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If you would like to have your say on the Avon Valley Railway, or the Mangotsfield to Bath branch, submit a letter to the Editor.  If you just want to say Hi!, your web site is good/bad/indifferent, then please sign the guestbook.

Dear Editor

I thought the new 'Semaphore' magazine was brilliant - congratulations.

I enclose the briefest of obituaries of my father, Tom King, whose plaque we dedicated in April of this year. His life was serialised in the 'Midland Record' over four issues and this obituary was written at the beginning of this year.

We part-funded the barge boards which featured in the 'Semaphore', with donations from his funeral. He was a MR/LMS man to his marrow!

All good wishes

Margaret King.

Thomas King was born in Walsall on 25th June 1898. Tom lived for the railway, joining the Midland Railway Company's Locomotive Department when he was 17 years of age. Later he moved to Derby and Birmingham (Bournville) before returning to Walsall.

As a fireman he worked trains to many destinations including Holyhead, Blackpool, Doncaster, Southampton, London and Bristol. Probably the best known of his mates was Driver Aldington, who later was the driver of the mail train that was in the Charfield disaster. Climbing the ladder of promotion, he was made a driver at Bristol Barrow Road in 1936, moving his family and home to Bristol in that year. During the years that followed he worked his way through the links from goods trains to the top passenger links which included driving the 'Devonian' from Bristol to Leeds.

In 1958 he became the chairman of the local LDC No. 2 branch and retired from railway service in 1963; with the arrival of the diesels it was time to hand over to younger men. He had spent 21 years as a fireman, and 27 years as a driver.

Retirement did not mean doing nothing - he took up work at the offices of the Bristol Evening Post. His other activities included joining a choral society and he also gave slide shows to a number of clubs. Tom was a remarkable man, remaining active until well into his 90's, but in 1995 his wife Eva died. Few people can claim to have lived in three centuries but Tom King was one, passing away on Friday 29th March 2002. He leaves a son Tom, a daughter Margaret and brother Frank, who still lives in Walsall; he was also a railwayman. May Tom King rest in God's peace.

Roy Williams.

Tom King's Service Record.

Tom began as a cleaner at Walsall on 27th October 1915 at the rate of fifteen shillings per week. He went to Derby on 17th January 1916 at eighteen shillings per week and then to Bournville on 29th October in the same year. As a fireman his rate was now 24 shillings per week.  His next move was in 1922 when, on 26th May, he returned to Walsall at 66 shillings. He was moved to Derby on 19th November 1935 when his pay was 72 shillings per week and he became a fireman passed for driving on 16th March 1936 at the same rate of pay. Two years later it was noted that he had completed two years driving and his rate was 79 shillings per week; thereafter the only changes were to his rate of pay.

Tom King on his 100th birthday, being presented with a drawing of LMS Jubilee 'Galatea', which as a Bristol Barrow Road engine, he drove many times.

Dear Editor

I was just reading through 'Railway Magazine' and was interested to see just how well you guys did with fund raising. Your Santa Specials and Thomas days rivaled and even beat some of the "big boys". Good show.

Keep the news coming via the website. Still a must see weekly visit for me.

Brenda Hopkins

Dear Editor

It's good to see the website continues to be regularly updated for us members who are a long way away!! The progress towards the River Avon is impressive. Well done to all the members.

One area that I still feel needs to be improved is the input of information to 'Steam Railway' magazine. There is very little in there about all the progress and projects ongoing at Bitton.

I also see that at long last the provision of covered accommodation is being looked at seriously. I wonder if the Radstock shed structure will be reused. A lot of hard work went into recovering this and I feel that some of the steel work should be incorporated into the new design. An overhead crane would also be of great use to all.

I know that funds will be difficult to obtain but an original railway structure to help protect heritage items may be worth an application for a Heritage Grant.

May be over sometime this year.

Colin Bazeley
Adelaide, South Australia

Dear Editor

Please can you give a mention for the following book in the "Semaphore".

"From Booking Boy to Bulleids" is the autobiography of former Southern Railway employee Jim Evans. He began his career in 1944 as a station messenger boy before promotion to signal box "booking boy". He transferred to the engine shed as a cleaner and promotion through the "links" followed.  He became a driver, eventually working such crack expresses as the "Bournemouth Belle". His impressive career included becoming the youngest ever Top Link driver at Nine Elms depot, London, and driving the very last steam loco in BR service out of Waterloo in July, 1967.

The print run is 1500 copies only. "Avon Valley Railway" members can order a copy by sending a cheque for £19.95 (which includes £1 towards P&P) made out to "Buggleskelly Books" at: 44, Manor Road, Bexhill, East Sussex TN40 1SN.

