The Hayling Railway (OL49)
The publication of Peter Paye's book coincided with the 50th anniversary of the closure of the erstwhile Hayling Railway linking Havant in east Hampshire with Hayling Island. Before the coming of the railway Hayling Island was sparsely populated by fishermen, agricultural workers and gentry who had established residences near the south coast of the island.
After the opening of the London & Brighton & South Coast Railway (LBSCR) main line from Brighton to Havant in March 1847, extended to portsmouth in June 1847, and later ‘Portsmouth Direct’ connection in 1859 operated by the London & South Western Railway, local factions pressed for a railway to the island from Havant. After many trials and tribulations the Hayling Railway opened in 1867. From 1872 the Hayling Railway was leased to the LBSCR, but remained nominally independent until absorbed by the LBSCR in 1922. The new operator set about making important changes, including and ill-fated train ferry service operating between Langstone Quay and St Helen’s to join up with the Isle of Wight Railway from 1882 until 1888. Around the turn of the century improvements were made at South Hayling, renamed Hayling Island from 1892, but to all intents and purposes the railway was operated as one of the many LBSCR minor branch lines. The line became part of the Southern Railway from 1923 and the new regime carried out substantial work on the Langston Viaduct, the major infrastructure on the branch, completed in 1931, and the reconstruction of Havant Station in 1937/38. Development in the locality was sparse and substantial growth was not achieved until the late 1920s and 1930s, and then primarily near the south and south-eastern corner of the island.
The establishment of holiday camps both before and after the Second World War, and paid holidays, encouraged many to the coast and increased passenger traffic receipts especially during the summer months. After nationalisation in 1948 few changes were made and, except for an improvement in coaching stock and wagons, motive power remained the same. As the years progressed it became obvious that the timber viaduct required substantial remedial work after decades of exposure to the elements – modernisation was the watchword on BR and the ancient ‘Terrier’ 0-6-0 tank locomotives were increasingly costly to maintain. Revenue, except during the summer months, although still covering operating costs, was declining. The rebuilding of the parallel road bridge to the island in 1956 allowing increased weight limits for vehicles, especially buses, and the later abolition of tolls for road traffic in 1960 weighed heavily against retention of the branch railway, which proved an expensive luxury that the cost-conscious BR could ill afford.
This is the fascinating story of the Hayling Railway from conception to closure.
A5 format softback, 160 pages, more than 100 illustrations.
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Updated: 1 January 2021