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.
In addition to the Father’s Day Steam Up, the opportunity was taken to run a photo charter, organised by 30742 Charters and featuring ‘Teddy’ and ‘Kilmersdon’ in action, as well as ‘Henbury’ on static display.
Will Stratford was there to capture the occasion in these great photos.
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.*
One of the main aims of 2014 has been to tidy up the overall look of the railway. This has ranged from the restoration of the MOGO van, to weedkilling and cutting back branches.
Even the simple things such as picking up litter can make a huge difference. From the small area next to the river siding came enough rubbish to fill 2 large sacks.
Here is the river siding earlier this year:
The PBA brake van has also had a clean. The North side of the wagons, facing away from sunlight, can get very dirty and covered in moss.
One of the biggest challenges of having a railway in the inner city is graffiti. Bristol has a proud history of famous graffiti and street artists, such as Banksy, 3D and Inkie, however it is less helpful when someone puts their tag on museum stock. Sometimes this could be due to the perception that the stock is out of use, or more generally, trains are daubed so that particular tag can be seen all around the country.
Regardless of the reasoning, the best response is to clean it off quickly, showing that the trains are in fact in use by the museum and that people care about their appearance.
The passenger train was tagged in April this year. This was cleared off almost straight away.
One of the railway’s goods wagons is currently having a bit of TLC. This van has previously been the victim of graffiti tagging, and while the worst was quickly cleaned off, the remnants were still visible.
It’s Bristol Harbour Festival this weekend! The railway will be in operation both days. Various ships are arriving at the docks, including this tugboat.