Erroneous nonsense in that video about Bristol Central Station


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Errata, clarifications and additions

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This is just a quick video I feel obliged to make on account of my last video regrettably containing several mistakes, which was especially unfortunate because youtube inexplicably decided to give it tens of thousands of views when usually I just get a few hundred.

First of all, in that video I proclaimed the Bristol & Gloucester railway opened in 1844, illustrated with this map. The Bristol & Gloucester did open in 1844 but sadly I drew the route in the wrong place. It's the route you'll follow if taking a train to Gloucester today, but Rob Brewer pointed out that when it first opened, the Bristol & Gloucester ran via what is now the Bristol to Bath cycle path - here.

Rob was very generous in suggesting I may have intentionally smoothed over that complication because it wasn't entirely relevant. Really it was nothing so self-aware, I was just lazy. I knew where trains to Gloucester go. I knew the Bristol to Bath cycle path was a former railway, but I didn't even think twice if it related to my narrative, because I 'knew' that it went to Bath, because it's in the name. It's not called the Bristol to Gloucester cycle path is it? Why would I bother to research that any further? Job done!

Whoops. A quick check of old maps shows the railway branched at Mangotsfield: turn right for Bath, or turn left for Gloucester.

Thanks also to Nick Howes for pointing out the current line to Gloucester via Filton which I erroneously highlighted was in fact originally built as part of the 1863 Bristol and South Wales Union Railway.

Next, I declared that the idea of a terminus near Brandon Hill made no sense because there was nothing much there. Thanks to Nick Jenkins in the comments for pointing out a logic that I had completely missed: the idea was to serve the Royal Western Hotel, the facade of which survives here to beautify a 1970s building called Brunel House, now used as student accommodation. The original hotel was designed and built in 1840 by Brunel and local architect Richard Shackleton Pope, also responsible for other major local buildings like the Wool Hall and Bush House (aka the Arnolfini). It was all part of the Great Western Railway's vision that travellers could book a ticket from London to New York, transferring from steam train to steam ship at Bristol.

Now, I still don't think this was the most compelling scheme, probably because I have the benefit of hindsight. I know that transatlantic steamers never really used Bristol as their base because the route in and out the harbour was too small for them. But I do have to admit it makes a Brandon Hill station more logical than I gave it credit for.

The one small flaw in this theory is that the internet tells me the hotel closed in 1855, so an 1862 railway proposal couldn't really have intended to serve it, per se. Still, it does seem feasible that it intended to serve onward passenger connections via the harbour, more generally, which is a possibility I had overlooked.

Finally, I claimed that after 1863 there were "no more serious proposals" to bring main-line rail into the heart of Bristol. This was also completely wrong and again I have no excuse, it was just inadequate research. Thanks to David Bromage (hope I said that right) for pointing out the 1882 Bristol and London and South Western (Junction) railway. This would definitely have to qualify as a 'serious' scheme, having the backing of the LSWR and various influential businessmen.

Much like the Bristol Central Railway Station schemes, it would have created a new terminus over the River Frome at roughly the location of the cenotaph, connecting up to the existing lines somewhere near Midland Road. I don't know the exact route that was intended in between.

So, apologies for all those errors, and thanks to all those commenters firstly for correcting them, but also more specifically for correcting them so kindly and politely.

Also more broadly I have to say thanks to all the seemingly endless wave of new viewers and commenters; almost all of them very polite and pleasant. I must say, however, that I find the explosion of activity a bit intimidating. I started making videos to keep myself entertained during the lockdowns and travel bans and all that; it was about the fun of the process of making them, not the end product. I really had no expectation or even particularly any desire that any meaningful number of people would actually watch them. As the last video illustrated, I don't really know what I'm talking about, and I suspect this channel will disappoint many on grounds of both frequency and consistency.

If that's the case, don't forget to dislike and unsubscribe, otherwise everything'll be back to normal next time. Hopefully. Cheers.