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Railways In Portsmouth

Portsmouth railway lines in 1894 (German version).

Portsmouth Point

Although not connected to the railway system The Point was where Gosport and Ryde were connected to Portsmouth via the floating bridge (from 1840 to 1959). In addition to the paddle steamer connection to Ryde the South Western and Brighton Railway Companies Steam Packet Service used tow boats and a tug to carry livestock and subsequently motor cars from Broad Street, Portsmouth to the slipway at George Street, Ryde.

By 1900 passenger trade to The Point had declined and a ferry service was operated from The Hard, situated next to the Dockyard.

Floating Bridge at The Point and Gosport in the early 1900s.

Portsmouth and Southsea Station

Opened as a terminus in 1847 called Portsmouth, renamed Portsmouth Town in 1876 and renamed again as Portsmouth and Southsea in 1925. From 1847 to 1866 the station was much smaller with the grander version being built in 1866. Initially, due to reluctance from the Admiralty to permit any extension, passengers for the Isle of Wight steamers travelled from the terminal station by tramway to Clarence Pier. In 1876 an extension (high-level) was built to the new terminus at Portsmouth Harbour.

In 1857 a branch line was built from the low-level platforms, across Commercial Road, to Portsmouth Dockyard. In 1876 a high-level extension was added to Portsmouth Harbour with a new track to Portsmouth Dockyard going off to the left.

The photos show the station with the original crossing over Commercial Road, the new high-level track and the old turn-table.

The map below is from the 1890s showing the station post-1866 rebuild together with the Portsmouth Dockyard high-level branch line. After leaving the high-level platform the branch line dropped into Victoria Park (opened in 1878) where it joined the old branch line from the low-level station before crossing Edinburgh Road and Alfred Road. The old branch line (already removed) which crossed Commercial Road looped to the right and went through a tunnel in the embankment to gain access to Victoria Park. The Goods Station and turntable were still there but the Engine shed had been moved to Fratton in 1891. The Goods depot moved to Fratton in 1936.

1890's map.

Below is an earlier map of Portsmouth Town Station showing a smaller station, the engine shed and turntable. The tramway connection to Clarence Pier (bottom left) ran from the station complex right onto the pier. On the right is Blackfriars Road where there was a crossing (closed 1883) which, being so near the station and shunting areas, caused major traffic problems.

Earlier map.

The 1960ís pictures show the signal box at the high-level and the sweep away to the right of the Dockyard branch.

The crossing at Edinburgh Road in 1953 and the 1970ís.

Arundel Canal: The Portsea section of the canal opened in 1822 (the whole canal in 1823) with the western end located roughly in the area where Arundel Street is today, at the Halfway Houses (Landport). A basin was built to allow the loading and unloading of boats. The canal scheme in Portsmouth had many problems, including sea water leaking from the canal contaminating local wells and water sources, and was abandonned by 1847. The canal bed was later used to lay the railway track from Fratton to Portsmouth and Southsea, continuing east of Fratton along Goldsmith Avenue through Milton to Langstone harbour.

Diagram of the Portsmouth section of the canal and Route to London.

Clarence Pier

The original Clarence Pier was built in 1861 with a pavilion added in 1882. In 1886 a direct tram onto the pier from Portsmouth and Southsea Station was started. After 1873 the tram stopped just short of the pier. Extensions were built in 1905 and 1932. The Pier was bombed during WW2 and didn't re-open until 1961 when it became part of the fun fair. The Pier was unusual in being wider than it was long allowing it to accomodate two steamers.

Pictures from 1871 (New Baths and Assembly Rooms) and probably 1930s.

Portsmouth Harbour Station

Opened 1876 as an extension to the line at Portsmouth and Southsea. It was the terminus on the Portsmouth Waterside Extension Railway with a branch into Portsmouth Dockyard. Some sources state that the Dockyard branch was constructed to enable Queen Victoria's train access to the jetty within the dockyard when travelling to the Isle of Wight.

Ferries also ran from the pier to Ryde, Isle of Wight.

