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AVON VALLEY RAILWAY 2009
This line was opened by the Midland Railway in 1869 from Mangotsfield to Bath. It was a connecting route, allowing Midland trains to travel from the heart of England over the Somerset & Dorset lines from Bath to Poole and Bournemouth. As a result, it became a popular and heavily used route for holiday makers from the Midlands and the North travelling to the warm sandy beaches of the south coast. The line continued to flourish until the 1950s when cheaper road transport meant that the line was used less frequently. The withdrawal of passenger services was declared for 3rd January 1966, but difficulties with the replacement bus service delayed matters until 7th March 1966. Coal traffic to Bath Gas Works continued until July 1971, after which time the line was not used by any regular traffic. Track lifting for the now defunct branch line began on 8th May 1972, the gang reaching Bitton and removing the track there on 30th May. Oldland lost its metals on 1st June 1972 and by the end of the month, the entire line had gone.
A preservation society was formed in 1972. The society leased the Bitton station area only from 1972 to 1977, then leased the whole of the area from the A431 bridge northwards to the line of the dramway tunnel from March 1977. The line to Oldland Halt (now Oldland Common Station) was re-laid in 1988, but services did not begin until 1991. In 1999 the station at Oldland was rebuilt and a run-round loop installed.
The period 2000 to 2004 saw the line extend southwards to the River Avon viaduct, and a new station with a run-round loop constructed at Avon Riverside. The construction of a landing stage on the river by the station allows passengers to enjoy a day of railway and boat rides. The Bristol and Bath Path, a surfaced pathway for walkers and cyclists, runs along the whole length of the railway and beyond.
Bitton Station is the centre of the railway activities, including all the visitor amenities, as well as the main sidings and sheds. Bitton is literally in the centre of the railway. Passengers can board at Bitton and travel north to Oldland Common Station. The train then returns to Bitton, but passengers can remain on board for the journey south to Avon Riverside Station. Here passengers can opt for a boat trip along the River Avon, a picnic by the river, or again remain on board for the return to Bitton. The round trip is almost six miles, and takes just over an hour.
These photographs were taken on Sunday 9th August 2009.
Bitton Station as seen from the top of an open-top vintage bus.
The booking office of Bitton Station has been adorned with railway signs.
Station name plate.
BR Mark 1 coaches in Midland maroon are awaiting departure to Oldland Common.
The small level crossing allows walkers and cyclists on the Bristol and Bath Path to transfer from one side of the tracks to the other.
This original Midland Railway sign is at the south end of Bitton Station.
On 9th August 2009, the motive power was provided by "Karel",
which was built in 1954 at Fabryka Lokomotyw, Chrzanow, Poland.
Oldland Common Station name plate.
4015 "Karel" arriving at Oldland Common Station.
The end of the line, just beyond Oldland Common Station.
4015 "Karel" backing up on the run-round loop at Oldland Common Station.
The platform at Oldland Common Station.
Avon Riverside Station sign plate.
The end of the line at Avon Riverside Station.
Note the Bristol and Bath Path continuing along the old Midland track bed.
4015 "Karel" on the run-round loop at Avon Riverside Station.
"Karel" at the front of the train ready for the return journey to Bitton.
The line running north from Avon Riverside.
Travelling over the Avon Viaduct, now shared with the Bristol and Bath Path.
Back at Bitton Station. Made from local stone, it dates from 1869.
A DMU waits by the opposite platform for its turn on the railway.
The usual station paraphernalia gives the building an old fashioned look.
At Bitton Station "Karel" with her train of Mk 1 coaches approaches on a southbound journey.
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© Copyright M J Smith, 2009
No photographs to be reproduced elsewhere without permission.