Fascinating story of Victorian train ferry comes to Havant

YESTERYEAR A painting by Leslie Henson of how the Carrier would have looked at Langstone
YESTERYEAR A painting by Leslie Henson of how the Carrier would have looked at Langstone
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THE ‘Hayling Billy 50’ team, led by Peter Drury, has been working with Hampshire Museum’s Service to bring Alan Bell’s wonderful model of the paddle steamer train ferry, Carrier, to The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre in Havant from tomorrow until November 8.

The Carrier was built at Greenock in the 1850s, as part of a fleet of floating railways, introduced by the civil engineer, Thomas Bouch, to carry goods wagons, across the Forth and Tay estuaries.

She had two tracks on her deck, each capable of taking seven railway wagons. In the 1880s the Carrier was sold to the IOW Marine Transit Company who operated the first Solent train ferry, between Bembridge Harbour and a new wharf at Langstone. Goods such as coal from the Midlands, could then be transported directly to the island.

The Carrier’s first journey from Langstone was in July 1885 and consisted of twelve wagons loaded with merchandise and weighing 160 tons. In December 1886, as the IOW company was in financial trouble, the London Brighton and South Coast Railway agreed to hire the Carrier and use of the quays.

Its solicitor, Sir Philip Rose, when holidaying in Shanklin, once had his horses and carriages conveyed from Victoria Station to Shanklin via the Carrier, perhaps as a publicity stunt. At Langstone the railway wagons were lowered by means of a gradient on to the deck of the Carrier. Including a two-hour sea trip, the whole journey took just seven hours.

The open sea did not suit the Carrier and this and the unprofitability of the ferry scheme resulted in it closure in 1888. Two lines of wooden stakes, which formed part of Langstone Wharf, can still be seen near Hayling railway bridge.

For more information see haylingbilly50.co.uk and visit the exhibition.