An impression of the station and Dockyard branch line in the 1800ís.

A 1950ís diagram of the track layout of the station with the post WW2 signal box and the Dockyard branch.

Portsmouth Dockyard Branch Line

Portsmouth Dockyard was connected to both Portsmouth Harbour Station and to Portsmouth and Southsea Station. The link from Portsmouth Harbour Station was across the harbour and included a swing bridge to let ships through.

1800ís impression of the Dockyard branch line.

Railway networks in the Dockyard. Also shown at the bottom of the map is the Gunwharf Railway connection to the mainline.

More Railway networks in the Dockyard.

The Unicorn Gate entrance from the branch line out of Portsmouth and Southsea station.

The 1885 Royal Railway Shelter at South Railway Jetty Building in the Dockyard.

Whale Island

In 1867 a viaduct was constructed (removed in the 1892) from the north wall of the dockyard to the south-east corner of Big Whale Island which allowed spoil to be moved from dredging the docks (part of the expansion of HMNB Portsmouth), reclaiming the land between Big Whale Island and Little Whale Island, forming the basis of the island as it is today. The railway which ran on the viaduct was extended around the island to help with the distribution of the spoil and much of the track is still present today, buried under the roads. The railway was used until 1929. Manual construction work was mostly undertaken by convicts; a favourable assignment because of the extra food.

Map of Whale Island.

Horsea Island

Horsea was originally two islands, Great and Little Horsea. The islands were joined to form a torpedo testing lake in 1889, using chalk excavated from Portsdown Hill by convict labour. A narrow-gauge railway was constructed on the site by the army to distribute the chalk.

The island was connected, on the eastern side, to Portsea by two wadeways.

Map of Horsea Island.

Fratton Station

Built in 1885 (some sources claim an unlikely date of 1847) with a branch line to East Southsea added in 1885. Renamed Fratton and Southsea in 1905 and back to Fratton again in 1921. Portmouth's engine sheds were moved to Fratton from the Town Station in 1891.

Fratton picture 1908 and map 1870's.

Map of Fratton showing engine sheds and East Southsea branch line (bottom centre).

East Southsea Station

Built in 1885, by the Southsea Railway Company, running from Fratton to Granada road providing a connection to South Parade pier. After a year it was sold jointly to the L&BSCR and the L&SWR who agreed to operate the line on a alternate yearly cycle. In 1903 a newer, smaller, station was built when the line was used by railcars. After the introduction of railcars a couple of intermediate stations were opened in 1904.Jessie Road Bridge Halt and Albert Road Bridge Halt/Highland Road. Last used in 1914 and closed as part of WW1 cuts on poorly used railways brought on in this case by Portsmouth developing a more competitive tramway system. During WW1 the line was used as an overflow siding for the Fratton goods yard and the East Southsea station became a munitions store. The line was finally abandoned in 1923. Just 1 and 1/4 miles long, the line ran from Fratton Station to Granada Road, Southsea, via bridges under Goldsmith Avenue, Jessie Road, and Albert Road and a last one near St. Ronan's Road. After the introduction of railcars a couple of intermediate stations were opened in 1904. Jessie Road Bridge Halt and Albert Road Bridge Halt/Highland Road.

Map of East Southsea Station and the route through Southsea.

East Southsea Station as it originally looked and in 1966 before the final destruction.

An original steam engine in 1901, and a railcar used on the line in the later stages of its life.

Maps of the bridge at Goldsmith Avenue and the halts at Jessie Road and Albert Road.

Photos of the halts.

South Parade Pier

The East Southsea Station was built to bring the railway closer to South Parade Pier and onward access to the Isle of Wight. The first South Parade pier was opened in 1879 with a length of 1900 feet making it usable by steamers to the Isle of Wight. After a fire a second pier was built in 1906 with a reduced length of 600 feet, designed more for pleasure than a point of embarkation. There was another fire in 1974 which required part of the superstructure to be re-built.

Below are pictures of the original South Parade pier and the post-1906 pier with seating for an end-of-pier show.


