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.

Docks Heritage Weekend 30th Sept-1st Oct

It’s Docks Heritage Weekend tomorrow and Sunday, featuring a variety of attractions, one of the most varied weekends of the year.

Portbury was warming up outside the shed earlier this week.

Take a look at Will Stratford’s video of last year’s event showing some crane and goods action on the quayside:


Docks Heritage Weekend and Crane Dance

This coming weekend  is the excellent Docks Heritage Weekend. Here’s a couple of pics and videos from last years event in case you missed it.

Freshly painted MOGO

Freshly painted MOGO

Here’s what the Official M Shed Website has to say about the event:

A weekend of activities across two sites exploring the history and working life of the old City Docks.

Stroll around the fantastic Underfall Yard as its restoration programme gets into full swing and take part in activities at M Shed including boat trips, crane visits, have a go experiences and performances.

Events at M Shed

  • Mosaic Madness will be helping visitors create mosaics inspired by Bristol’s working docks and the river Avon
  • Screenings of historic films about the port
  • Dramatic interludes from Show of Strength Theatre Company exploring characters from the dock’s past Saturday and Sunday at 11am, 11.30am, 2pm and 2.30pm
  • Visit an electric crane (charges apply)
  • Cargo handling demonstrations
  • Trips on the tug John King (charges apply)
  • Visits to Balmoral, once part of the P & A Campbell fleet
  • Visit the Fairbairn steam crane
  • Drive a steam locomotive (charges apply)

Events at Underfall Yard

  • Demonstrations of traditional skills
  • Pop on a hard hat and take a look behind the scenes of the restoration works
  • Visit the viewing platform for spectacular harbour views
  • Family activities
  • Dramatic interludes from Show of Strength Theatre Company exploring stories from the yard’s past, Saturday and Sunday at 12.30pm and 3.30pm
  • Guided walks to Brunel’s Other Bridge, Sunday 1pm and 3pm
  • Explore reuse and recycling stories from Bristol’s boating communities and make your own floaty boaty (run in partnership with Bristol Green Capital), Sunday 2-4pm


A special event will also be taking place on Saturday evening. This is the Crane Dance performance, devised by Laura Kriefman. Starting at 8pm, this will combine  lights, boats, choirs, live bhangra band music, and choreographed synchronised cranes!

This event is completely free and best viewed from the Arnolfini or Lloyds Amphitheatre.

Exciting stuff!


Docks Heritage Weekend 2014 – Photos and Video

Plenty of action on the dockside. 3 cranes in operation, along with the electric capstan shunting wagons. Actors from Show of Strength Theatre Company in character, loading demos, the Bristol Lorry, Portbury in Steam, and rides on tugboat John King to boot!


Here’s a video of the electric capstan winch shunting demonstration:

Click here to see the Bristol Post article of the event

Docks Heritage Weekend 4th-5th October

Don’t forget this weekend is Docks Heritage Weekend at M Shed!

Featuring vintage commercial vehicles on display (Including the museum’s own Bristol 8-wheel lorry), both steam and electric cranes in use unloading cargo from ship to shore, and the rare sight of the working electric capstans being used to shunt wagons on the quayside.

See the quayside come to life with dramatic re-enactments by Show of Strength theatre company.

Plus, see the amazing city of Briswool in all its woolly splendour.

The newly-outshopped MOGO van will also be on display, and the Tug John King will be giving rides around the harbour.

Lots to see and do, it should be a cracking weekend!

The museum's Bristol lorry during a loading demonstration in 2013 (Photo copyright Stu Chapman)

The museum’s Bristol lorry during a loading demonstration in 2013 (Photo copyright Stu Chapman)

Bristol Harbour Festival 2013

Harbour Festival is always busy down at Bristol Docks. I was volunteering on the Sunday (Saturday had seen torrential downpours, we were lucky on Sunday).

A couple of views from 8am before the crowds arrived.



The ever faithful ‘Henbury’ was on duty today.

As steam was raised outside the shed, I was tasked with polishing up some of the brasswork, including climbing up on the saddle tank to do the whistles, safety valve cover and chimney cap.




Then Driver Bob eases her over the pit for oiling.




The harbour area was packed full of interesting vessels and activities, and the museum’s own fleet was out in force.







The main challenge of the day was traversing the extremely busy area on the wharf. Trains proceeded along this section at a snail’s pace. Museum volunteers in high-vis made sure members of the public didn’t stray on to the running line.



Services were between M Shed and the SS Great Britain halt. The rain did eventually come, thankfully only toward the end of the day.
‘Henbury’s fire was dropped and she backed into the shed after another day’s work.