Probably the closest heritage railway to me (other than the Bristol Harbour Railway) is the Avon Valley Railway. It's a strange set up with the trains running out from Bitton towards Oldland Common firstly, followed by a return to Bitton, then a 15 minute wait for the trip out to Riverside. There are about ten minute waits at each end. Basically it means that one train can provide the service. We were lucky to get - again - the DMU on Tuesday. A real test of a heritage line is whether kids like it, and we had a five year old and a seven year old to keep entertained. They oved it and particularly liked the opportunity to go 'free range' throughout the two carriages, plus of course get the view through the front window. They were quickly told NOT to distract the driver!
AVR tickets are rover tickets so you can do as many trips as you want. We did four or five! There's also excellent catering facilities at Bitton and the food was good value, good quality and decent helpings! We made a second trip to the catering coach for tea and cakes later in the day.
The shop is pretty good, mainly because they have an excellent selection of secondhand railway books at VERY reasonable prices and not just the usual generic thoughtless Christmas present dross!
There were a few steam locos at the end of Bitton platform, one actually seemed to be in steam but wasn't being used. I don't think I've ever actually travelled behind steam on the AVR, but that's not a big deal for me anyway!
The only real issue I have with the AVR is its apparent lack of ambition. Bath lies just a mile or two beyond the current eastern terminus at Riverside - a run into the city would attract many extra visitors, mainly from Bath towards Bitton. The original plans for the reopened line were probably 50 years ahead of their time, a commuter service between Bath and Bristol was proposed, with some heritage services at weekends. Perhaps it's now time to look towards the future and realise that the original plans were simply way ahead of their time. Having travelled between Bath and Bristol lately, on a Sunday evening, on a train that was packed to standing, perhaps it's time to address the capacity issue by offering an alternative. Bath Green Park station is still there ... and the line can be reinstated without too much difficulty ... and eventually the S&D will be returning to Bath. The best days for the AVR lie ahead in the future, but for now it is a very pleasant way to spend a few hours on a winter's day!