August 2004.

After years of talking about getting to the River Avon we've finally achieved it - and what an achievement it has been!

From a business point of view it has really transformed the visitor experience. No longer is it a ride up and down a short length of track for the passengers, as now they have a destination and a purpose for their travel. Avon Riverside station has made possible the river boat trips, picnicking by the river and walks in the valley (including some to the local public houses). The word is spreading , visitor numbers are increasing, and so is revenue.

With the opening of Avon Riverside has come an increased number of running days. This has, at times, been a challenge to ensure that sufficient crews and locos/rolling stock are available but we have, to date, been able to run all our scheduled services. Thanks here must go to all the operating and maintenance staff for their commitment in achieving this.

One major downside to our money earning capacity this year has been the cancellation of our May 'Day out with Thomas' event due to bad weather. However, we are hoping that this can be made up by the end of the year with the introduction of new activities and events. At this point it would be appropriate to welcome Aaron Stone to the Avon Valley Railway as our second full time employee. Aaron has a background in retail and catering which is being used to exploit a number of opportunities we were previously unable to consider. His culinary flair and enthusiasm has already given the railway a Bistro evening and plans are being progressed for a Real Ale Festival later in the year. He has also been a great help to me in assisting with the growing volume of work in the office.

On the positive side we continue to be extremely good at what we do - Driver Courses are full for 2004, only a few seats left for the remainder of our Steam 'n' Cuisine events this year, bookings are coming in for our two Murder Mystery nights in September and October and people are constantly asking when they can book for the Santa Specials. The remainder of 2004 will certainly keep us busy, but this is what we must do if we are to achieve our goals of developing our facilities at Bitton and extending the line to Bath.

None of this would be possible without your support - thank you for making the Avon Valley Railway the success it is today.

March 2004.

Many of the items mentioned in my previous reports are now, thankfully, coming to fruition.

Our new colour brochure is now available and, from the comments we’ve heard so far, has been well received by members and visitors alike. The opportunity has been taken to provide a central map of the line, so that passengers can understand where they are going. Details of the links with the River Avon boat trips are also included, as this is seen as an excellent way of encouraging more visitors onto the trains. More emphasis has also been placed on our other money-making activities – lunches, children’s parties, driving courses and corporate visits - to boost income in these areas.

With steam and diesel services, boat trips on some days and three different timetables, it has been a little difficult to get this information over in a simple way. Hopefully, we won’t find too many confused people.

With an increased print run of 150,000 leaflets, please take a handful or two and distribute them wherever you can. Cardboard leaflet holders are also available, if required.

The Multi Purpose Open coach is now on its way back to Bitton, after an extended holiday at the workshops of Rampart Carriage and Wagon in Derby. Transport has been arranged for Tuesday 30th April and it should arrive during the afternoon. Once back on AVR metals we have a few jobs to do to see it complete – carpet is to be laid during the same week and curtain rails and curtains should follow very soon.

We are expecting a good response from local businesses that want to find somewhere unusual to hold meetings. So, if you know of any businesses that might be interested please mention it to them and suggest they give David Cole a call.

The 2004 season has started well with a 20% increase in revenue for the Mother’s Day steaming on 21 March, plus a full complement of diners on the luncheon service. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that this continues throughout the year.

The first ‘Thomas’ event is rapidly approaching on 8/9 May. As always, help is needed in all departments so please keep this weekend free in your diary if you can.

David Cole.

February 2004.

Having just completed at the end of January another financial year for the railway, all the indications are that the organisation has achieved another successful twelve months, with profits similar to 2002-3. This is particularly pleasing when you consider the increasing running costs and the developments currently taking place.

It was also very pleasing to see so many people attending the annual dinner at the Fry Club last month. It is hoped that everyone agrees that the surroundings were more suitable, particularly as numbers had grown to over eighty. Any thoughts on how we might be able to improve the evening further are always welcome.

The start of the 2004 running season is now fast approaching and the office is dealing with a growing number of enquiries from both families and groups. The possibility of a combined boat and train trip is of particular interest, justifying the considerable financial and volunteer investment in Avon Riverside. With the inspection from the Railway Inspectorate just under a month away it is vital that we concentrate all our efforts on completing the works by the end of February. If you are able to offer any additional time, especially midweek, then please speak to either Bob Hitchings or David Cole.

Following a recent visit to Derby to see the progress being made on the MPO, arrangements are now being made to return the vehicle to Bitton at the end of February. When it returns there will be a small amount of work required on the interior to make it usable, but it should be available almost immediately to start earning money for the railway.

Progress is also being made on the colour brochure, which will be a vast improvement on the design we have used for several years. We expect to finalise this very soon and see the finished product back from the printer by the end of the month.

David Cole.

January 2004.

David Cole is more than pleased to report that OUR SANTAS WERE SPECIAL!!!!!

And that’s not just the man in the red coat.

The Santa Special trains have, once again, been a tremendous success, with over 11,000 visitors and just under £80,000 taken in train fares over the 11 days. As a comparison, this is almost double the number carried by our neighbours at the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway. The buffet, shop and raffle have also achieved excellent results, making this a real winner for us.

“Having spent some time involved with most parts of the Christmas operation during this hectic period,” David commented “I realise how much effort has gone into achieving these results. On behalf of the Trustees and Board of Directors I’d like to thank everyone for their commitment to making it such a success.”

