With great sadness I report that Andy King, curator of Bristol Industrial Museum and M Shed, passed away this week. The jibs of cranes 31 and 32 have been lowered and crossed in honour of Andy’s work. Andy joined Bristol Museum’s curatorial team 40 years ago. Part of the group tasked with getting ‘Mayflower’ back into working order, he went on to become the driving force behind many of the working exhibits and ensuring that they continue to entertain and educate thousands of people for years to come. He will be greatly missed by all the volunteers and staff.
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/
The four electric cranes have been moved down to the Prince Street end of the quayside in readiness for painting. This should help protect them for years to come, as you can imagine painting something of this size is no easy task!
These 2 photos courtesy Bob Edwardes
In order for this to happen, the M Shed station platform had to be moved down to the far end of the quay, near the cafe. Here it is midway through reassembly (while the cranes were being moved).
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!
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.