Looking for the fat controller
We don't have the happiest of relationships with trains due to our regular battles with the delays and sky rocketing ticket prices. But there's one trip we're happy to travel on and pay for.
We first came across the Avon Valley Railway when we did our epic walk from Bristol to Bath. With 13 miles to complete we didn't have time to experience a stream train trip that day but vowed to come back. We finally got round to it on New Year's Day.
The railway is based at Bitton station, on the outskirts of Bristol, which used to be a stop on the old Midland Railway. After its closure in 1971 the station fell into decay but it has been painstakingly restored by volunteers. We were met by one of them as we paid for our tickets in the old booking office (no complicated ticket collection machines here!) and he enthusiastically described the trip that awaited us.
Walking onto the platform you enter a bygone age. With old fashioned advertising and a cafe selling good honest grub, we couldn't help but smile. There's something ever so romantic about steam trains and the stations they used to pass through. That romance is everywhere at Bitton.
We stood in awe as we watched the train driver stoking the fire of a steam engine that has been so well restored it looked like it had been made yesterday. After watching the engine travel down the line, billowing out smoke as it went, and then being fastened to the carriage at the other end of the platform, it was time to board!
We like to travel in style so quickly nabbed one of the first class carriages and pretended to be members of the Victorian glitterati.
The one hour journey was a delight as we travelled down the line to one station before pausing to allow the engine to be transported to the other end of the train so we could travel to another station.
Halfway into the experience a friendly ticket inspector with the obligatory old-style hat stopped by to clip our tickets followed by a group of volunteers who delivered a few glasses of sherry and a couple of mince pies. And guess what? The train was on time!
We concluded our trip with a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the station cafe, housed in a converted train carriage. Perfect!
The Avon Valley Railway is a jewel in the crown of Bristol attractions and you can't help but admire the passionate volunteers who take time out to recreate a time when travelling by train was a pleasure rather than a chore.
Words: Dan - Pics: Nina
I love this review. As the guard of the train the day you visited, I'm so incredibly glad we made such a fantastic impression! Makes volunteering to get up early on New Year's Day to blow a whistle and wave a flag well worth it. Thank you.
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