Don’t forget an important part of our own social calendar is on the horizon. The annual dinner is taking place on Saturday 31 January at the Fry Club, Keynsham. Last year saw a number of new faces at this informal get-together, and we hope to see even more attending this time around.  Working members receive a discount of £8 on the full price of £18, whilst partners and guests are welcome at the full price.

In the last Whistle Blower the new events being planned for 2004 were outlined. Of course, the ‘big one’ is going to be the opening of Avon Riverside, which is planned for Easter. We do need to concentrate all our efforts during the closed season to ensure the work is completed in time, as the new platform will generate much needed revenue to enable us to continue our development plans for the future. For this reason there are no public train operations planned during January and February, The first Driver Courses will take place over the weekend of 6/7 March.

In addition to our normal events we are looking to include a number of new activities during 2004. A Railwayana auction is already pencilled in for 18 April, a Polish Day (marking the return of 'Karel' from boiler repair) is being considered for the end of June and dates for a Transport Rally and Rail Ale Day are being discussed. I would also hope that we can include a number of Murder Mystery events into the programme.

Discussions with the boat operators for the rail/river link are continuing, with a very positive meeting having taken place between Christmas and the New Year.

Work on the MPO (Multi Purpose Open) coach, which contractors at Derby are undertaking, is progressing well; we should see the coach returned to us during January. This will be a valuable asset for the railway as it will give us the opportunity to expand our corporate functions. Some internal finishing of the coach, such as varnishing and carpeting, will be needed once it’s back with us. Hopefully, that work will be completed by Easter.

A temporary timetable will shortly be available for our visitors, awaiting the printing of our new and improved colour brochure.

David Cole.

December 2003


Although we haven’t yet reached Christmas the advance planning for our 2004 season is now taking shape.

With the opportunities opening up to us in the Avon Valley, and the investment the Railway has made in Avon Riverside, we need to ensure that next year is a real winner for us. The interest shown from both individuals and groups during 2003 in our joint rail/river trips gives us a good indication that this will be a very popular activity, bringing in much needed additional funds to allow the railway to expand.

Additional events are also being considered at the moment. Hopefully we will see the return of some old favourites such as the Railwayana Auction and Transport Rally, as well as one or two new events. More on this later.

A totally new colour brochure is being designed for 2004, giving the railway a higher profile and selling our services to a wider audience. This should be available from early February.

Having said this, it is appreciated that we are currently in a very busy period and there is still a lot of work required to complete Avon Riverside in time for Easter. However, with the enthusiasm and commitment everyone has already shown during 2003, we all look forward to being able to open our new extension for the start of next season.


As at the 2nd of December, the booking office had taken bookings totalling over £61,000. This is slightly down on 2002, - but that was an exceptional year, and we are still expecting to see the final figure well over £70,000.

Thanks for all your help during 2003. A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.

David Cole.

November 2003

Coming to the end of our extended summer season, I'm delighted to report that we are once again experiencing a record year as far as passenger numbers and revenue are concerned.

The success story covers the whole of the commercial operation of the railway - from buffet to birthday parties and shop to Sunday lunches - with traditionally quiet periods now a thing of the past. A big 'thank you' is due to every one of you for your commitment to the Avon Valley Railway this year.

The recent 'Day Out with Thomas' was an outstanding success, with a 10% increase on our previous best attendance for such an event, and a 13% increase in revenue. Takings for a weekend exceeded £30,000 for the first time!   However, we did also experience another 'first' for the railway - having to turn people away because the station site was at capacity. This will be looked at for next year.

Looking to the future, the Santa Special season is rapidly approaching. The booking office is catching up on the backlog of bookings, to the extent that over £26,000 worth of tickets have already been sold by the end of October. We still have some way to go before we approach our record of 12,221 tickets sold in 2002, but we are confident of another excellent festive season.

The Santa Specials do need a real commitment from our volunteers to enable us to give so many children a wonderful Christmas experience. Thank you to those of you who have already returned your Santa roster, distributed with the last 'Ground Signal'. However, we do need more help and any assistance you can offer - even a few hours would be really appreciated - a call to the booking office is all that's required.

Our annual inspection by the English Tourism Council has once again praised the railway for its continuing development. Improved facilities and visitor information were highlighted, as well as the potential of the links with other attractions once Avon Riverside is opened.

Although we are some six months away from the proposed opening of Avon Riverside, plans are already well advanced for a bumper 2004. Links with both boat trips along the river and the Avon Valley Country Park are planned, together with a number of new events at Bitton station.

A visit by some thirty coach operators to the Avon Valley Railway on Saturday 1 November, organised by Bristol Tourism and Conference Bureau, has resulted in some good contacts. This should hopefully see us becoming established as a regular part of the group visit programme for both Bristol and Bath. On the same evening we also held our first 'Murder Mystery' event which was an outstanding success.  Almost one hundred people joined the train for three hours of good food and entertainment, whilst the railway has benefited to the tune of several hundreds of pounds.

Finally, we are once again holding a members' end of season meal. This year we have changed the venue to the Fry's Club, Keynsham on Saturday 31st January 2004, where Bryan Haynes has kindly offered to show some of his transport films after the meal.   Final details are yet to be arranged, but if anyone is interested in attending - this is open to all members, not just working members - then please let the Booking Office know and we will keep you informed.

David Cole.

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This page last updated by Tony Wray on 14/8/2004.