NEW interpretation panels detailing the historic route of a former steam railway have been unveiled.
The Hayling Billy Heritage Project has produced five panels along the five-mile Hayling Island route, detailing information about the railway’s history.
The project between Havant Borough Council, Hampshire County Council, and Hayling’s BEST volunteer group has won £89,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The panels chart the railway’s history from its Victorian heyday, to its decline and revival for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
Councillor Andrew Gibson, Hampshire County Council’s executive member for culture, recreation and countryside, said: ‘The Hayling Billy project is a great example of partners working together to enhance a trail which is historically and environmentally important.
‘The new interpretation panels make that special connection with the past, reviving memories of the old Hayling Billy railway while creating new memories for those strolling along the shores of Langstone Harbour – one of the country’s most beautiful and internationally important habitats.’
The Hayling Billy railway opened in 1865 linking stations at Havant and Hayling Island.
Steam locomotives transported freight and passengers, particularly to Hayling Island beach during the summer, but over time it became expensive to run. In 1963 the last train steamed across it.
In 2013, 50 years after the last train, the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded funds to the project, which included resurfacing, drainage works, new interpretation panels and the restoration of a former Hayling Billy Line signal from around 1950.
Today, the Hayling Billy Trail is a five-mile combined footpath, bridleway and cycleway – part of the National Cycle Network.
The county council has commissioned a series of wildlife panels to complement the heritage panels, which will be built later this spring.
Councillor Faith Ponsonby, Mayor of Havant, said: ‘I was delighted to attend and unveil this new information panel which tells the story of the trains that took so many people down to our lovely Hayling beaches.’