Avon Valley Railway

Avon Valley Railway - 27.10.19

The photographs were taken early this morning, at Bitton, Avon Valley Railway.

The photographs show the railways diesel shunter and the diesel DMU being prepared for the days service.

Wildlife can also be seen running along the railway track!

Autumn Half Term Trains - Saturday 26.10.19 to 03.11.19

Trip on one of the heritage diesel multiple unit loco.  Departures from 11:05am daily (except Monday & Friday)


 Fry Sentinel 7492 - 20.04.19

The Fry Sentinel 7492 steams after restoration at Bitton Station on the Avon Valley Railway heritage lines which restore engines and carriages.  The engine which was thought to be have been scrapped but was found and now has been restored by Volunteers.

This Easter the Avon Valley Railway celebrated the return to steam of an important piece of local railway history. Sentinel locomotive 7492 spent much of its working life on the railway at Fry’s ‘Somerdale’ chocolate factory site in Keynsham (just a mile from the Avon Valley Railway).

For almost 30 years, it was the workhorse of the West’s most famous chocolate factory, helping to take millions of chocolate bars from factory floor to the station on a tiny railway line of its own.

Now the Fry Sentinel 7492, beloved by anyone who worked at the Keynsham Somerdale site before 1956, has been restored to its former glory and this weekend it was back working on the  track at Bitton Station.

Eric Miles used to work at Somerdale in the early 1950s and spent many a happy hour having a ride on the footplate up to the station – someone from the firm was needed to open gates and stop the road traffic on the way. When he returned from National Service in 1958, the old Sentinel steam train had been replaced by a diesel engine  and he never saw it again, and like everyone else, thought it had long been cut apart for scrap.

That is, until Mr Miles decided to write a book.  The Somerdale factory was being closed down by Cadbury’s and as he began work on a history of the factory, he wondered what had become of the little old steam engine.

Incredibly, Mr Miles’ detective work didn’t lead to a scrapman’s blowtorch, but he found that it had been bought from a scrapyard and changed hands several times.  The trail ran cold in 1991 and all he had was a photo of it being loaded onto a transporter when the last owner he could trace had died and the collection was being broken up.

Mr Miles painstakingly deciphered the lorry firm’s logo from the photo, and managed to find where they had taken it, and in 2009, was reunited with the Sentinel in an overgrown Nissan hut in Essex.

The engine was brought back to the West by the Avon Valley Railway in Bitton, just a few miles from its original home in Keynsham.  The railway volunteers started fundraising for the resources to restore it properly.


“Seeing the old Sentinel for the first time since 1956, I was amazed how good a condition it was in, seeing that it had not steamed since leaving Somerdale in 1964,” he said. “Somerdale management offered to cover the cost of purchase and transporting the engine back, and it was arranged for it to stop over at Somerdale for 24 hours – a little bit of sentiment, before completing its journey to Bitton.”

Now fundraising activities have preserved the old engine,

One of the heritage railway’s volunteers, George Colbourne,  ran the Neolithic Marathon, between Avebury and Stonehenge in Wiltshire for donations.

David Cole, Avon Valley’s then, development manager, said: “This is a fantastic effort by George to raise funds for the Sentinel Shunter which is very much part of the heritage of this area. We hope one day to have it steaming again, which is bound to bring a tear to the eye of those who remember it in its heyday,” he added.



Avon Valley Railway - Fire and Water! - 13.04.19.

This weekend saw the Fire and Water event at Avon Valley Railway.

On the Saturday three trains were in service from Bitton and Oldlands stations.

Independence owned by Mr J White, was steaming on the forecourt of the Station and was driven to and from the event by Brothers James and Dan Cummings.

The Fire Boat was on station, giving rides and demonstrations on the River Avon between The Avon Riverside Halt and Keynsham.

Fire-boat Pyronaut

Pyronaut was a crucial part of the docks’ fire-fighting service for about 40 years.

Built in Bristol in 1934, Pyronaut (originally named Phoenix II) worked from the Prince Street Bridge river police station.   She had a crew of three firemen, including an engineer who was based in the engine room.

