In 1865, the Havant to Langstone branch line was opened transporting goods to two specially built wharves at Langstone. Goods were held here ready for transport to Queen Victoria’s favourite holiday retreat on the Isle of Wight. By 1867, the branch line had been extended across the railway bridge to a wooden halt at North Hayling and along the foreshore to the new station at West Town.
Due to the frailty of the original timber railway bridge light weight Terrier tank engines (Known affectionately as “The Hayling Billies” by locals) were used to push and pull coaches up and down the 5 mile single track line. These engines were originally intended for use on the South London railway, which as it passed under the Thames also required small powerful engines. Even with these light weight engines the bridge could only safely support the engine plus four coaches at any one time. During the busy holiday season the large number of passengers were catered for by running the trains in convoy up and down the single line, facing backwards on their return journey due to the lack of turntable.
The branch line was closed in 1963, as part of Dr. Beeching’s railway reforms and the the route now serves as a four and a half mile coastal leisure trail. Today the trail is used by horse riders, cyclists and pedestrians as an alternative, more peaceful route between West Town and the bridge and offers those who used it a glimpse of the range of wildlife that inhabits the Island.
At the northern most point of the trail, just south of where the railway bridge once begun, a signal post has been reconstructed an erected as a reminder of the original use of this route.