Open main menu

The Avon Valley Railway (AVR) is a three-mile-long heritage railway based at Bitton station in South Gloucestershire, England, not far from Bristol and is run by a local group: The Avon Valley Railway Company Ltd. The railway follows the Avon Valley south-east from Oldland Common, through Bitton and alongside the River Avon towards Kelston and Bath. The railway shares its route with the Sustrans cycleway and footpath, the Bristol & Bath Railway Path.

Avon Valley Railway
Bitton - 52025 and WPR 15.JPG
Bitton railway station and yards from a level crossing with the Bristol & Bath Railway Path
LocaleGloucestershire
Commercial operations
NameMangotsfield and Bath Branch Line
Original gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Preserved operations
Length3 miles (4.8 km)
Preserved gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Commercial history
Closed1966
Preservation history
1977Reopened
1991Oldand Common re-opens, line extended
2004Avon Riverside opens to the public, line extended
HeadquartersBitton

Contents

HistoryEdit

 
 
Avon Valley Railway shown within Gloucestershire
(grid reference ST664710)

The railway is part of the otherwise-dismantled Midland Railway Mangotsfield and Bath branch line, which was closed in 1966 as a result of the Beeching cuts, due mainly to the Great Western Railway, which also connected Bristol and Bath, being just a few miles to the south.[1]

The railway is perhaps best known for connecting the former Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway (S&DJR), whose northern terminus was at Bath Green Park station, with the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS). The Midland Railway lines along the Avon Valley thus opened up the S&D lines to travellers from the British industrial Midlands. This was particularly so during summer Saturdays when families flocked south to the beaches of Dorset and the English south coast. Many extra trains thus had to be added to the schedule to accommodate this increased demand.[2][3] Although owned and run by the Midland Railway, many S&D locomotives were often seen working trains along this line.

After the lines were removed, from 2000 the northern section from Mangotsfield to Warmley was used to build a dual carriage development of the A4174 road, although both station sites currently still exist. The remainder of the line was passed from the British Railways Board to Sustrans, who in co-operation with the local councils developed the Bristol and Bath Railway Path.[4] Further development of the heritage railway is wholly dependent on a usage agreement with Sustrans.

IncidentsEdit

On 24 July 2018, during a shunting operation at Bitton station, two empty coaches ran away for 40 metres on a down gradient until they collided with a level crossing gate closed across the track. The coaches, which had no handbrakes, overrode chocks placed against two wheels. There were no injuries.[5]

PreservationEdit

 
Exposition of AVR Edmondson tickets from 1979—1986
Avon Valley Railway
Oldland Common
Bitton
Avon Riverside

Bitton station and its yard, including some trackbed, was leased from British Railways Board by the Bristol Suburban Railway Society, a group of local volunteers intent on restoring commuter and weekend steam use to the Bristol-Mangotsfield-Bath and Mangotsfield-Yate railway routes.

Work progressed slowly over the years restoring the heavily vandalised buildings and laying track north towards Oldland Common and Warmley. Weekend steam-hauled 'brake van' train rides progressed to proper passenger services along the ever-lengthening line in restored 1950s British Railways Mark 1 carriages.

In 1979, the Bristol Suburban Railway Society was incorporated into the Bitton Railway Co. Ltd. and the laid track reached Oldland Common in 1988. By 1992 however, the city of Bristol had expanded greatly with houses encroaching upon the former railway line and expansion north to Warmley and Mangotsfield was no longer considered practical.[6] The line thus began to expand south out into the valley of the River Avon. By 2004, it had crossed the Avon and a new station was built to service the Avon Valley Country Park — a large picnic and recreation site — along with a river wharf to provide visitors with connections to river barges and river boat trips.

Building of a new buffet and toilets facility at Bitton station began in 2007 to replace the current buffet and toilets and to increase space for the railway's gift shop.[7]

Work continues to potentially extend the railway south-east towards Bath (as far as Newbridge).[8]

As a tourist attraction, the Avon Valley Railway now handles 80,000 visitors per year. The AVR provides round trip steam train travel from Bitton Station north to Oldland Common then south to Avon Riverside station. The line is open to travellers on most weekends.

Motive powerEdit

Steam locomotivesEdit

Number & Name Description Current Status Livery Image
No. 4015 "Karel" TKh49 0-6-0T Operational, boiler ticket expires in 2026. Polish State Railways Green  
No. 132 "Sapper" Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0ST Operational. WD Green  
No. 44123 LMS Fowler 4F 0-6-0 Currently being restored from Barry scrapyard condition. N/A  
No. 7151 RSH 0-6-0T Major overhaul underway. It is hoped that it will mainly be completed by volunteers to reduce the overall cost. Black  
No. 2018 "Littleton No.5" Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST Stored, awaiting overhaul Dark Blue  
No. 1798 "Edwin Hulse" Avonside 0-6-0ST Undergoing restoration N/A
No. 7492 Sentinel Waggon Works 4wd Operational, boiler ticket expires in 2028. Dark Blue  

Diesel locomotives/DMUsEdit

Number & Name Description Current Status Livery Image
No. 446 "Kingswood" Andrew Barclay Sons & Co. 0-4-0 shunter Operational Green  
No. 610 "General Lord Robertson" Sentinel 0-8-0 shunter, ex-Army Undergoing restoration Blue  
WD No. 70043 "Grumpy" Andrew Barclay 0-4-0 Shunter Operational Black  
MOD No. 429 "River Annan" a.k.a. "Salty" Ruston and Hornsby LSSH 0-6-0DH shunter Operational Red  
No. 07010 British Rail Class 07 Awaiting repairs BR Blue  
No. 31130 "Calder Hall Power Station" British Rail Class 31 Undergoing bodywork repairs Coal sector grey  
No. 5518 (31101) British Rail Class 31 Operational BR Blue  
No. 08202 British Rail Class 08 Operational BR Blue  
No. 08663 British Rail Class 08 Not currently operational BR Blue  
No. 09015 British Rail Class 09 Under restoration EWS Red & Gold  
Cars Sc52006 + Sc52025 British Rail Class 107 Operational BR Green  

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Holland, Julian (2013). Dr Beeching's Axe: 50 Years on : Illustrated Memories of Britain's Lost Railways. David & Charles. p. 27. ISBN 9781446302675.
  2. ^ Maggs, Colin (2005). The Mangotsfield to Bath Line: Including the Story of Green Park Station (Locomotion Papers). Oakwood Press. ISBN 978-0853616344.
  3. ^ "Bath Green Park". Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  4. ^ "Welcome". Bristol & Bath Railway Path. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  5. ^ "Runaway of two coaches at Bitton, Avon Valley Railway, 25 July 2018". Rail Accident Investigation Branch. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  6. ^ "Avon Valley Railway". Steam Railway Lines. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  7. ^ Avon Valley Railway – Railway News Article Archived 5 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Avon Valley Railway looks forward". BBC. Retrieved 11 October 2015.

External linksEdit