In 1940, Pyronaut was faced with her most challenging fire-fighting period, as the air raids of the Bristol Blitz damaged and destroyed countless warehouses, factories, shops and homes around the Floating Harbour.


By the late 1960s, Pyronaut’s equipment had become worn out and obsolete and in 1973 she was put up for sale.  Having completed a full restoration she can now be seen on Princes Wharf in front of M Shed and in full water-spraying action at events in the Harbour.

Pyronaut is part of the National Historic Ships core collection register.

Pyronaut was the third fire boat to work in Bristol's City Docks.

She was built in 1934 at Charles Hill & Sons shipyard and designed to be able to pass under every bridge in the harbour without the need to open them.

She could work between Cumberland Basin and Hanham weir, the entire extent of the port estate in the city.

Originally named Phoenix II, she was renamed in 1938, the new name being suggested by the teenage son of the Chair of the Watch Committee who was studying Greek at the time.

It was hard for land-based engines to reach ships and buildings and so Pyronaut fought numerous peacetime fires, before spending the early part of World War 2 in action almost every time that the Luftwaffe bombed the city.

After the war, she reverted to peacetime duties, attending the major blazes at the Hippodrome, St Annes Board Mills, Colston Hall and Rowe Brothers lead works in the 1940s and 50s. She also deputised for the Avonmouth fire boat once a year when it went for maintenance, and spent several days there in 1951 when the largest peacetime fire to that date broke out in the oil tanks.

At the end of the 1960s she was re-equipped with new engines and pumps, but the speedy decline of shipping in the City Docks and the greater ease with which land-based engines could get to fires meant that she was sold out of the fire service in 1973.


· Construction year: 1944
· WD 132 “Sapper”
· Builder: Hunslet Engine Company of Leeds
· Owner: Private – based at the East Lancashire Railway
· In Service
“Sapper” is on loan from Road & Rail Steam Services.

Sapper was built in 1944 for the War Department by the Hunslet Engine Company of Leeds.  Works number 3153, the WD gave her the number 75103.  She was then renumbered 132 after the war.

After military service, she was purchased by the National Coal Board for colliery work alongside many of her sisters.  She has the distinction of being the last steam locomotive in industrial service in the UK, being taken out of use from Bold Colliery in 1984.  After initial preservation at Chatterley Whitfield Mining Museum, she went to the South Devon Railway in 1994 where she worked for a couple of seasons before withdrawal.

Remarkably, over 80 of these versatile ex-WD locomotives have survived into preservation.

Sapper was sold by the SDR to a private buyer in 2009 and has been fully overhauled by the Flour Mill before making the East Lancashire Railway its home.

BR CLASS 31/1 NO. 31101

· Construction year: 1945
· Builder: Brush Traction
· No.31101
· Owned by Suburban Preservation
· In Service

D5518 (or 31101) is one of two Class 31 diesel locomotives based here at the Avon Valley Railway.

Built by Brush Traction in Loughborough, she entered service as D5518 on the 16th October 1958 based out of Stratford Shed.  Being one of the original batch, D5518 was built without headcode boxes and non-standard electromagnetic multiple working equipment.

By a stroke of luck (good or bad?), she was involved in a serious collision in 1967 – after which she was rebuilt with standard blue star multiple working equipment and headcode boxes and therefore saved from withdrawal in the 1970s with the rest of the original (and non-standard) 31/0s.

The locos were originally fitted with Mirrlees JVS12T engines but these proved unsuccessful. After BR lost their patience with reliability issues, it was decided to fit a downrated version of the well-proven English Electric 12CSVT as found in the Class 37. Now rated at 1470hp, the English Electric 12SVT was about as much as the original electrical equipment could handle, but this proved successful and the Class 31 was reborn out of the increasingly unreliable Class 30. D5518 received this modification in August 1967.

In 1973, D5518 was renumbered 31101 to fit with the new(ish) TOPS system that had been introduced by British Rail.

