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.
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 These are fantastic as historical references as they show the extent of track on the quayside and the difference to the present-day.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)
RMweb user Kevin aka Rivercider has tracked down some photos of the then-closed Ashton Gate Station site, with Ashton Meadows sidings on the BHR in the background.
This one is from flickr user emmdee and shows an 08 shunting the yard.
Ashton Meadows – 1970s
Flickr user Blue_Pelican_railway uploaded this one dated 1977, showing that the warehouse on the right has now had its rail connection severed. Nature is starting to take hold of the platforms.
Ashton Meadows – 1977
Blue_Pelican_railway also uploaded this shot from May 1984 with a Billy Graham train in the foreground, and a BR Class 37 in the yard. The engineers depot was still in use at this time. The growth of surrounding foliage in the intervening years is evident.
British Pathe’s excellent youtube channel features this clip, of one of the Bristol-based tugs helping the ship VARLA DAN out of the harbour. In the background are plenty of coal wagons in the sidings, this space is now occupied by flats and SS GB Halt. The rails in the foreground were retained and are still visible after the regeneration of this area.