Rail history is fascinating and new line is good idea
It is nice to see a local newspaper devoting two pages to local railway history.
Unfortunately there were some inaccuracies and I have provided some more information on the lines.
Bentley to Bordon Line
There were only three stations on this line – there was no Oakhanger Halt or Longmoor Military Camp station. The Longmoor Military Railway Station was immediately adjacent, but separate from the Bordon Station but there were track connections.
At Bentley the line had its own bay platform off the down line. There was a signal box which controlled the Alton Line and the Bordon line, the latter being single throughout, was controlled by issue of tablets/tokens at this box and at the Bordon box.
Kingsley Halt opened on March 7, 1906 and there was only a name board, notice board, paraffin lamp and a seat. There was no shelter.
The London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) expected residential development in the area and bought land to enable the station to be extended, but neither happened.
The halt was reached by footpath from nearby Binstead Road, which the line crossed with an ungated level crossing. Bordon Station (L&SWR) had two platforms. The building was constructed of galvanised steel on a timber framework, erected on a brick plinth. There was a signal box, engine shed and goods shed.
By the 1930s the second platform was rarely used and became overgrown. The station building was slightly extended in 1916 but was virtually unchanged through its whole working life.
The line took 18 months to build, using the London and South Western Railway's own staff and cost 30,000.
Longmoor Military Railway
This line was known by this name from 1935. Before that, from 1908 to 1934, it was known as the Woolmer Instructional Military Railway.
Last week’s map omitted the Hollywater loop.
The line was built in the days when wars could not be waged without use of railway facilities. This meant that the military needed to train huge numbers in the art of building, running and maintaining railways in time of war.
Longmoor was a very large ‘train set’ for the training of railway sappers – locomotives were purposely derailed and then re-railed; bridges were built and blown up and then rebuilt.
During World War Two huge numbers of locos, rolling stock and track materials were assembled at Longmoor for forwarding to Europe as soon as possible after D Day.
This included hundreds of ‘austerity’ locos built by British, Canadian and American suppliers to operate in countries as soon as they were liberated. The line was cut back to Oakhanger in 1966 following the closure of the BR line to Bordon. The line was finally closed by the military on October 31, 1969.
Some movements of stock took place in 1970 following the abortive attempt to have a Longmoor Steam Railway on part of the line.
The railway ran from Bordon to Liss via Oakhanger (station for Bordon Garrison) – it branched off at this point for coal supplies to Louisberg barracks – Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Halifax (sidings/barracks), Hogmoor ‘Tunnel’ and Whitehill.
At this point the loop left the ‘main line’ at a triangular junction and rejoined it at Longmoor, travelling via Hopkins sidings, Hollywater, Holm Hills, Griggs Green and Hefers Green.
At Woolmer Yard there were extensive sidings and storage for wartime stores and at Greatham Road the railway lines crossed this road three times on ungated crossings. The site has now been obliterated by the new A3 Liphook/Petersfield bypass.
At Longmoor Yard there was an extensive locomotive depot and repair facility which any major railway company would have been proud of.
Liss Junction was not a station and the exchange sidings and connection were not constructed until 1942, but because there was a dispute between the War Office and the Southern Railway no trains passed between the two systems until April 18, 1943.
The Meon Valley Line
This line started from the current Watercress Line platform at Alton Station. Butts Junction was the junction of three lines: Alton to Basingstoke; Alton to Winchester and Alton to Fareham.
The site of the junction is adjacent to The Butts – the green space as you approach Alton from the Winchester/Chawton direction.
Although mostly single line with passing loops at stations, it was built to main line standards and was a successful attempt to keep other companies out of the London and South Western Railway's territory.
The countryside around the line was used extensively for storing war materials and equipment ahead of D Day. Farringdon Halt, not shown on last week’s map, was originally only sidings and opened as a halt on May 1, 1931. Also not shown on the map was Wickham Knowle Asylum Halt – known as Knowle Halt from August 1942.
Alton and Basingstoke Light Railway
Not shown on last week’s map was the Treloar's Hospital Siding.
Alton Park was the name for the halt for Treloar's Hospital and is also referred to as ‘Cripples Home.’