The loco has had an interesting life, having being saved from scrapping twice, being the first Class 31 to work passenger services on the Southern Region and hauling the Royal Train conveying the Queen.

After over 34 years in service, 31101 was finally retired from main line duties in January 1993 and purchased for preservation by Waterman Railways before eventually being sold to Suburban Preservation. She’s spent time in preservation at the East Lancashire Railway, Battlefield Line and of course here with us at Avon Valley Railway.

She arrived with us from the Battlefield Line on the 21st October 2014, joining her sister locomotive 31130 here at Bitton. Since being with us, she’s been repainted, renumbered back to 5518 from 31101 and had a Spanner Mark 1 steam heat boiler fitted.

A splendid addition to our fleet, D5518 is invaluable here providing steam heat services for Santa trains, off peak services and standing in if one of the steam locos or DMU doesn’t want to play. She can also be found taking turns in the summer with 31130 on Saturdays and Wednesday Evening Meal Trains.


· Construction year: 1918
· Builder: Avonside

The locomotive has recently been undergoing restoration in our goods shed at Bitton.

No. 1798 was originally ordered to help the war effort but wasn’t completed until after the war finished in November 1918 and was subsequently sold to the Imperial Smelting Works at Avonmouth, where it spent its entire working life before finally retiring in 1972.

It was bought by the Avon Valley Railway and stored at Fry’s chocolate factory in Keynsham until it was moved a year later to Bitton for restoration work to begin.

Once restored the locomotive was named ‘Edwin Hulse’ after a founder member of the railway.


VRU 781J 1971 F108 Dennis Pump Escape Fire Engine

Fist stationed at Bournemouth and from there to Christchurch serving as a driver instruction vehicle for Dorset Fire Service.

This vehicle then moved to Broadway Gloucestershire to complete her last few years of service.  It then ended up as playground on a farm for the owners children.

After at least 17 years in the open it was advertised on Ebay in an awful condition.

It didn’t sell and the current owner contacted the owner at that time and bought it in 2017.  The machine is now fully restored back to its original condition and is in the original Dorset Fire Service appearance.

Santa Specials on the Avon Valley Railway - 09.12.18

Extract from Avon Valley Railway website:


Join the Avon Valley Railway this festive season for a ride on one of our steam-hauled trains and enjoy a special visit from Father Christmas!

You’ll arrive at Bitton station and wait on the platform for the arrival of your steam train. The excitement mounts as you board our vintage carriages before the whistle sounds and the train gently pulls away. During your hour-long trip you’ll enjoy the rolling Avon Valley countryside pass by as Santa’s helpers distribute mince pies and festive biscuits to everyone. Then, the moment comes when Father Christmas himself appears and spends a short time with each family and asks that all important question; ‘Have you been good this year?’. He’ll then give each child a quality present designed especially for their age.

Once the train reaches Avon Riverside there will be the opportunity (weather permitting) for photographs with Father Christmas on the platform before you finally return to Bitton.


Trains will depart from Bitton Station at:


Sat 1 & Sun 2 £13 per seat
Mon 3 £11 per seat
Sat 8 & Sun 9 £14 per seat
Sat 15 & Sun 16 £15 per seat
Sat  21 & Sun 23 £15 per seat
Christmas Eve £15 per seat

Avon Valley Railway - 04.11.18

I dropped in on the Avon Valley Railway and was fortunate to capture some pictures of the London & South Western Railway ‘Beattie well tank’ 2-4-0WT 30587.


This engine was running on what should have been a diesel running day but not only this unusual sight, it has also been delivered to run in the opposite direction to the normal visiting engines. (A scoop for keen rail photographers)

Avon Valley Autumn Gala:

The two guest locomotives would have been involved in operations in the South of England, hauling anything from munitions to small troop or hospital trains:

32678 an A1X “Terrier” Class 0-6-0 tank engine built in 1880 by the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway and then known as No. 78 “Knowle”, which entered service on 23 July 1880. Between that date and the formation of the Southern Railway in 1923, “Knowle” ran an incredible total for a small engine of nearly a million miles.

