Portsmouth tram car lives to fight another day - as a waiting room | Nostalgia

Some of you may have read the last book I produced, The Portsdown & Horndean Light Railway Then and Now.

Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 6:00 pm
Former car No.5 restored as a waiting room.  Picture: Bernie Knibbs
Former car No.5 restored as a waiting room. Picture: Bernie Knibbs

I was delighted to discover that one of the cars used on the line survives in Surrey and is in use as a waiting room on a narrow gauge railway line.

Surrey’s only industrial 2ft gauge railway is owned and operated by a group of volunteers and can be found at the Tilford Rural Life Living Museum, near Farnham.

It is called the Old Kiln Light Railway (OKLR) and the former tram is located at Mills Wood station. It is named after the late Les Mills, a former driver based at Woking.

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Car No. 5 passing through Waterlooville. Picture: Barry Cox postcard collection.

The railway was created by Gerald Cannon and Mike Hayter some time in the early 1980s. The length of the railway is a mile for the round trip.

Les Mills’s Mills Wood station is built around the body of the former Portsdown and Horndean Light Railway tramway Car No.5.

No.5 was built as an open-top tram for the opening of the line in 1903 by the British Electric Car Company.

It is one of the two surviving cars from this system, the other remains in the Portsmouth area fully restored to its original condition.

Former Portsdown & Horndean Light Railway car No.5 arrived in a dilapidated state. Picture: Bernie Knibbs

Tram body No.5 became surplus to the original owners’ requirements based in Broad Street, Old Portsmouth.

They offered it to the OKLR group if they could find a use for it. This was an offer it gratefully accepted and it was duly delivered to the railway on May 24, 2006.

The original intention was to form the station building for the then proposed station at Mills Wood.

However, this was thwarted by other plans the museum had, so a new destination was sought.

It landed on the platform at Old Kiln Halt where it became a storage shed for all manner of ‘useful’ objects.

And there it sat for the next six years with restoration and weather protection occurring on an ad-hoc basis.

In 2012 with the completion of the construction of the platform at Mills Wood, and with the museum’s greater plans faltering, the decision was taken to finally install the tram at its original intended site.

It was moved into its final resting place on March 5 and since then, slowly but surely, a structure has grown up around it.

This will eventually allow further restoration of the tram body to occur, with plans to turn a third of it into a small shop, and the remainder into a waiting room-cum-museum. There is still a long way to go.

The museum is well worth visiting for a day out and a trip on the railway is not expensive. A saloon car for six people can be had for £6.

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron. You can subscribe here for unlimited access to our online coverage, including Pompey, for 27p a day.