Parts of Portsmouth’s rail heritage live on at Watercress Line

PANELLED The old ticket office and booking hall at Portsmouth and Southsea station
PANELLED The old ticket office and booking hall at Portsmouth and Southsea station
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A booking office and a footbridge have both featured several times here recently – examples of Portsmouth’s railwayana.

Both my colleague Bob Hind and I have wondered about their history and what might have happened to them.

DUMPED The footbridge at Hilsea Lines

DUMPED The footbridge at Hilsea Lines

Reader Tony Holley, from Havant, has provided definitive answers to both.

From 1977 until 1992 he worked in the Permanent Way Department at the Mid-Hants Railway (Watercress Line) and was chairman of the Mid-Hants Railway Portsmouth Group. It was the latter which was involved in the recovery of both the Hilsea footbridge, below left, and the booking office from Portsmouth and Southsea station.

We had been searching for the original source of the footbridge and Tony provides the answer. He says: ‘It came from Cowes railway station in the Isle of Wight and was acquired by Portsmouth City Council to place over Milton Locks as a footbridge, but the project never came to fruition and the footbridge was stored at Hilsea lines.’

Tony discovered the bridge while on Hilsea Lines photographing trains.

The survey ship Challenger

The survey ship Challenger

He contacted the council and asked if the Watercress Line could have it and the authority agreed to donate it. Tony and his colleagues then took it on as a project.

‘We cut the vegetation away that had grown around and through the bridge, organised a lorry and crane and the bridge was transported to Medstead and Four Marks station on the Mid-Hants-Railway where it was restored.

So, it did not end up at Alresford station as I suggested earlier. That bridge was rescued from Uckfield station in East Sussex, says Tony.

And so to the booking office.

Tony continues: ‘I was commuting by train from Havant to Portsmouth and Southsea station daily and noticed the booking office being demolished.

‘I asked the contractors what was happening and they told me the entire booking hall was being demolished and modernised.

‘I had a meeting with the station manager David Samson who agreed to let the Mid-Hants Railway have the entire booking office as it was only going to be dumped. It was demolished and stored in the station cellar ready for the Portsmouth Group to collect it.’

The Portsmouth Group organised a lorry and collected the booking office from the cellar.

It was taken by lorry to Alresford and stored in the goods shed.

Tony says: ‘When Medstead and Four Marks station was being restored some of the booking office parts were used to build the booking and ticket office.

‘As for the remainder of the booking office, it was thrown out when the old Alresford goods shed was demolished.’

MYSTERY SOLVED Yesterday I asked if you could identify this ship for Mandi Miles whose father had the picture among his papers. I had many replies, all saying the same thing: she was the survey ship Challenger (1931-54).

Deryck Swetnam, of Chichester Road, Copnor, Portsmouth, says the picture was taken pre-war possibly when she was quite new. He adds: ‘At some time later the direction-finding aerial above the bridge was removed and the vessel was extensively modified during the war. Post-war the vessel did not have the line around the hull.’