Your members will also receive a complimentary numbered souvenir sheet signed by both Jim and myself.


Anthony P. Vent

Dear Editor

I just have to write to say thank Avon Valley Railway for the brilliant day I spent as a participant on the Railway Experience Course B on Saturday 15th June. I suppose beforehand I had no idea what to expect or even IF I would cope on the day. I need not have worried. Alan (Course Organiser and Guard), Andrew (Driver) and Gordon (Fireman) coached us through a 'hands on' day at a controlled pace, professionally run with just the right amount of necessary briefing and guidance at each stage throughout the day. Friendly reminders were injected as necessary to keep us on track for a practical, rewarding and memorable day. Andrew must have wondered why I was never certain whether the brake was on or off - ever watchful, he encouraged patiently so that I achieved the correct manoeuvre at the controls of 41708.

"The Family" really appreciated and enjoyed the brake van rides with William (age two & a half years) 'shrieking' a bit more as the engine inched its way closer to the guards van for coupling.

I learned much throughout the day and have a feeling and appreciation of what is involved in just some of the activities of the day. I look at my Certificate with pride -did I really do all that? A day of excellence with an ambition achieved and expectations well exceeded. Such infectious enthusiasm shared all round.

Please thank Alan, Andrew and Gordon for a superb day. My very best wishes to them and to fellow course participants too. Thanks for the Membership pack etc which I trust will be well used by me.

With very best wishes,

Peter Windram
Chipping Sodbury, Bristol.

Dear Editor

The members of the Sussex Holiday Club would like to thank you and the Bitton Railway Company for making our visit so memorable.

Everyone enjoyed the train journey immensely, and the lunch served during the trip was both well organised and of a high standard.

We wish Bitton Railway Company continued success and look forward to one day making a return visit.

With best wishes.

Patrick Lidbetter

Holiday Club Organiser

Dear Editor

re: Evening Meal - Saturday 27 April 2002

I am writing to say thank you to you and your colleagues for a thoroughly enjoyable evening last Saturday on your delightful train. Everyone really enjoyed themselves, the food was excellent, the venue very comfortable and relaxing and the service superb. Everyone who came told me today how much they enjoyed the evening.

I shall certainly pass the word around about your excellent facilities and wish you well in your attempts to raise funds to increase the length of the line to take in the river trips - this sounds a great idea.

Thank you all once again for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

With best wishes

Sue Bessell (Mrs) - The Lewis Laboratories, Southmead Hospital.

Dear Editor

re - Footplate Experience Course

Just a few lines to thank all concerned for a most informative day on Saturday last.  You all made us pupils most welcome and Alan, Gordon and Andy exercised great patience throughout our tuition.

You no doubt realize that so far as I was concerned this was a school boys ambition come true.  However I did have to wait until I was in my sixties before I would achieve it. It certainly was worth the wait.

Thank you once again and as a 'local' I will watch with interest your progress towards Bath.

Bob Porton.

Dear Editor

A brief note to say how much I enjoyed the Railway Experience Course B that I attended last Saturday 20th April.  It really was an excellent day - and run in a very professional way, with just the right amount of attention to proper "Operating Procedures". All instruction was given in a very informal and friendly way, with great patience, so special thanks to Alan "Guard", Andy "Driver" and Gordon "Fireman".  

I was particularly pleased that we were allowed to "have a go" with minimal intervention, it made the day that much more satisfying.  Considering the potential for disasters, I think our instructors showed great restraint - particularly with the confusion with regard to the Loco vacuum brake wheel direction for stop/start!

Generally the whole day exceeded my expectations - and gave a very good appreciation of the special skills required in Firing and Driving a steam loco.  The Brake Van rides were also much enjoyed by family and friends - even if the stop/starts were a little quick at timesl

It was a long ambition realized - I think my Father ( ex Barrow Road ) must have been looking down with a mixture of amusement and approval.

I look forward to my next visit to AVR.

Thanks once again, and please pass on my very best wishes to all concerned.

Yours sincerely,

David Lacy.

Dear Editor or should I say G'day,

The web site is great and keeps me up to date with progress at Bitton. I especially liked the series on the Oldland work over the spring break....a very wet spring from what I hear!

My comment on the exciting developments is that we don't get enough info into Steam Railway which I also still get....I know the enhusiast is a minor contributor to the turnover but it helps raise the profile of the railway and may get some people with rolling stock interested in moving to Bitton.

