Heritage Day: Bristol Docks

The last part of my Bristol excursion on the 3rd of October takes place inside Bristol Docks and was an unexpected bonus. However, I am going to use a mix of my 2014 images as well as images from this excursion as they are almost interchangeable (the sunshine ones are from 2104). My intention had been to walk along the dockside to capture images of the SS Great Britain from the opposite bank to where she is berthed but my priority changed when I saw a plume of moving steam on the opposite bank to where I was. It was at that point when I changed my mind and crossed over to that side of the harbour.  My approach was via the so called “Banana Bridge” which was originally erected as a temporary bridge in 1883 at another site. It is quite a striking bridge, and a reminder that footbridges need not be ugly. 
The difference between this time around and last time was I headed towards St Mary Redcliffe Church instead of straight to the harbour.  My original harbour entrance had been from an inner basin where an old lightship was berthed.

This led onto onto one of the first vessels of any size that I saw, and it was the 1959 built Thekla she is really a floating nightclub/bar/salon/venue. 
For some reason she reminds me of a small oceanographic research vessel, but the reality is that she was a very tired coaster that found a new life. 
It seems as if she has had a paintjob since 2014, and the original hull line is still visible.

Leaving Thekla behind the next vessel that I was after was the Balmoral, and I have covered her in a separate blogpost.

Astern of Balmoral were two old tugs, The John King being one of them
On this day she was out and about, and I managed a far off pic of her sailing, but got better images when she returned from her trip.

She is the last of Bristol’s biggest fleet and was built in 1935 for Kings Tugs Ltd. and was used on the Avon and Bristol docks until 1970.  The vintage steam tug Mayflower was berthed in front of her  in 2015 and she dates from 1861 and is the world’s oldest steam tug and the oldest ship afloat in Bristol (the Great Britain is in dry-dock so does not count).

On the weekend I started out on the opposite side of the harbour, because I wanted to see Mayflower, Balmoral and John King from across the water. As I got there John King sailed away and there was an odd looking boat alongside Mayflower.

It turns out that this odd looking boat is called Pyronaut and is a fire-float and was built in 1934!

Walking along the quayside I crossed the Pero’s Bridge with it’s collection of padlocks. Gee, where is my bolt cutter?

My next destination was the sailing ship Kaskelot.

She is somewhat of a TV and movie star, and luckily for me I saw her in 2014 and managed a better shot of her from where Mayflower was berthed.

It was while I was standing at Kaskelot that I saw the odd plume of steam and smoke from the other side of the harbour and I zoomed into it to see what it was.

Now not too long ago I was reading about “The Flying Bufferbeam“, which was a similar sort of steam loco. Could this be her? Photographing the Great Britain could wait, this was more important. I rang down for a full astern and headed to the other side of the harbour at full revolutions.  Walking down towards the steam engine I realised there was another source of steam doing the rounds, and that was just in front of the Bee is a 1970’s built supply tender. 
The thumping great steam crane is an interesting beastie on its own. She is a Fairbairn Steam Crane and she was built here in 1878 and was designed to lift heavy loads from ships and she can still lift 37 tons (or 7 African elephants)! She worked until 1974 when the docks closed. She is an impressive machine though, making loud trundling noises as she rotates on her platform. I may even have video of it, but have not worked through the video that I shot to see how much came out. Naturally the moment I hit the shutter she stopped moving! She has the distinction of being the only surviving Fairbairn steam crane. 
I was also now at the place were my errant steam engine was dashing hither and thither. In fact there were two steamers there, the first being Peckett No 1940 “Henbury”.
And the source of all the commotion was the Bagnall 2572 “Judy”

Judy was doing driver experience jaunts and that entailed a slow pull away, then a rapid dash down the line and an abrupt stop under a cloud of steam, and then backwards in a similar fashion. The unusual design of the loco was required to cope with some extremely tight curves, and a very low bridge under the Cornish Main Line close to where she served originally.

I watched this strange loco going up and down for awhile and then headed back towards Balmoral, pausing to watch the John King come alongside, followed by the Matthew which is a reconstruction of John Cabot’s ship

The design is a Caravel, and it hard to believe that ships of this size were capable of very long voyages, she is only 24 metres long, while John King is 19 metres.

There were also two classic vehicles at the harbour, the first was a Bristol flatbed truck

and the other was a 1961 built Bristol bus. That bus is the same age as I am! (and much better looking).

And then it was time to head to the Balmoral and see about getting on board her, but that is another blogpost on it’s own.

I had been extremely lucky to be in Bristol on this day, I saw so much and revisited a place that I wanted to come back to. I did not get to the Great Britain, but that’s reason enough for another trip. It only cost me 9 pounds to get there so it is very do-able for more trips in the future, but with winter closing in I suspect I may end up hibernating instead.

DRW ©  2015-2020. Images migrated 02/05/2016, originally created 05/10/2015.

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