6-0 Peckett locomotive and has just been rebuilt and testing is on-going. “Portbury” is one of “Cranford”‘s Avonside sisters. Being an early type of the same design but with a curved saddle tank instead of flat sides. Also part of the collection is Fox Walker (No.242 of 1874) completing a collection of locomotives built in Bristol, in Bristol! And finally aRuston Hornsby 165dm “the bug” (418792 of 1959) however these two are stored in a different location. The railway usually operates with a Conflat and BR Bogie Bolster E later rebuilt as a Turbot ballast wagon, both modified to carry passengers, followed up with a toad brake van. And on special occasions, demonstration freights are operated. The railway hopes to reopen this year in September/August however much of the track needs work and reopening may not take place until 2022. We kindly thank Chris Ecclestone, Corwin , and the team at the M Shed for allowing us this private visit and have given a donation to support the railway. If you would like to visit like us, contact the M Shed by email. Alternatively you can wait until the railway reopens, Or you might like to volunteer. If so you again contact the M shed. You can find more information on https://www.bristolmuseums.org.uk/m-shed/
To say thank you to M Shed and Bristol Industrial Museum Curator Andy King upon his retirement after 40 years, all the working exhibits at M Shed were fired up for a surprise. Andy took newly-recommissioned steam tug ‘Mayflower’ out for a spin around the docks, while family, friends, past and present colleagues and volunteers were around the harbour to wave and cheer him en-route.
The Harbour Master provided an escort and hooters, horns and bells sounded out from other vessels. When they returned, ‘Pyronaut’ sprang into action for a salute, and Cranes 31 and 32 saluted with synchronised moves and flags that spelled out ANDY and KING. The weather conditions were quite poor but it was nice to be able to say thank you to Andy for all his hard work with the museums and working exhibits.
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.
The Coles Crane has already begun to prove useful as this week it was used to get Portbury and Henbury out of the shed, so that the tank and cab could be reunited with the big Peckett. They had been undergoing restoration in the main workshop and were craned into position using one of the museum’s working electric cranes on the dockside. The repositioning also allowed the two Bristol-built stablemates to be positioned alongside the steam crane for the first time in years. This operation was done with minimum amount of staff and volunteers in line with coronavirus precautions.
The 1861-built Steam Tug ‘Mayflower’ takes another step in the progress of its overhaul as the boiler is lifted back into the hull. Assisting in the operation is 1917-built Avonside ‘Portbury’ and 1951-built Stothert and Pitt ‘Crane 32’, both working exhibits and still earning their keep at M Shed Museum. Whilst the superstructure was off I took the opportunity to film some shots of the engine room with natural light, a rare occurrence! The lifting operation was undertaken by a minimum number of volunteers due to the COVID-19 situation and working regulations.
On Thursday 20th August 2020, steam tug ‘Mayflower’s boiler was lifted back into place. As the museum and working exhibits have been closed during the Coronavirus crisis, it was nice to be able to have them alive again. All volunteers taking part were complying with COVID-19 restrictions throughout. The lift went very smoothly, a credit to all involved. Hopefully this means the 159-year old Mayflower can be in steam again soon!