Thursday 19 January 2012

fbb's Zip Trip in 1912 [Part 2]

Hurrying on to Horndean
The Portsdown and Horndean Light Railway, which ran from 1903 to 1935, operated from Cosham then up the spectacular Portsdown Hill, with its stunning views back over Portsmouth Harbour, ...
... to the George Inn at its summit. Here it moved from private track to the centre of the carriageway where it remained until the village of Waterlooville.
North of here, the track moved over to the eastern verge of the London Road until the terminus at Horndean was reached.
The railway's depot was at Cowplain ...
... on the western side of London Road. The depot found on-going use after the closure as a Foden garage.
Sadly, this splendid building succumbed to 1960s development and the site is now unrecognisable as an architecturally uninspiring Lidl supermarket!
Of course, in 1903, the London Road served only the occasional hamlet and the Light Railway contributed massively to the growth of the roadside villages. It offered cheap and speedy travel to Portsmouth for work, shopping or leisure and connected with railway services at Cosham ...
... even on Sundays!

The line did not quite reach the village of Horndean but stopped at the top of the hill.
The present-day view, with the A3M scarring the approaches, is quite different. Road widening has obliterated any sign of the former tram track.
There is just one intriguing, but undocumented, possibility. Just before the motorway bridge, this little building, extended but now in a dilapidated state ...
... stands near the terminus. Was it a tramway waiting room?

We end this tale back at Portsdown Hill. In the 1920s and 1930s huge fairs were held ...
... providing standing load custom for the trams. So lucratuive was the trade that Portsmouth Corporation trams held "running powers" authorising them to extend from Cosham to "Point A", a stop at the end of Widley Road.
This montage shows the "empty" nature of the area back in the early 1900s, but with the original properties still in place today. All that remains of the location is ...
... an overgrown flight of steps that led up to the tramstop and exuberant jollification of faiground fun.

It is worth repeating that today's "Zip" service 41 follows the railway route between Cosham and Horndean. See  "fbb's Zip Trip in 2012" (read again).
Here a service 40 (non-Zip) from Wecock Farm via Waterlooville begins its descent of a much more wooded Portsdown Hill.

P.S. Another picture from Frédéric in Belgium. This time a steam tram which ran between Bruxelles (Brussels) and Waterloo (not -ville!) in the early 1900s. Merveilleux! Merci beacoup.

 Next Blog : due Friday January 20th 


  1. Another splendid tale, fbb. I thought that you might have made reference to the extensive ‘reserved track’ that has been provided by Hampshire Council for the Zip buses along the old A3. This was previously, of course, the main London – Portsmouth road until the parallel A3(M) was built. As a result, the road width was fairly generous and a significant part of the Waterlooville – Portsdown Hill section of the route has been able to accommodate bus lanes.

    Although this is a different section to the ‘reserved track’ of the old Light Railway, it seems a nice historic link and gives buses a visible priority over private cars on this part of the route.

  2. I did refer to "significant lengths of bus lane" in "fbb's Zip Trip in 2012" published on Tuesday 17th January. When I travelled (0930 Saturday morning) they were hardly needed; impressive neverthless.

  3. Apologies, yes you did. I must have missed it, expecting to see a photograph of the bus lanes.

    Never mind. I trust my oversight is forgiven!

  4. Forgiven, of course! Thanks for your interest!

  5. Two points arise from your excellent article, fbb.
    When I lived in Pompey up to 1976, the main A3 road
    as it then existed, still had very wide grass verges which was where the Light railway ran.
    Secondly, You did not make it clear that the light railway held running powers into Portsmouth, using Corporation track. One of the reasons for its demise was its inability to use these tracks once Portsmouth converted its tram system to trolleybuses. The other reason was bus competition, mainly from Southdown. I have a feeling that Southdown purchased the line in order to close it, in 1935.

  6. is there a map showing the entire extended route, which went all the way to Southsea?

  7. Be great when they put the tramway back in!