There was a facility for shunting coal wagons including a head shunt and a wagon turntable. All hospitals back then had a steam generating plant powered by coal fired boilers to provide power and hot water for laundries, heating and sterilising.
There was also Thornycroft's Siding on this line. This was for the Thornycroft Motor Works, where heavy lorries were constructed.
The line was closed in 1916 and the rails were sent to France for use by the military. After much campaigning by local landowners, the line was reluctantly re-instated by the Southern Railway, but not until August 1924.
With the ‘demob’ of thousands of ex-servicemen who had been taught to drive lorries while in the forces, plus hundreds of ex-Army vehicles available cheaply, road transport had made serious inroads into traditional railway goods traffic.
The line closed again and this time finally to passengers on September 10, 1932 with the last train carrying one passenger. After this closure, the British film industry used it for two major films – The Wrecker in 1928 and Oh Mr Porter in 1937.
Alton to Winchester Line
As a point of interest there was a siding between Alton Station and Butts Junction serving the Alton Brewery.
The line joined the main line north of Winchester station at Winchester Junction and the line was used on a number of occasions as a diversionary route when there was works or mishaps on the Woking to Basingstoke line.
Petersfield to Midhurst Line
In a previous piece on the Itside factory at Petersfield, Natterjack first of all didn't know of this line, then a correspondent sent information.
Another correspondent indicated that the bridges on the line were blown up between 1944 and 1948 – this must have been very inconvenient as the line didn't close to passengers until 1955.
The station at Rogate was sometimes called Rogate and Harting and until July 12, 1925, there were two stations at Midhurst – one for the Petersfield line and one on the Pulborough and Chichester lines.
Passengers from Petersfield to Pulborough and Chichester had to walk between the two stations as a bridge on the line between the two stations was of insufficient strength to carry passenger trains.
When the Southern Railway was formed in 1923, they quickly set about rectifying the situation and from 1925 all services ran from one station.
The re-introduction of services on the Bordon Line
It is to be hoped that those responsible for any proposals seriously consider the ‘light rail’ option – the modern equivalent of the tram.
These systems use a combination of old railway formations and travel close to roads to get passengers closer to where they want to travel to than is possible by conventional ‘heavy’ rail.
In the Bordon example it would enable travel from points nearer to the commercial centre of Bordon than the original railway station but use the old railway route to get to Bentley and interchange with fast conventional trains to London or Alton.
Stations on these light rail lines are more akin to bus stops with low or no step entry from stop to vehicle.
Also don't forget that the remnants of Army land also provide a possible route eastwards to Liphook or Liss for a light rail line.
Rake Road, Milland
My father worked in Dr Beeching's department during the branch line closures. Later he moved to Petersfield and bewailed the fact that he could not get to Midhurst by train.
Our response – whose fault is that!
Upper Mount, Liss
I can save Cllr Philip Drury a lot of effort. He doesn't need to lobby East Hampshire District Council for a rail link to Bordon.
As the chairman of the Whitehill Bordon Opportunity I have made it crystal clear several times that a key transportation objective of the project includes the rail link.
I made this statement to EHDC's full council earlier this year. Only in the context of a multi-million pound project such as the Whitehill Bordon Opportunity can we ever entertain the resumption of the rail link.
We have already launched the Green Town Vision for the town which lays out our strategy to deliver not just a new town, but an environmentally friendly new town as well.
Assuming the military relocate to South Wales, the Opportunity project will have a powerful team dedicated to delivering sustainable transport to the town, including rail transport.
We will do all can we can to achieve this goal. Plenty of people are telling me that the rail link is an impossible dream. That just makes me more determined to do it.
Cllr Ferris Cowper
Leader, East Hampshire District Council
As a former member of the management team of the South Western Division of the Southern region of British Railways, I found your articles in last week's Post most interesting, particularly as I was part of the team involved with the closure of the Watercress Line.
I would like to assure Mr Hughes that there was certainly no “skulduggery” involved to make sure that the service closed. The facts at the time were crystal clear – the line was heavily in the red, and there was no way of getting out of it.
I would add that as a professional railway operator, I would have done anything to have kept the line open if it had been at all possible, as its worth as an alternative route from Waterloo to Southampton and Bournemouth was infinite, but alas, it was not to be.
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Saturday 07 December 2013
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Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
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