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Hayling Island Branch


The much missed Hayling Island Branch was, despite not being built by it, the archetypal LB&SCR branch line, fairly short, quaint and operated by ancient rolling stock that gave it such a special charm. The famous Stroudley Terriers that made the branch their own worked it from the 1890s to the last day in November 1963 then, like the branch, faded from the national railway system.

Map by Peter Richards

The LB&SCR had arrived in Havant, en route for Portsmouth, on 15th March 1847 but had no apparent interest in a branch southwards. On 3rd July 1851 an Act of Parliament granted powers to the Duke of Norfolk to build a horse worked railway from a junction with the LB&SCR at Havant to Langstone at the point with the Hayling bridge. The railway was never built and the powers granted by the Act lapsed. Then, in 1860, authorization for a contractors' line, the Hayling Railway, was obtained for a single line railway from Havant through Langstone and across Langstone harbour to Hayling Island by means of an 1,100ft timber viaduct with opening girder span and controlling cabin, then continuing on a new embankment constructed alongside the west shore of the island, thereby reclaiming over 1000 acres of mudflats. It was the viaduct, together with some sharp curves, that was to ensure the Terriers a continuing life in the later years as it had such a severe weight restriction no other locomotives were permitted to use it. The line opened to Langstone (Note: from May 1873 it was just Langston - no 'e' on the end!) for goods only on 19th January 1865 and to Hayling Island (until 1892 called South Hayling), with a halt at North Hayling, for goods and passengers on 16th July 1897. The line was intitially worked by the contractor, Furniss, but the LB&SCR took over responsibility for operating it from 1st January 1872, finally absorbing it in November 1922, prior to becoming part of the Southern Railway in 1923.

The train left from its own bay platform at Havant station, then turned south almost immediately over a minor level crossing by Havant Signalbox then under the old A27, continuing past watercress beds and a double Fixed Distant Signal with one arm for each direction of travel, one of three double arm Signals along the route. The line was surrounded by trees from this point whilst the locomotive, working hard, would bark its exhaust in a quite un-Terrier like manner. Shortly the trees thin out and some sidings were passed, the whole time the line curving first one way, then the other. As the sea was approached the viaduct came into view and the train would slow to 20 m.p.h. before venturing onto the timbers. At each end was a Home Signal, left permanently "off" and only used in the event of the span being opened, something that was very rare after WWII. Rumbling over the bridge at high tide gave the impression that the train had gone to sea! Once off the viaduct the train quickly arrived at the unstaffed North Hayling halt on the west shore of the island, alongside now abandoned oyster beds. Leaving the halt the train continued close to the coast for a couple of miles through open country to the Hayling Island terminus. When just one train was working the branch, it would arrive in the main platform, then the engine would run round ready for the return trip. However, when another train was expected, the first had to run round and shunt its stock into the bay to allow the second train into the station.

On 12th December 1962 a meeting of the Transport Users Consultative Committee was convened at Havant Town Hall which, ignoring the protests of local people and organisations, and despite the railway's income equalling its outgoings, the opposing arguments for the cost of repairs to Langstone Harbour bridge and the aging coaching stock were upheld and the decision was made to recommend to the Minister of Transport that the railway be closed. The "ageing coaching stock" (some of it 1956 built MkIs) was all subsequently put to use elsewhere on the Southern Region! Closure followed swiftly with the last public train running on 2 November 1963. The final train, the "Hayling Railway Farewell Tour", ran the following day behind the oldest working locomotive then operating on British Railways - Nº32636.

The line was single throughout, with no crossing places, so with up to four trains per hour using the line the crossing keeper at Langston station had a full day, and plenty of motorists in later years sat fuming whilst waiting for the train to enter or leave the station!

