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.
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.*
In this photo found on the Bristol Railway Archive, ‘Henbury’ complete with full yellow end and bufferbeam, meets ‘Western Pride’ on Whapping wharf circa 1981. The diesel loco is standing on what is now the long siding in the yard. This photo also illustrates the industrial backdrop of the early days of the Harbour Railway, quite a contrast to the contemporary view.