Aviation:In the early days of aviation planes landed at Southsea beach.

Hydroplane from early 1900s

Ports Creek Bridge

Situated just north of Hilsea Halt and south of Portscreek Junction.

The LB&SCR built a wooden bridge across the creek in 1847. This was replaced by a swing bridge in 1870. An Admiralty order required the bridge to open between 2 and 3am on the first Sunday of every February. The swing bridge was supplanted by a drawbridge in 1909 which has been fixed in place since 1920.

Bridges have been built across the creek at various locations. The first record of a bridge across the creek dates from the 12th century. In the 15th-century a double-arched stone bridge was built. Prior to the new bridge in the 1800's the original road, and bridge, into Portsmouth was through the defences at that time with the route following 'Old Road' from Cosham and joining Portsea Island along what is now 'Peronne Road'. In 1867 a new retractable bridge allowed the passage of gunboats, it was later fixed in place and reinforced to allow trams to run across. The bridge was replaced by a wider bridge in 1927, which in turn was replaced by the current structure in 1970 during the construction of the A27. In 1941 the Eastern Road was extended over the creek to link Portsea Island at the eastern end.

1700's map of road route into Portsmouth

The creek was deepened and made navigable by the Portsmouth & Arundel Navigation company in 1830 after the failure of the Portsea Canal. It proved difficult to keep the creek clear for navigation and a canal called the Cosham Canal was proposed to provide an alternative route, although it was never built. The canal company abandoned the creek in 1838. An 1853 army report on the status of the Hilsea Lines mentioned that the creek was filled with weeds to the point where for 3 to 4 hours every day it could be walked across. Later in the decade as part of upgrade works on the Hilsea Lines, the creek was widened and deepened to allow it to be used by gunboats. Dams and flood gates were constructed at the ends of the creek to allow it to be kept in water at all stages of the tide. The remains of one of these dams can be seen at the eastern end of the creek.

The maps, below, show the new road and bridge together with the western floodgates, and the railway as a swing bridge plus the remains of the eastern floodgates.

Late 1800's map.

Early 1900's map.

Hilsea Halt

Opened 1937.

When the main line came to Portsmouth in 1858 there was a dispute over the Havant section. A temporary terminus (Havant New) was built north of Havant where passengers were transferred by horse-drawn omnibus to Hilsea, so bypassing the main Havant station. The passengers could then carry on into Portsmouth by train.

Hilsea Lines: An original defensive line was constructed during 1756 and 1757 which were subsequently demolished.. The current lines were constructed between 1858 and 1871. They included special fortified bridges for road and rail access. Even before their completion the Hilsea Lines had been rendered obsolete due to advances in artillery technology.

The tunnel through Hilsea Lines.

To the east of Hilsea Halt was the airport and to the west were the military sidings. Shown on the map below is Rat Lane which was later renamed as Norway Road after Neville Shute. Also pictured is the gated crossing in the 1950ís and the rickety bridge of the 1970ís.

Map of the 1930's.

The Gasworks at Hilsea was built between 1902 and 1905 and had an extensive rail system. At its peak there were over two miles of standard and more than a mile of 2ft 6in gauge tracks. Steam locomotives were used on both gauges - the narrow gauge closing in 1920. The Works shut in 1985. Pictured are a couple of restored engines.

A restored Gasworks engine.

Portsmouth Airport:The Airport was opened in 1932 and closed in 1973.

The Airport in the 1930s.

Level Crossings

South of Hilsea Halt were The Green Lanes and Burrfields Road crossings.

Copnor Station and Crossing

There was a plan for a station at Copnor, between Hilsea and Fratton, where the East Southsea branch would set out from. This was abandoned in favour of a station at Fratton. There remains a Station Road at Copnor where the station was to have been built.

Originally there was a level crossing at Copnor which was replaced by a bridge in 1908. Pictured is the crossing in 1905.

Copnor crossing gate.

