83 Clevedon and Portishead

The scout rolled up to St. David’s in good time for the 0852 to Cardiff, only to find, after carrying his bike over the footbridge, that the train was cancelled.

Announcements put it down to too few trains available but Realtime Trains was unclear: “This service was cancelled due to unknown cause (ZX).”

Like the previous week, the departure screen on platform one was out of order. Having no pocket timetable to consult (these, by DfT decree, are not printed), he carried his bike across to the middle platform, where two chaps lurked at an enquiry desk. One was able to advise that there would be no advantage in going to Bristol and returning to Yatton. The scout had decided for several reasons not to ride from Bristol

A cubicle in the gents was taped “out of order,” which could almost have been expected. The scout finds the station where he once worked an utterly depressing sight.

While waiting, the scout gazed at the scene of general neglect, which did nothing to undermine his claim that the railway is by far the worst managed of all the large estates. +

It was deathly quiet until passengers started arriving for the London. The scout let this go and caught the Edinburgh as far as Taunton, preferring to wait for the next Cardiff stopper further up the line. Here, a member of staff was announcing from a handheld radio. He told the scout that the automated system had been out of order for six months.

An engineer’s train came from Fairwater and waited on the old Down Relief for a London to arrive on the old Down Main. Two locos were seen in Bridgwater yard on a nuclear flask train.

Eventually, the scout got to Yatton over an hour later than he had planned, time he could have spent usefully.




The Land Yeo is by the trees at left.
Copyright: Roger Joanes. Shared under Creative Commons. +
This part of Clevedon’s History Trail was screwed to the wall of the Queen’s Square toilets which are built on the course of the light railway’s extension to Portishead. +
In this 1930 aerial view, the branch can be followed from the bottom right corner to the station. The Weston, Clevedon & Portishead goes off picture at bottom middle left. Its course going towards Portishead can be made out.
The summer, 1932, timetable. +
The great scar of the M5 contrasts with the faint course of the light railway in the foreground.
At left, vehicles can be seen on the split-level Wynhol Viaduct, built in 1973. +
This private road is named after Cadbury Road Halt (Weston in Gordano) which was sited here.
This is the site of the Black Rock and Nightingale quarries’ siding. Two-foot lines came from either side to a loading bank, whence stone was tipped into standard gauge wagons. The line ran on the far side of these buildings, which it is thought are all that remain of the facility.
The constant drone of traffic on the motorway pervades the Gordano valley. +


In this 1921 aerial view, Portishead Station is seen just above the footbridge, with the line to Bristol going off picture at lower right. The connection to the light railway is seen going towards the bottom.
Portishead Station was sold to the C.E.G.B. to enable the construction of a new coal-fired power station. A new railway station was built on a site more convenient to the town.
The new station, which was in use for only ten years, is seen being demolished in this 1972 view. The site is just left of centre, below the sidings. The frontage is on the dual carriageway. The White Lion can be seen next to the prominent conifer but almost all trace of the light railway had gone, 32 years after closure.

The scout went back into town in another vain search for a Co-op. He could not see any substitute on High Street and so returned to the Waitrose filling station, where he was issued with a wooden fork to go with his “clearance” boiled eggs. He then made his way along the marina to the pier. Not many people get this far and so the scout was able to eat his lunch in peace, gazing out over the Mouth of the Severn.

When he had finished the small can of rather strong India Pale Ale, which he had paired with his bacon and brie sandwich, he read the blurb and was gladdened to see the warning: “Alcohol reduces driving ability, don’t drink & drive. Don’t be a dumbass.”

An early 25 in. survey shows two pairs of rails going to the end of the pier.
A view of the Welsh coast with the lifeboat slipway at left. Denny Island, marking the boundary between England and Wales in the channel, can be seen. +
A freighter is framed by Shoots Bridge, the central section of the downstream road crossing of the Severn, carrying the M4 over the shipping channel. +
A view of Royal Portbury Dock, opened in 1978. It gained its rail connection 22 years later. +
The population of Portishead is now over 26.000. No doubt, many more will come to live here before the railway is reopened. +
An awful lot of water is needed to get a small vessel into the marina. Two power stations once dominated the land to the right.
The scout found the Co-op. It is at the end of the block at left. The scout thought it unlikely that residents here would be much concerned about their “divi.” +
The scout did not get the impression that this was where ordinary working people lived and played. +

Now feeling the hour lost in the morning, the scout decided it was time to start following the branch to Bristol.


From the station, the scout went back along Sheepway and joined a circuitous path which skirts the vast compounds where imported cars are kept before being distributed. Although the branch is a double line formation, the path only joins the track to take advantage of the bridges.

The scout went to the water’s edge before going to the old station in Pill.

The River Avon motorway bridge, heaving with early evening traffic. From his observations of the motorway at various places during the course of the day, the scout reckoned that the equivalent of a freight train was passing at least every hour in lorries. +
A train for Didcot Power Station is seen from the motorway bridge in 2009. The course or the line to Portishead can be made out going off at middle right. +


The scout forsook the riverside path and chose the main road to Bristol, thinking it would be easier for his mount and quicker. Rownham Hill was closed and the footpath perched above it was very rough. It brought him to the start of the gorge.

Clifton Bridge Station

A fine view downstream from beneath the ghastly Brunel Way bridge. +
This is titled “The Metal Agencies Co Avon Works, Bedminster, 1950.” Usefully, it reveals much of the railway layout at the junctions. Just off picture at right is Parson Street Junction, which is still in use, albeit singled and serving only the new line to Portbury. Off picture at left are West Depot and South Liberty junctions.The other point of the triangle is West Loop North Junction. Part of West Depot is seen at the bottom.

After leaving Ashton Gate, the scout made his way through the bedlam of Bristol to Temple Meads, not being sure at times where he was and then spotting places he knew. Coming upon the Avon, he could not go wrong.

When he returned to the utilicon in Exeter, he had clocked 38 miles.

The Portishead reopening project, whose soundness of purpose is surely beyond question, is being pushed by three local authorities as part of the MetroWest vision. Currently billed at more than £150-million, the scheme has been beset with difficulties, most of which in an earlier time would have not existed or would have been overcome without fuss.

Reinstating less than three miles of railway where the track was never taken up and the “right of way” never lost curiously qualified as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, whereas Okehampton, needed to be the star of the “Reversing Beeching” diversion, did not. Government has approved Portishead but still the process of wading through the regulatory and procedural swamp continues.

What would happen under a different regime, or in a country less hidebound, or in a national emergency? If a “Colonel Stephens” were told to get on with it, and he had an army of highly-motivated men at his disposal, a slow but effective service could be running along the existing track, serving rudimentary platforms at Ashton, Pill and Portishead, within six weeks.

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