Saturday, 25 April 2020

Bishops Waltham branch

1962 (Copyright Jim Lake).


1953 (Copyright John Aston)

A reminder (2015) (Sourced via Google)

Branch railmotor at Botley 1906

Durley Halt - a rare photo!

On our regular trips to Winchester to visit relatives in the 1960s and 1970s we normally went via Bishops Waltham, and there was an intriguing pair of old level crossing gates by a roundabout near the town centre.

Research revealed that these were a remnant of the branch line from Botley, on the Fareham to Eastleigh line, to Bishops Waltham. This line opened on 31 December 1863, closed early to passengers on 31 December 1932, and completely in 1962.

Following the course of the River Hamble for much of its route it was single track throughout and lightly engineered with just a few underbridges. There was a small halt at Durley (see pic above) which only opened in 1910 and only saw light traffic.

There were other rail proposals in the Bishops Waltham area which never saw the light of day (or at least not yet!) including a line to Petersfield and another to Alton. A further, later,  proposal was a route to Droxford on the Meon Valley route from Fareham to Alton.

Passenger and freight traffic was generally light, except in the strawberry season when there would be many special trains carrying the fruit to the markets in London.

Railmotors were used for a short time but lacked flexibility as they couldn't pull additional coaches.

A short section of line still exists at the Botley end. I remember walking this in about 1970, it was a real surprise to find it there. It was about 400 metres of so and overgrown with small trees in places! This section has since been restored as a siding for Foster Yeoman aggregate trains, and has even been doubled in recent times. The rest of the route beyond is basically intact but very overgrown in places.

There was a scheme to build a narrow gauge line along most of the route in 1964, but this didn't reach an advanced stage.