Railway cuttings

Access by rail to Bristol Docks was a problem from the start. Temple Meads, being at the upper end of the Floating Harbour, was not in the right place. It was not until 1865 that a firm railway proposal was promoted jointly by the GWR and the B&E Railway. Their double track of mixed broad and standard gauge ran from Temple Meads via cuttings through a tunnel under Redcliffe Hill to cross the entrance to Bathurst Basin just by The Ostrich. Thence on to the dock side.

The line was opened in 1872. The tunnel ran not under St Mary Redcliffe church itself but its adjoining graveyard. There are tales that the tunnel roof was so near to the surface that excavators actually penetrated the bottom of existing occupied graves so that the bodies fell out, downwards! The twin tracks crossed the entrance lock to Bathurst Basin just by the Ostrich. It was carried by a bascule bridge that was actually wider than it was long and operated by a stationary steam engine.

When the line closed in 1964 this engine was removed to the Industrial Museum. The stationary engine had a secondary function which was to assist manoeuvring the large boats using the basin both through the lock past the open bascule bridge and alongside the working quays. This was done by ropes threaded round the wheels that are still located on the quay edge by Lower Guinea Street.

Scroll to Top