NOSTALGIA: Track links to Portsmouth’s past still buried under roads

A trolleybus passing over tar-filled tram lines at Western Parade, Southsea,  1961. Picture: Barry Cox collection
A trolleybus passing over tar-filled tram lines at Western Parade, Southsea, 1961. Picture: Barry Cox collection
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To this day there are still many hundreds of yards of tram track under the Tarmac of Portsmouth streets, if you know where to look for it.

The whole of Victoria Road South, Southsea, still has double track and Western Parade the same. Rugby Road's interlaced tracks are there as a kind of memorial.

When trams stopped running in 1936 many rails were lifted, but it was so expensive much of the track was filled in with tar and left like it for years. However, in 1943 with a national shortage of steel during the Second World War, efforts were made to dig up the quality steel tram lines. 

The Ministry of Works and Planning, which would use the metal, proposed payments of £8 a ton for all the steel recovered. Before the war the price fluctuated from £1 10s (£1-50) to £3 a ton.

It was reckoned that in 1943 there were still an estimated 88,513 square yards and 2,592 tons of track in the city’s roads. A 60ft rail weighed in at an average of 80lb a yard. That was roughly 3,628 rails beneath our roads.

The Portsmouth Passenger Transport Committee agreed to pay 7s 6d (37p) a square yard to reinstate the roads after removal.

The picture shows a trolleybus on Western Parade, Southsea, with the redundant tram tracks filled in. As far as I am aware the rails are still under the modern road surface.

•On June 15 I published a photograph of HMS Victorious leaving Portsmouth. It brought several e-mails, including one from John Apps, of Cosham, who says: ’Victorious was the pride and joy of the Dockyard (as it was then) and I am sure there are plenty of ‘dockies’ who remember it with fondness for the wage packets they took home!

'When the Boxing Day Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 caused devastation to the region I thought back to my time when there were two aircraft carriers  –  Victorious and Centaur  –  plus the commando carrier Bulwark and heavy repair ship Triumph all based in Singapore, not to forget assorted destroyers, frigates and a minesweeper squadron.

‘With all the RN and RAF helicopters, help would have been available within a couple of days. What Now? The Far East fleet of the early 1960s would have been larger than the whole Royal Navy today.’

•My  picture of the three landing stages at Point, Old Portsmouth, brought an interesting  memory from Ken Arkell of Havant .

He says: 'As an ex-Gosport resident born in 1926, I used the ferry frequently in the 1930s. I left the area in 1962 to live in Havant but old loyalties remain.

'I  recall that the Gosport pontoon was used by two ferry companies.

‘The most-used service was to the pontoon adjacent to the Harbour station and used the up-harbour end of the Gosport pontoon.

‘At the other end there was a service to Point run by ferries that had a green and yellow livery. As a small boy I used to think those ferries were slightly superior to the others.  

'I was somewhat surprised by the photo seeing an ancient type of the other ferry berthed at  Point and your comment that they ran a three point service, but perhaps that was before I took an interest.

'In the ’30s I lived in house attached to Haslar Hospital so we used the 'Haslar Boat' quite a lot to get to Portsmouth. From Haslar Sea Wall vantage point I well recall the old car ferries but also a sort of small coaster that took goods to the Isle of Wight from a quay I think adjacent to Quebec House

'There is an interesting book entitled Going Over the Water, Memories of the Gosport Ferry compiled by David Gary and published by Chaplin Books. I add in all modesty that there are two of my pieces within its covers,’ adds Ken.

One point, why is it called the Gosport Ferry rather than the Portsmouth Ferry?