Men who ran the Meon line

Brian Sessions, John Hartfree and George Nurse

Brian Sessions, John Hartfree and George Nurse

The thick blue line of Portsmouth bobbies

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Although the much-loved but little-used Meon Valley railway line from Fareham to Alton closed in 1955 you might be surprised to know that many of the railwaymen that worked the line are still with us.

In fact, so is Alan Akehurst the fireman on the last service train which ran on Saturday, February 5, 1955. Alan once lived at James Road, Bedhampton, but now, aged 83, lives at West Clandon, near Guildford.

Last Saturday I was invited to the 90th birthday party for George Nurse who is featured several times in photographs in Ray Stone’s book The Meon Valley Railway.

In all, at George’s party, there were five former drivers who were young firemen at the time who all worked on the Meon Valley line at sometime in their lives.

Although all based at Guildford locomotive depot at the time, several lived in the Portsmouth area and two still do.

Alan says of that final day: ‘The driver, John Dearling and I, travelled ‘pass’ (rhyming with lass and travelling as a passenger) to Fratton to pick up the engine a Black Motor 0-6-0 30326. We ran a light engine to Fareham where we attached to the stock. We fixed the headboard on and off we went. I can’t remember if the train was overcrowded but I can remember the platforms were.

‘We left Fareham about 6.50pm (6.48pm to be exact Alan) with guard Barrett, whose first name escapes me. I know we had four (coaches) on and off we trundled into the night.

‘A few passengers got on and off at the stations along the line and we arrived at Alton an hour later and that was it.’

Did he leave the stock at Alton as would have been usual in normal service days, or did you take them for disposal?’ I asked.

‘Do you know, I can’t remember for a minute whether we went light to Guildford or took the stock with us. Mind you, I was getting married the following Saturday and had other things on my mind.’

The following day, an enthusiast special ran over the line double-headed from Waterloo to Waterloo in a circuitous route of 192 miles. It ran to Guildford, Horsham across to Midhurst and then to Petersfield.

From there it went south to Fareham then up the Meon Valley to Alton and then back to Waterloo via Aldershot. And that was it for any passenger workings.

Goods traffic continued to Droxford until 1962 when the ghost was given up.

In the photo we see from left to right: Brian Sessions, John Hartfree, George Nurse, Alan Hughes and Alan Akehurst. John Hartfree and George Nurse actually went to school with one another so have known each other for 85 years.

Brian Sessions was Alan Akehurst’s best man a week after the last train ran.

Brian and John still live at Bedhampton.

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