The line saw quite a lot of freight activity, usually transported in mixed trains which meant that the up train would be diverted at Havant away from the bay platform and into the Down main platform where the loco from that day's pick-up goods would shunt the Hayling wagons across to the yard. Mixed trains were allowed an extra four minutes for the journey over the normal 13 allowed to passenger trains, which frequently made the journey in less time anyway. Intermediate shunting was very rare, maybe the occasional wagon for Langston, so there was unlikely to be any delay to the passengers on this line. The normal loading for the passenger service was two coaches, though on summer weekends this would be increased to a maximum of four, still an insufficient number for those heady days of yore when as many as 500 people would want to travel the line!

Terrier Nº32646 (which was sold to the LSWR in 1903) was just one of several Terriers associated with the Hayling line, others were Nº32636 (the original Terrier), Nº32640, Nº32644, Nº32650, Nº32655 (now "Stepney" on the Bluebell Railway), Nº32659, Nº32661, Nº32662, Nº32670 (which belonged to the Kent & East Sussex Railway until Nationalisation), Nº32677 and Nº32678. It is comforting to know that many in the above list have survived into preservation.

Havant Platform

The Hayling Island train in its bay platform, taken from the "Up" platform at Havant during 1963.

photograph by Keith Harwood


Terrier Nº32646 is in the bay platform at Havant, about to leave for its short journey to Hayling Island.

photograph by Keith Harwood


The Hayling Branch crossed the main road to the island at Langstone, where Langston station and its level crossing were located. There was a siding here, though it was out of this picture on the right.The only other stopping place on the branch was at North Hayling where a very basic platform and shelter were provided.

photograph by Keith Harwood

Langston sign

This sign faced the road, with the platfom behind it. Something for the motorist to read whilst sitting in front of the closed level crossing gates!

cine capture by Keith Harwood

A Hayling Train

Here Nº32646 and its train are approaching North Hayling. Note the twisting route, despite the flat terrain.

photograph by Keith Harwood

32670 Departs Hayling

The rudimentary platform at North Hayling. A traditional style of halt, North Hayling was of entirely wooden construction and was situated a little way to the south of Langstone Bridge. Somewhat remote and little used, the only means of access was by footpath from a road out of sight to the right of the photograph.

photograph by Keith Harwood

Hayling Island

Hayling Island station in 1963. Terrier Nº32646 has left its coaches in the main platform and run back to the coaling stage which is out of sight to the top right of this picture. The beginning of the station canopy has been removed leaving no protection for passengers when leaving the booking office during inclement weather.

photograph by eith Harwood

32670 Departs Hayling

The trains invariably ran bunker first on the return trip from Hayling Island. Nº32646 and its train are just departing from Hayling Island station.

photograph by Keith Harwood

A Hayling Train

The signal cabin at Hayling was a small ground-level affair at the Havant end of the platforms. During the final year of operation, A1x Terrier Nº32670 has just departed bunker first from the longer of the two platforms with a train comprising a non-corridor Mk1 coach and a Bulleid brake.

photograph by Keith Harwood

Following the closure of the line there was an attempt made to re-open it using an ex-Blackpool tramcar but, despite one being sourced and stored for a long time, the plans came to nought and most of the route of the old railway slowly returned to nature. The superstucture of the bridge was removed but the piles and the swing bridge support were left to form an eerie reminder of the days when little Terriers had worked so hard to transport the many hundreds of people wanting to travel the line.

A27 bridge

This is the bridge that carried the old A27, now East Street, over the railway line, the course of which has now been turned into a footpath.

photograph by Paul Emery


Looking towards the island, to the right of the route can be seen the remains of an old railway wharf, which ceased to be used around 1890.

photograph by Paul Emery


All that remains of the 1,100ft timber viaduct across Langstone Harbour. The central circular base of the swing bridge shows where the track level once was.

photograph by Paul Emery


This is the former Goods Shed at Hayling Island as photographed on 22nd August 2009. As can be seen, it has been considerable extended and is now used as a theatre by the Hayling Island Amateur Dramatic Society.

photograph by Gregory Beecroft

This page was last updated 6 August 2015

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