Busy Chichester goods’ yard shows off the golden age of railways

The sidings at Chichester station from the west
The sidings at Chichester station from the west
Southsea firemen John Balderstone, left, and Chris Palmer with Bengy, the dog they rescued from a blaze

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These two ‘then and now’ photographs show the sidings at Chichester looking towards the station from the Portsmouth direction. The older shot, taken in the early 1950s, shows just how busy it was.

On the extreme left we see a LBSCR C3 class – 32300. This class of locomotive was scrapped between 1948 and 1951 so we can roughly date the photograph.

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No one appears to be on the footplate so it could be a shunter with the driver standing by the smoke box having a chat.

On the right is a goods’ train pulling out of the yard towards the station with what looks like a 700 Class (Black Motor) at its head.

It is an unfitted train (no through brake pipe) with a brake van at either end of the train so there might be a run-round required later into its trip. On the brake van you can see the two oil lamps, one to the off-side and one to the middle behind the verandah.

These lamps were not only used so the train could be seen from the rear in the dark, but they also told the signalman the train was complete.

In the days, before continuously braked trains, it was common for part of the train to break away and the guard had to bring the train to a halt with the hand brake within the van. He then had to run back the required distance to place detonators on the line to protect his train.

You will notice the track here is electrified and was, I believe, used for berthing stock when not required.

The two electrified running lines, up and down to Brighton, are on the right.

Above the brake van can be seen the six or seven yard roads. Behind the camera the yard ran back as far as the Fishbourne Road (now Westgate) level crossing, now closed.

The signal box is on the extreme right. The down yard that was behind it is now a car park and apartments. The framework for the gas holders was taken down some years ago.

The ‘now’ photo of the same view was taken last Sunday. A new road, Via Ravenna, now covers much of the former northern section of the yard.

What remains of the yard, a couple of sidings behind the camera, are used for trains carrying stone, I believe.

The once busy signal box, scheduled to close in 2022, looks over the site it once controlled now just controlling trains in and out of Chichester station.

A Waitrose store covers the top end of the yard.