Wednesday, 11 January 2012

the selsey tramway

I've had a long and unusual relationship with the Selsey Tramway!

I first discovered it through a library book showing the loco 'Ringing Rock' on Selsey Shed, so determined to find out more. Amazingly my next door neighbour in Littlehampton had travelled regularly on the line (she was in her nineties in the early 70s!).

It opened in 1897 and closed in 1935. It was probably the most ramshackle of all the Colonel Stephens lines.

In about 1970 I cycled to it from home, around a 30 mile round trip. We reached the embankment at Sidlesham but couldn't really discover many remains.

I made a few trips later and took some photos particularly of the surviving platform at Hunston (which may well still be there) and of the surviving abutment of the swingbridge over the Chichester Canal. (These will doubtless appear in many years time when I get round to scanning them!)

It was disused routes like this that really got me into railways. Perhaps it was just their accessibility, or the sense of melancholy. Funny that forty years on I'm busy trying to get routes back!

In fact in the late nineties, when I lived at Bosham, I wrote a letter to the local paper reacting to a news story about the terrible congestion on the Chichester-Selsey road. Even then it was obvious how things were going to go, and I suggested that reopening the tramway would be a much better idea. Oddly the same paper ran an article - the same week! - about a group planning to reopen the line! I got actively involved with this group, quickly becoming vice chair, but I then moved to Wiltshire and I think the group just drifted. Perhaps it was just a decade or two ahead of its time. The line would be easy to restore as the landscape is completely flat and there's been no development of any consequence on the route. This is the sort of line that will thrive after Peak Oil, though this route is at risk of sea level rise.