Keep up the good work and pass on my best wishes to all my old friends there.

I may even write an article on some of the "early days" with the retrieval of track from Frys, Bristol Docks, South Wales and the move of the Steam Crane as some potential material.

Best wishes

Colin and Lisa Bazeley


I'm now into flying old aeroplanes and enjoy travelling around the SE of Australia in my 1962 Piper Colt!!

Dear Editor

I just wanted to say THANKYOU to everyone who made the recent 'Day Out with Thomas' such an enjoyable day. My two girls aged 2 and 5 had a lovely time, and are still talking about it now. They enjoyed the bus rides, seeing the engines, and riding on the train (almost as much as I did!). The puppets and face painting were also high on their list.

Thankyou again to everyone for working so hard to make it an enjoyable day, and I hope the chaps directing the traffic in the field car park have now fully dried out after the Sunday afternoon monsoon!

We look forward to coming to the railway again soon, and I hope the weekend raised plenty of funds for the railway.

Alastair Hunter.


We were lucky enough to win your MOST DELICIOUS Teddy Bear cake when taking part in the Teddy Bears' Picnic on Sunday July 15th.  

I just wanted to THANK YOU VERY MUCH - it was such a large cake that we shared it with several members of our family and with friends - we even took a photograph to remind us of our lovely day out.  

Do you ever make chocolate Teddy Bear cakes to order - if so I would really appreciate a phone call from you.

Could you pass on our thanks to the two ladies who helped my granddaughter to make a plate and some sandwiches for her teddy - she enjoyed it so much.

Thanks again, and regards.

Paulette and Reg King.


I thought it was about time I sent something in to the web site. The attached photo's are not stills from the new Harry Potter movie, but of the Avon Valley's own Wizard! You may have heard reports of a mysterious head board displayed on the Father's Day wine and dine hauled by 7151, well the headboard was the WELSH WIZARD.  I must explain the Welsh Wizard is really me, the Fathers Day train was my first revenue passenger train since passing out as a driver in December of last year, which makes me the Avon Valley's only Welsh driver.

Photo 1 is of 7151 at the River Avon, photo 2 is of me posing next to 7151 at Bitton and photo 3 shows James Sidwick handing the single line token to Nigel Seville on the footplate.

Keep a look out for this headboard in the future, if it's on then I'm driving.


Newport, South Wales.

Dear Editor,

I'd just like to say a big thanks to Terry Osborne for sharing his wonderful memories of the earliest days of the 'Bitton Experience'. I for one feel a bit like a 'Johnny-come-lately' having read his article, and the true depth and breadth of the foundation upon which we're now building has now really been brought home to me.

I'm immensely proud of Terry, and the others at the time who shared the vision, and deeply grateful for the stupendous amount of hard graft and doubtless heartache that they all must have suffered to get things off the ground. I think it's really important for us all to realise just how much has been achieved over the years - and Terry's article makes it crystal clear. Faces may change, people may come and go, but the point is we've all shared the same vision, we're all working to the same ends, and the torch gets passed from generation to generation.

At the time Terry and his fellows were busy saving the line, I was a very young lad, probably gricing somewhere around the country, logging numbers and thinking how great it was to be allowed to roam the country in pursuit of my trainspotting hobby at my tender age. Sure, I had dreams, like many, of preserved lines, 'our own locos', and saving half of Dai Woodham's Barry scrapyard, if only I could've. But I never dreamed that one day, circumstances would prevail which would drag me into the Bitton scene, and that I'd become part of this great chain-gang of people breathing new life into a lost line. Had it not been for people like Terry and his pals, I'd never have this opportunity - and I dare say, if it'd had been left to me to do back then, I'd never have been able to achieve what they have.

So, a really big thank you, to Terry and company for putting in the graft, and to Tony for publishing the story so that we can all share in it - our very own heritage. I think it'll always be in my mind, next time there's a desperate search on for volunteers, or the times in the pouring rain when we're wondering whether there's a point to our occasional hardships! Compared to the early days, we're really very lucky people, and we owe a great debt to those that fought so hard to re-establish the Bitton line. And the best way of repaying that debt will be to keep it going, stronger and better than ever, so that we, in turn, can pass it on as a going  concern to the generations that follow.

Best wishes,

Neil Jackson

Dear Editor,

It may be of interest to members to know that I have added to my website a Saturday afternoon journey from Temple Meads via Mangotsfield and of couse Bitton to Bath.  At the beginning there are photographs taken inside the Brunel train shed, and at the end there is an option to continue over the Somerset & Dorset as far as Evercreech Junction.