Cosham Station

In 1845 the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway obtained an agreement to build a line extending their Brighton to Chichester line to Portsmouth. Perceiving this as a threat to their traffic in the neighbourhood, the London & South Western Railway entered into negotiations with the Brighton company, as a result of which it was agreed that the South Western would build a connecting line from Fareham to a joint station at Cosham and that the line from Cosham to Portsmouth would be a joint LB&SCR/L&SWR line. Trains from Brighton to Portsmouth commenced on 14 June 1847. The Fareham to Cosham line opened on 1 September 1848, and L&SWR trains began running trains through to Portsmouth on 1 October 1848.

Cosham station in the early 1950s showing a line of anti-tank blocks which were part of the WWII invasion defences.

Cosham station and sidings early 1900's with Portsdown and Horndean Light Railway crossing over the track.

Hilsea Lido: Opened in 1935. The pool originally used seawater, converting later to freshwater.

During World War 2 the main pool was closed to the general public and was given over to the use of the various military units in the area. Between 1946 and 1951 a miniature railway ran along the lido site. In 1974 the Lido was used as a set for the Bernieís Holiday Camp scene in the film Tommy. Later in the 70s the lido's diving platforms were removed. In 2006 plans for refurbishing the lido were abandoned but the lido reopened in 2014.

Hilsea Lido map 1950s.

Hilsea Lido in the 1950s and a visit from Sean Connery.

Portchester Station

Situated between Fareham and Cosham. Opened by the L&SWR in 1848.

Paulsgrove Halt

Situated between Cosham and Portchester evidenced by the Racecourse Lane bus stop on Southampton Road (near Tesco Superstore). The station was funded by local businessman George Cooper for the local racecourse. The station closed along with the racecourse when the land was acquired by the military in 1939 who used it as an ammunition dump. Opened in 1928 to serve the adjacent Paulsgrove Racecourse (usually referred to as Wymering or Portsmouth Racecourse). The course could accommodate 8,000 punters and had parking for 2,000 cars.

It was primarily used for pony racing and there was also a track for motor-cycle dirt track racing.

There has been on-going talk of re-building the station.

Map and photos of the track.

Farlington Halt

The station was situated on the triangle between Bedhampton and Hilsea. The existence of the station is evidenced by the road named Station Road running south from Havant Road. Built in 1891 as Farlington Racecourse and later Farlington Halt to initially serve the Portsmouth Park racetrack. The racecourse was closed in WW1 to be used as an ammunition dump and the station closed in 1917 to be opened again and closed again in the 1920ís for industrial use before being re-opened to the general public as Farlington Halt in 1928 but finally closed in 1937.

In 1894 there was a crash at the station.

Map and photos of the racetrack together with the crash site.


Situated between Cosham/Hilsea and Havant. Opened in 1906 and originally named "Bedhampton Halt".

Bedhampton gates about 1910.

Bedhampton Mill sidings.


Wikipedia - Portsmouth & Southsea Railway Station

Wikipedia - Portsmouth Direct Line
Wikipedia - London and South Western Railway
Wikipedia - London and Brighton Railway
Wikipedia - Portsmouth Harbour Railway Station
Wikipedia - Fratton Railway Station
Wikipedia - Paulsgrove Halt
Wikipedia - Farlington Halt
Wikipedia - Bedhampton Station
Wikipedia - Whale Island
Wikipedia - Portsmouth and Arundel Canal
Wikipedia - Portsmouth Airport
Wikipedia - Hilsea Lines
Wikipedia - Portsbridge Creek
Wikipedia - Isle of Wight Ferry Services
Wikipedia - Portsmouth Harbour
Wikipedia - Portsmouth Airport
Stuart Crow
Buriton Heritage Bank
May Brian
South Parade Pier
John Speller's Web Pages
Disused Stations
Portsmouth News
Past and Present Publications
David Heys Collection
University of Portsmouth
Elm Tree Photos
Prints Place
Portsmouth Harbour and Spitheadís Nomination for World Heritage status
Michael Cooper
Simplon Postcards
Hampshire Airfields
Southern e-mail Group
Portsdown Tunnels
Old Maps Online