Nestled in a quiet suburban corner of South Gloucestershire, the Avon Valley Railway quietly observes its 50th year in 2024. This historical treasure, operational for five decades, has become a cherished attraction for both local residents and visitors. To honour this significant milestone, the railway has outlined a series of festivities promising joy for enthusiasts and families alike.
The heritage line of the Avon Valley Railway stretches across a scenic three-mile route, tracing the Avon Valley from Oldland Common to Bitton. Winding alongside the picturesque River Avon, the railway offers an immersive experience, providing a nostalgic journey on an authentic steam train departing from Bitton Railway Station. Over time, Bitton has transformed into a hub of celebrations, hosting events ranging from annual wartime commemorations during its 1940s weekend to festive journeys with Santa, creating enduring memories for visitors of all ages.
The Avon Valley Railway has deep roots in history, forming a part of the now-disassembled Mildland Railway Mangotsfield and Bath branch line. Closed in 1966 due to the infamous Beeching cuts, the impact of the railway’s closure remains visible in the local area, with nods to its heritage reflected in pub names, signage, and the iconic signal box at Warmley Station, a charming reminder of days gone by along the Bristol to Bath Cycle Path.
At the core of the Avon Valley Railway lies Bitton Station, an authentic Victorian Midland Railway station meticulously restored by dedicated volunteers. The station exudes local country charm while offering modern amenities for visitors. The original goods shed, transformed into an engine shed, and the bustling yard, home to engines and rolling stock, add to the station’s vintage allure. The Waiting Room café, adorned with metal sculptures commemorating yesteryears, continues to serve delectable treats, providing a taste of history.
Avon Valley Railway’s inaugural public open day unfolded on April 4, 1974, a date etched in the annals of its history. This year, the railway plans to commemorate this auspicious occasion as part of its 50th-anniversary celebrations.
The festivities extend beyond mere train rides. Bitton Station, the epicentre of operations, welcomes visitors every day of the year, except Christmas Day, offering free entry to its station buildings. Operating steam or diesel trains for 120 days annually, mainly on weekends and during school holidays, the railway ensures ample opportunities for enthusiasts to relish the charm of yesteryear. While tickets can be purchased on-site, it’s advisable to book in advance for special events like dining trains, which tend to sell out swiftly.
Bitton Station’s allure extends to its buffet, serving breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea daily (except Christmas Day), and a gift shop, open on train-running days for those eager to grab a keepsake from their steam-train adventure.
The Avon Valley Railway team invites visitors to experience a genuine “step back in time.” Beyond the joy of riding a train and indulging in delightful refreshments, visitors can stroll alongside the track on the Bristol & Bath Railway/Cycle Path, explore the railway’s history in a small museum area, and bask in the tranquillity of the picnic area at Avon Riverside Station while witnessing the steam and diesel trains traverse the iconic girder bridge.
For those planning to embark on this journey through time, entrance to the station site, including the ticket office, buffet, and gift shop, remains completely free. As for the train fares, as of 2023, they are priced reasonably:
Full-line return tickets:
- Adults: £11
- Concessions: £10
- Children (4-15): £7
- Infants (3 and under): Free
‘Enthusiasts’ Day Rover tickets:
- Adults: £17
- Concessions: £16
- Children (4-15): £11
- Infants (3 and under): Free
Please note that these prices are subject to change, and for popular events, booking in advance is recommended.
As the Avon Valley Railway gears up to celebrate its 50th anniversary, it invites one and all to join in the festivities, promising a journey through time, filled with the sights, sounds, and nostalgia of a bygone era. Here’s to 50 years of steam-powered delight!