The URL is http://www.lanternfilms.ukphotographers.com

As you may know, the site is on the Somerset and Dorset Railway webring, in the company of your own auspicious site, 'Semaphore Online'.

On a visit to the Nile last month I spotted a form of motive power which was absolutely new to me as far as rail transport is concerned - a camel, on a narrow gauge sugar cane railway, apparently hitched up to a loaded waggon.  When I came back the camel was enjoying a well earned rest!  Would love to video these railways, they appear to be quite undocumented.  The camel may appear in a future web page.

Kind regards,

Philip Fowler.

Dear Editor,

After reading Lisa's letter, I was struck with the impression that she sees me as some dreadful old rivet counter with little better to do than disparage the excellent efforts of her father - so I feel I MUST qualify my previous comments. I too have a young daughter and son (aged 9 and 4) who I encourage to take an active interest in the A.V.R. (in fact my daughter was able to offer some assistance as a 'Santa's Helper' along with her friend at Christmas, whilst I was Travelling Ticket Inspector. I fully agree with Lisa that all efforts must be made to encourage interest from young children, as they are the lifeblood of the Heritage Railway business, and where I can I always try to do my bit - incidentally I know very little about the technical aspects of the railway, and don't have a lot of interest either (although I am still seriously considering the vacancy for Engine Cleaner)!

The thrust of my argument was not 'The Bitton Bears', but more their inclusion in what I think is a fairly specialised communication, mainly produced by adults, for adults. 'The Bears' is, I think, a great idea ,and should be promoted in a more appropriate medium (in fact what prompted this response was the news that they may have their own Web site, which I think is a GREAT IDEA!

Finally, if I caused offence, it was not meant, and I apologise for that.  Unfortunately the written word doesn't always convey what was actually meant!


Tim Nelson.

Dear Editor,

Before reading my response you need to be aware of the fact that I am the daughter of The Bitton Bears authors. However, I have not discussed my response with them and this is written as a response of a member with children.

After reading Tim Nelson's letter in the Winter 2000 Ground Signal regarding whether we should see The Bitton Bears in Semaphore and on the Web page (see below), I felt I had to respond. I am assuming that when he asks for the 3/4 pages to be used for 'something better', he means something for adults and not a better children's section.

Well what could that something better be? Maybe another article about an engine or some technical piece about track laying etc.? Well believe it or not, whilst it is absolutely necessary to include such detailed pieces as these, we are not all interested in the finer detail. A lot of people, like myself, come to the railway to savour the overall atmosphere and as somewhere to entertain and educate their children. As children can become easily bored, The Bitton Bears can act as an extra attraction.

To use the cliché, the children are the future of the railway, (especially when they are coming to see Santa and bringing upwards of £40K with them!)

Tim Nelson is implying that Semaphore and The Web site are for adults only, but they should reflect what Avon Valley Railway is about and there always seem to be alot of children there.

I think we should have even more activities for children, for example, in the dockside we could have real engines to climb on, point/signal levers to operate.

We need to appeal to the whole audience and not just to the grown ups!

Lisa Turner.

Dear Editor,

Not wanting to disparage the excellent work and efforts of the authors, every time I come across "The Bitton Bears", I have to ask myself, would it not be better to utilize these 3/4 pages for something better??  I had assumed that the readership consisted mainly of adults!  I really do hope I'm not being uncharitable, however, now we're in the wonderful land of "cyberspace", everyone can see our "NET", and we may rightly, or wrongly, be judged on the quality of this communication.  I would be interested to hear anyone else's opinion on this, am I the only one who thinks this?

Tim Nelson.

Editor's Reply

When we carried out a Membership Survey recently, one of the most frequently asked for requests was "Can we have something for the children in Semaphore?" - yes the readership is mainly adult, but many of those adults have children.  At my suggestion, therefore, Ann and John Mann (the authors of the 'Bitton Bears') provide me with regular news, stories, pictures etc for inclusion in both 'Semaphore Online' and the 'hard copy' magazine.  Perhaps the main criticism of including a childrens section in Semaphore could be how much of the railway's hard earned money does it cost.  Putting the 'Bitton Bears' onto 'Semaphore Online' costs nothing of course, whereas the cost of printing a few pages in the magazine (which we do inhouse) is, quite literally, two or three pounds.  In my view if that small cost encourages interest from our younger readership which might at a later date turn into a willing volunteer then it is worth it.  

But, as Tim says, what do the rest of you think.  Email me with your thoughts.

Anthony Wray.

