Bristol & South Wales Union Railway and the New Passage Ferry
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The Bristol & South Wales Union Railway and the New Passage Ferry

150 years ago on 8th September 1863 the first paying passengers arrived at New Passage having travelled from Bristol on the newly opened railway. They journeyed across the treacherous waters of the River Severn on a small paddle steamer called Relief to a massive pier at Black Rock on the opposite shore. Another train took them the short distance to Portskewett Junction where they made connection with the South Wales Railway. So started an eventful 23 years of operation that ended with the opening of the Severn Tunnel in 1886.

Location map and railways in the vicinity of the Bristol & South Wales Union Railway up to 1886 with station opening dates.

A detailed study, compiled from original records and newspaper reports, of the inception, construction and operation of this pioneering railway and ferry service linking Bristol and South Wales is now available as a 96 page book. Please click here or on the cover illustration opposite for purchase details.

Chapters include:


Construction of the Line

After the Opening

Great Western Railway Takeover

The Ferry Crossing and Piers

Ferry Steamers

New Passage Hotel

Station and Track Layouts up to 1886

Train Service and Timetables

Railway Staff

The Severn Tunnel and After

© Richard Smith 2013. All rights reserved.

Sample pages can be viewed here and some illustrations and photographs from the book are reproduced below:

New Passage 1863-86

Pilning 1863-86

Pilning 1886-

Portskewett Junction 1864-

Patchway 1863-85

Patchway & Stoke Gifford 1886-

Filton 1863-

Ashley Hill 1864-

Severn Tunnel Junction 1886-

Magor 1851-

Portskewett 1850-64

To Chepstow

To Newport

Stapleton Rd 1863-

Lawrence Hill 1863-

Fishponds 1866-

Avonmouth 1865-

Sea Mills 1865-

Shirehampton 1865-

Clifton Down 1874-

Montpelier 1874-

Clifton (Hotwells) 1865-

To Gloucester

New Passage

Ferry 1863-86

Severn Tunnel


Portishead 1867-

Portbury 1867-

Pill 1867-

Clifton Bridge 1867-

Bedminster 1884-

Brislington 1873-

To Bath

To Radstock

To Exeter

Nailsea 1841-


St Philips 1870-


Bristol & North Somerset Railway / Great Western

Bristol & Portishead Pier & Railway / Great Western

Bristol & South Wales Union Railway / Great Western

Bristol & Exeter Railway / Great Western

Bristol Port Railway & Pier / G.W. & Midland Joint

Clifton Extension Railway / G.W. & Midland Joint

Great Western Railway

Midland Railway

South Wales Railway / Great Western