The second engine, loaned to Avon Valley Railway by the National Railway Museum, is the London & South Western Railway, 2-4-0WT No 298, ‘Beattie Well Tank’, built in 1874, withdrawn in 1962. Renumbered 30587 by British Railways. The Beattie Well Tanks were replaced in August 1962, when No. 298 was 88 years old. When finally retired by British Railways these locomotives were the oldest design still in use by the national operation.

Engine Information:
London & South Western Railway ‘Beattie well tank’ 2-4-0WT 30587 courtesy of the Bodmin & Wenford Railway.  Similar locomotives, but designed and owned by the Midland Railway, operated the branch in the very first years that the Railway was open in the nineteenth century.

30587 was one of a class of 85, designed by Joseph Hamilton Beattie, the CME of the London & South Western Railway. These locomotives were designed in consultation with and built by Beyer Peacock at their works at Gorton, Manchester. Originally numbered 298, 30587 was completed in 1874 under the direction of William George Beattie who had succeeded his Father in 1871.

Initially the engine worked at Nine Elms in London, the class having proved itself capable of handling the heavy loads and high speeds demanded of them. However, with the arrival of larger locomotives, the class members were transferred to sheds outside the London area. Most of the engines had been scrapped by 1898 with the exception of 3 members of the class which were transferred to the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway in 1895 to work the sharp curves of that railway’s freight branch to Wenford Bridge carrying china clay traffic to the main line. They were finally withdrawn in 1962 and replaced by GWR 0-6-0PT dock tanks, outlasting the rest of the class by a staggering 64 years.

30587, one of two in preservation, was selected for the national collection. It was stored at various locations before being taken to the Flour Mill Workshops in 2001 in the Forest of Dean for restoration to working order, entering traffic on the BWR in 2002. Withdrawn in 2012 for overhaul it returned to action in 2013.


If you have any queries or wish to purchase a photograph, please contact me:


+44 7831237759



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  • Sarah Mitchell (Wednesday, September 11 19 10:31 pm BST)

    Hi there is a wonderful picture you took of a dear friend of mine on his journey to the gdsf this year. It is in the western daily press dated 22/08/19 Carl Brown roading the Marshall to gdsf. I cannot locate this picture on any website to purchase and was hoping i could purchase through yourself many thanks Sarah

  • John Baines (Friday, April 05 19 03:45 pm BST)

    Have you any photogaphs of James & Crockerills yard in Durrington? Their MD Peter Barber owned the Burrell Scenic Road loco 'Prince of Wales@ and other engines including Burrell roller 'Daffodil'

  • Zoe Read (Saturday, March 02 19 07:08 pm GMT)

    I see you already have dates for this one but I wondered if you would consider adding Purbeck Rally to your event list?
    9th -11th August
    worgret road, wareham, dorset, BH20 6AB
    Raising funds for Forest Holme Hospice Charity & other local causes.

  • Andrew Gray (Wednesday, February 20 19 07:55 pm GMT)

    Is that Mr Dimmer and the train made at Durrington Sec Modern, I started there 1963 and left 1968. Mr Dimmer (Regg) was such a great teacher. Wonderful set of images to treasure. p.s we met today at the Boscombe Down Tornado fly past.

  • Jamie (Saturday, September 01 18 01:39 am BST)


    I am Jamie. One of the coalomen from last weeks steam fair. I know you mentioned taking lots of photos of us and it would be lovely to see them. Please get back to me when you can with prices ect i will most certainly purchase a few! In the meantime i will admire wgat you have on your page here already, hope you enjoyed the show! Speak soon


  • Don Russell (Friday, August 17 18 08:51 am BST)

    Hullo, found your site when looking for GDSF info. I was wondering if you had any information regarding engines travelling to the GDSF. I read engines will be raising money for cancer on there journey but I cannot find any info regarding route and timings.Thanks

  • Brian Moore (Saturday, August 04 18 12:40 pm BST)

    Thanks David: Brian

  • Peter Freeman (Thursday, May 10 18 09:56 pm BST)

    Fantastic site, easy to read and great pics! Keep up the good work.

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