As the 40th year of the BHR’s operation enters Autumn, here’s a look back to 1978 and 1979.
These photographs were taken by Tim Venton, to whom I am very grateful for allowing them to be reproduced here.
The first two are from May 1978 and show ‘Henbury’ and the TOAD brake van at rest outside the Bristol Industrial Museum.
27th May 1978
The first two items of rolling stock to operate BHR services, 27th May 1978
The second batch of photographs were taken on 16th September 1979. These are fantastic as historical references as they show the extent of track on the quayside and the difference to the present-day.
Almost everything visible in this photo has now changed but the location can be identified by the previous photo. The sidings on the left (and the wall of sleepers are the site of the SS GB car park). 16th September 1979 (Tim V)
Amazingly most of the buildings in this photo are still extant. The TANTRA building is derelict and covered by sheeting as of 2018. The line on the left heads toward Albion Dockyard, and bits of track in the concrete can still be seen today. 16th September 1979 (Tim V)
At this time, the branch off towards the New Cut on the Left was double track under the bridge. Apartments now occupy the site of the sidings. 16th September 1979 (Tim V)
A brake van on the New Cut line. In the distance is the site of the Lloyds Building. 16th September 1979 (Tim V)
A familiar scene to many is the crossover. The buildings on the far end now form Brunel’s Buttery. 16th September 1979 (Tim V)
The line for the Western Fuel Co.’s is off to the right. Just visible is ‘Western Pride’ the Hudswell Clarke diesel. 16th September 1979 (Tim V)
The yard. Some of the stone setts on the left are still extant as part of the cycle path. 16th September 1979 (Tim V)
The weigh bridge in the sidings. This area is now the yard for the BHR, where the goods stock is kept. 16th September 1979 (Tim V)
The sidings. This area is now the yard for the BHR, where the goods stock is kept. 16th September 1979 (Tim V)
The buildings on the right now form the Olive Shed and the Art Gallery. The track layout here has been simplified but the area is easily recognisable. 16th September 1979 (Tim V)
‘Henbury’ in action pulling the TOAD loaded with passengers. 16th September 1979 (Tim V)
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.