Dear Editor,


The day was our Ruby Wedding Anniversaiy to celebrate 40 years of happy wedded bliss. Having been asked if we would like to have a meal on the train by our son David, and saying we would, things developed to make this a day that Grace and I will never forget. This was due to the efforts put in by David in decorating the carriage we were to use that time, and to the lovely lunch prepared, cooked and served by the whole team involved, to whom we send our greatest thanks and appreciation for their time and efforts put in.

Two surprises were in store for Grace on our arrival at Bitton Station Firstly, the carriage we were to have our lunch in had been named after her, and from behind the group of guests emerged her life long friend Freda, so this certainly was a good start to our celebrations.

The meal really was first class and is best described by comments made by our guests, some of whom asked for dates and details of other lunches available. One comment said ‘Thank you for a very unusual and very enjoyable day. We were looking forward to the day and we were not disappointed. The food was delicious.’

Grace was more nervous about the celebrations than our wedding day but cannot stop talking about it now, and we would both love to be able to see it all over again.

Both of us have been involved in helping out at the railway for quite a few years and have met and made friends with so many people. To you all we would like to say thank you for your friendship to us, and once again our sincerest thanks to all involved in making our Ruby Wedding Anniversary celebration a time we shall never forget.

To anyone who has not yet experienced one of the Steam ‘n’ Cuisine lunches — you must. You will, like us and our guests, be in for a real treat in all possible ways.

Yours sincerely

Grace and Brian Cole.

Dear Editor,

I think that the best name for our new station is ‘Country Park Station’. Stations are normally named after the conununity or area the Railway wants to serve. Passengers then know where they should get off the train. People will be more inclined to travel on and get off the train at ‘Country Park Station’ than ‘River Avon Halt, unless of course they are intending to jump in the water!!

Peter Sandell.

Dear Editor,

There is some merit in the idea that the name should appeal to our future visitors, perhaps indirectly persuading them that they should make a trip on the train to discover what the countryside through which the railway passes is like. In other words, the station name could in itself be a selling tool.

With this idea in mind, I’ve come up with half a dozen name suggestions and here goes:­


Avon Riverside


Two Rivers ) All allusions to the area

Watersmeet ) where the River Boyd

Riversmeet ) joins the River Avon

My own preference would be ‘Avonside’, but I’m sure our members can come up with some more ideas.

Ron Conn.

Dear Editor,

An excellent journal, if I may say so -‘Semaphore’ even secured an honourable mention at the hands of Mr George Pembroke recently, in his undercover review of the Avon Valley Railway!

While we were shooting the video ‘Going Somewhere’, an idea started to develop for what was to become a Lantern Films website entitled ‘Journeys of Delight’. The idea was, and is, that people love riding things, especially (but by no means exclusively) if the ride is on rails. The additional idea was that only journeys which are historic or difficult to do in some way should normally count.

The website is at www.lanternfilms.ukphotographers.com, and initially there are four journeys; two rail (which includes a trip down the S & D, starting with a mention of, and link to the Avon Valley Railway) one air and one sea -the good old ‘Bristol Queen’.

To respond to your editorial, the original (working) title for ‘Going Somewhere’ was ‘Down to the Riverside’ I have to say I feel ‘Riverside’ is right for the new station, rather than any other name for it, or any other application of ‘Riverside’ further down the line. That name will be a magnet. A place name such as ‘Saltford’ will then identify any additional station to most people as then being further on.

As you point out, the final terminus will really exercise the minds - ‘Bath Green Spa’ comes whimsically to mind - Oh dear, there’s even some idiotic logic about it.

Philip Fowler.

Dear Editor,

I have recently received the Spring/ Summer issue of ‘Semaphore’, and found it a most enjoyable read. The editorial considers an appropriate name for the new platform to be built by the River Avon.

As a suitable name, might I suggest ‘Avonside’, without any appendage such as ‘halt’ or ‘platform’, or whatever. This is geographically correct, and of course an ‘in house’ name in the sense that the Avon Valley Railway has a locomotive from the builders having the same name.

Anyway, just a thought.

Roger Casling.

Dear Editor,

In regard to naming our station River Avon Halt, I think it is meaningless and an obscure name for a grand line that we are helping to build and very successfully too. One suitable name could be Avon Bridge Station that can be added to the list.

J A Jones.


Following on from the letters above, the Board have agreed to come up with a shortlist of possible names for our new platform at the River Avon.  These will be sent to members with the AGM paperwork and you will be able to discuss these and vote on a recommendation for the name at the Annual General Meeting.

Anthony Wray.

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This page last updated by Tony Wray on 17/6/2002.

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