Toad brake van repainted

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.

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Henbury Overhaul Progress (October 2016)

Work on Henbury’s 10 year overhaul is progressing well.

The boiler has now been lifted from the frames (courtesy of Crane 32 with shunting assistance from Portbury). The boiler has been placed on a trolley and taken back to the engine shed, while the frames were lifted and turned 90 degrees, then placed on a temporarily-laid piece of track so they could be pushed into the workshop. The cab and other items are also inside.

During certain running days, visitors to M Shed can see work taking place and even make a donation to the overhaul. There are photographs of the boiler lift on display to show the process.

The above sequence shows the lift.

Above: The boiler, cab, frames and tank all separated out.

Meanwhile, Portbury is running the scheduled services. This weekend is the last operating weekend of the season, with trains running from M Shed and alternating down the branch to Vauxhall Bridge and the quayside line to SS Great Britain.

Here are a few shots of Portbury at work last weekend.

Toad in the works

The ‘Toad’ brake van is receiving some attention this winter. The rather tired door is being renewed, and the van has been jacked up, the springs removed, and packing wood in place.

Pictured here is the former harbour plug, used from 1804-1935 when it was replaced by one made of rubber. The harbour needed to be drained fully to allow the plug to be removed, restricting navigation for 2 days.*
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*This is not true, just a joke!

TBT – Portbury’s Slumber

After the preservation project at Radstock closed, and before she was brought to L Shed for restoration, Portbury was stored in a warehouse at Avonmouth Docks. Some restoration work had been undertaken at Radstock, and the loco was re-assembled before delivery back to Avonmouth. It was to be another 10 years until she returned to steam.

The photographs on this page (Unless otherwise stated) were taken by Kevin Hughes and purchased from the Rail Correspondance and Travel Society’s website. They appear here for research purposes only and may not be used for profit or gain without permission. 

Portbury’s Twin Needs Your Help!

Based just a few miles away at the Avon Valley Railway is an almost identical loco to the BHR’s own ‘Portbury’, Avonside No.1798.

An appeal has been launched to get this locomotive restored and back in steam. It was the first steam loco on-site at Bitton in 1973, and worked there right up until it needed a heavy overhaul in the mid 1980s.

Built in 1918 at the same Bristol works as ‘Portbury’, it was delivered to the Imperial Smelting Works in Avonmouth, where it laboured away its whole working life.

ISC Ltd. No.2 at work in Avonmouth (Photo copyright Gordon Edgar)

ISC Ltd. No.2 at work in Avonmouth (Photo copyright Gordon Edgar)

The above photo appears here with the kind permission of Gordon Edgar, please take a look at his flickr site for more great railway images

When restored at the Avon Valley Railway, the loco received a plain black livery and was named ‘Edwin Hulse’ after a founder member of the railway.

En route to Bitton

En route to Bitton

The first steam-hauled trains at Bitton

The first steam-hauled trains at Bitton

A lot has changed since 1974, but this loco has seen it all!

A lot has changed since 1974, but this loco has seen it all!

How you can help

You can help by sponsoring one of the major parts listed in this brochure (download link) or by joining the 1798 Club whereby you covenant to donate £17.98 each month by standing order for up to 24 months. Whether you sponsor a specific item or donate monthly, you will automatically become members of the 1798 Club and be entitled to a range of benefits.

Every penny received from sponsorship or donation is spent on restoring this important engine.

Further details can be obtained by downloading the leaflet.

Please take a look at the official website for more details.

‘MOGO’ Van Restoration – 5

The first coat of gloss is going on the van, while the new doors are being made in the workshop.

New door being made up

New door being made up

Old door to be used as a template

Old door to be used as a template

Gloss coat in evidence

Gloss coat in evidence

Saturday evening - the van was sandwiched between Portbury and Henbury in the shed, quite a squeeze!

Saturday evening – the van was sandwiched between Portbury and Henbury in the shed, quite a squeeze!

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