The Lee on the Solent Railway Part 3
|Author: Peter Keat||Published: 7th July 2008 23:04|
The story of the Lee on the Solent Railway
The picture shows a train ready to leave Fort Brockhurst Station in 1906.
Financial rescue was at hand in the shape of Sir John Robinson who, to the November of 1892 informed the Board of the Railway Company that he would take up the £30,000's worth of unsold This offer must have come as a relief to the Railway Company who readily accepted Sir John's offer. This offer was not so surprising as may at first appear because as stated Sir John saw a railway as an essential part of the transport system in his new development at Lee. The Directors, however, were not happy with the progress of the works by Messrs Laing and by early 1892 very little progress had been made and in May, after an inspection, it was decided to appoint new contractors. An approach was to Messrs, Pauling and Elliott from Westminster and in early 1893 they were engaged. The new contractors agreed to complete all the outstanding work on the line and to bring the line up to the standard required for the Board of Trade Inspection, There were actually very few constructional difficulties on the line as the only works of any size was the construction of a bridge over the River Alver. With the arrival of contractors came the first locomotives to work on the line. These were locomotives owned by the contractors and had been used in the construction of many lines around the country. The first locomotive to arrive was a Manning and Wardle 0-6-0 saddle tank number 156, this was followed by another Manning and Wardle locomotive, this time an 0-6-0 saddle tank numbered 334 and called 'Stanley". It seems that these two locomotives did much of the work although there is mention of a contractors 0-4-0 being used some times.
These works must have been completed by 24th March 1893 because a report and description of the line was made and sent on that date, to the Board of Trade. This was a legal requirement that was needed to be done prior to the official inspection of the line. From this document we learn that the line was composed of 60lbs rail, which was spiked to the sleepers and that the Company also intended to use "American" type cars with open ends and low steps so that a minimum platform level could be used. We also learn that the level crossings would be worked by the train crews, the line then would have no need of crossing keepers, a move that would make considerable saving to the Company as all four intermediate crossing places on the line - Pound Lane Crossing, Privett, Browndown and Elmore all had crossing gates and there was even an access crossing at Lee itself.
The Board of Trade must have been happy with this arrangement and one suspects that some form of compromise was reached on this unusual practice because at a later date we learn of the appointment of a Station Master at Browndown Hall, a Mr Fairweather, this made Browndown Halt the only staffed station between the two termini and this would make good sense because crossing the line at this point was Portsmouth Road which was the main coast road from Lee - on - the - Solent to Gosport and thence on to Portsmouth.
On 15th July 1893 the Railway Inspector Major Yorke an inspection of the line. He was informed that the crossing keepers huts had not been erected because the Company intended to operate the line as a tramway using the practice outlined above. The machinery for the operation of the gates consisted of a lever to them and a counter balanced drawbar to return them, the wheel flanges of the train activated this. We assume that the Major took this into consideration during his visit and here I include an abbreviated version of the Railway Inspectors Report as it includes interesting details of the line itself.
" The line is single and is of three miles nine and a half chains and the Company have purchased sufficient land, if doubling is required. The steepest gradient is I in 66 and sharpest curve is one of 10 chains radius. The cuttings and embankments are unimportant. The line is fenced with post and rail. Flat-bottomed steel rail of 60lbs per linear yard are secured to the sleepers with dog spikes. The sleepers are of creosoted Baltic timber being 8' 11"x 9' x 4' 6"» There are II sleepers to a 30 foot length of straight track and twelve on curves. The gravel ballast is sufficient except in the vicinity of the River Alver where more required. The line has 3 under bridges two of 12' and one of 20' over the River Alver. All are of rolled steel resting on timber piles sank to a depth of 26 'for the smaller bridges and 46' the larger one. Deflection were made with a contractors locomotive believed to weigh15 tons. There are two level crossings over public roads and one over a War Department Road. All have gates and wickets but require lights for night use. The rail width available between the crossing gates is I1' 3" which is sufficient if tramway stock is to be used. There are 4" high platforms at Elmore and Lee without shelters or booking offices. Buildings at Lee were noted under construction. No signals at all. All sidings being locked with a key on train, staff. No facing locks provided and no check rails on10 chain curves, "
The line failed the inspection on 13 different points. The Major also noted that in places the line was built partly outside the laid down limits of deviation and the planned 5 chain curve at Elmore was now a 10 chain curve. He sent a telegram to the Board of Trade stating, " I cannot recommend the opening as the works are not complete". Work had now to continue to bring the line up to an acceptable standard although an attempt was made to open the line claiming that it was not a railway and was in fact a tramway and so several of the failure points did not apply, This received, a very firm refusal from the Board of Trade forcing the Company to comply with, all the recommendations made by the Inspector.