Community support

Funding level: £1,001 to £5,000

Description

Keynsham’s chocolate factory was at the heart of its community. And at the heart of the chocolate factory was a small blue steam engine…

Many decades since it last ran, at the nearby Avon Valley Railway our volunteers have almost completed that little engine's restoration to full working order, but an engine needs a train to pull, and that’s where we need some assistance. With your help we can recreate the “Chocolate Train”, tell the story of the factory and its workers, and give our community the chance to experience riding behind “their” engine.

For ninety years the Somerdale factory at Keynsham made chocolate that was enjoyed across the country and around the world, employing up to 5,000 people at the height of its production. It didn’t just provide jobs however, the factory was at the centre of the community’s social, cultural and sporting lives, and was a source of great local pride.

Nothing demonstrated that pride more than the quirky little steam engine that shunted raw materials into the factory from the main line and dispatched the finished products back out to an eagerly waiting world. As the locomotive bustled around the factory’s sidings its crew ensured that its deep blue paintwork was kept spotless and that its brass shone to perfection.

The steam engine was sent for scrap in 1964, the factory closed in 2011, and it seemed that a way of life had gone forever. There was to be no reprieve for the factory, now turned into retirement homes, but remarkably the shunting engine survived, eventually being tracked down in an Essex shed by former factory worker and Avon Valley Railway volunteer Eric Miles. Eric and his team have worked tirelessly to restore the locomotive to working order, a goal which should be achieved in 2018. When the gleaming engine steams proudly down to the end of the line at Avon Riverside, it will once again be in sight of the factory it called home for so many years.

Generations of local people saw the locomotive at work in the factory. We want them, and future generations, to share in the excitement of its return to working order - but there’s a problem. The old factory shunter is simply too small to pull our regular timetabled trains – it was never designed to pull passenger carriages, and it’s just not powerful enough or fast enough for the job.

Happily, we have a perfect Steam Age solution, a British Railways guards van, typical of the sort of trucks the engine once shunted at the factory, and just the vehicle for giving short rides on its two open verandas. From there passengers will be able to see, hear and smell the engine at work, even watching the crew drive through the back of the loco’s open cab. At special events throughout the year, from Teddy Bear’s Picnics to Vintage Transport Weekends, the local community will be able to welcome the engine back by riding aboard the Chocolate Train.

Unfortunately, our sixty-year old guards van needs more than a little TLC. Its woodwork is rotten and its metalwork rusted. Our volunteer team are ready to go to work, but they need the money for the materials to undertake the restoration. See the photos to appreciate the work that needs to be done – and how it will look when it’s finished! Once completed, the inside of the van will be fitted out with displays that tell the story of the factory, its staff, its community, and its railway.

With your vote, and Aviva’s help, we can buy our volunteers the timber, tools, paint and screws that they need to finish the job - and the Chocolate Train will run once more.

Avon Valley Railway Heritage Trust

Moment of Pride

For over forty years the Avon Valley Railway's dedicated volunteers have worked to keep the area's heritage alive, relaying track, rebuilding engines and restoring rolling stock.

The Chocolate Train project is of special significance to local people - we look forward to welcoming them aboard!

Location: Bitton