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During the Napoleonic Wars, there had been concern about the safety of shipping traffic approaching London from the west (via the English Channel) resulting in a number of canal and railway schemes being put forward.

In 1803 there was a plan to extend The Surrey Iron Railway (SIR) to Portsmouth (See Merstham Station in the Brighton to London section).

Opened in 1802 The Surrey Iron Railway (SIR) was a horse-drawn plateway that linked Wandsworth and Croydon via Mitcham. In 1803 there plans to extend the railway to Portsmouth but the idea of a railway as opposed to a canal were quickly shelved. Later, in 1824, George Stephenson realised that the cast-iron plateway could not support the weight of a locomotive and eventually the line (and planned extension) was abandoned.

Map of the 1840 route - London to Southampton.

Railways in the South East of England in 1840.

1838 Plan for a direct line from Portsmouth to London via Chichester, Arundel and Dorking. This was abandoned.

1838 -1840 Southampton linked to London with a route opened between Nine Elms and Southampton Docks (the station situated just outside of the docks) operated by The London and Southampton Railway company renamed, in 1839, as the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) company.

1841 Portsmouth linked to London via Nine Elms, Bishopstoke (later renamed Eastleigh), Fareham, Gosport and the Floating Bridge to Portsmouth Point.

1841 Brighton linked to London with a route between Norwood and Brighton built by the London and Brighton Railway company and a line from Norwood to London Bridge built by the London and Croydon Railway company. Brighton station was built in 1840, ahead of the connection to London, initially only serving the Shoreham branch.

1844 The London and Croydon Railway experimented with an atmospheric railway but that was abandoned by 1847.

1846 the line was extended from Shoreham to Chichester by the Brighton and Chichester Railway Company.

1846 all the companies on the Brighton/Chichester route merged to become the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company (LB&SCR).

1847 the line from Brighton was continued to Havant and Portsmouth. Portsmouth was renamed Portsmouth Town and later Portsmouth and Southsea. The line was joint owned between the LB&SCR and L&SWR from Portcreek Junction (Hilsea) to Portsmouth and Southsea station.

1848 the Fareham line was extended to Cosham and a joint line, with the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company, was run from Cosham into Portsmouth. Journeys to London either via Fareham or Brighton took 3 to 4 hours for a distance of nearly 100 miles.

1848 the first Waterloo station opened, being constructed as an extension to the line at Nine Elms. Waterloo, originally intended as a through station and not a terminus, was built up over the years as a set of independent stations. In 1922 it was rebuilt in the form as it is today.

1857 a direct, and much quicker, line from London to Portsmouth via Woking and Havant was completed by the Direct Railway Company and leased to L&SWR for services to Portsmouth with user rights over the existing section from Havant to Portsmouth. Until late 1859 LB&SCR and L&SWR were in disagreement over ownership of the line around Havant and the lines were blocked north of Havant (see section on Havant Station). There was talk of building two separate lines from Havant to Hilsea and Cosham with a separate station at Portsmouth being needed for the second line. For the first twenty years the line was a single track although tunnels and bridges and earthworks had been built for double tracks. In 1878 the line was ‘doubled’ and was electrified in 1937.

1923 all local southern railway companies were amalgamated as Southern Railways.

1948 all railway companies were nationalised as British Railways.

Portsmouth area Railway map from 1910


The practice of dealing with passengers was inherited from road coach and cart operation. Intending passengers were issued with a paper ticket filled in by hand. Carriages were not lit, and second class carriages were "sideless". Third class passengers were carried from the opening of the whole line, in open trucks attached to goods trains. First class coaches had three compartments each; they were very low and narrow, travellers' knees were pressed uncomfortably hard against those of their opposite neighbour. Second class was equally cramped, and the seat was a bare board.

Fares and Speed

In the early days travelling by train was very expensive, albeit cheaper than using stagecoaches.

In 1849 the costs per mile between Portsmouth and London were 2 1/2d for 1st class, 1 3/4d for 2nd class and 1d for 3rd class (240d = £1). However these were reduced for a variety of reasons - week-end offers, market days etc.

In 1844 the government compelled "the provision of at least one train a day each way at a speed of not less than 12 miles an hour including stops, which were to be made at all stations, and of carriages protected from the weather and provided with seats; for all which luxuries not more than a penny a mile might be charged." As the timings of the "one train per day" were flexible the result didn't always reflect the social change that the government was aiming for.

Over time, and with inflation, the price of travel reduced to come in reach of the working man.
As well as being cheaper than stagecoaches the trains were much faster. Coaches would take 7 hours at best to reach London whereas the train could reach London via Brighton in 3 hours 10 minutes and via Bishopstoke in 2 hours 50 minutes. This was reduced to 2 hours 15 minutes by the much shorter Direct Line via Guildford.

The coming of the railways brought the need for standardisation of time country-wide. Portsmouth was one of the last towns in Britain to go onto GMT in the late 1870s.

Local Railway Company Rolling Stock


David Hey's Collection
Mike Morant Photos
Southern E-Group Picture gallery
Ian Nolan Photos
The Sussex Motive Power Depots
British Railways Engine Sheds 1948 to 1994

Videos of Southern Steam.



Wikipedia - London and South Western Railway
Wikipedia - London, Brighton and South Coast Railway
Wikipedia - London and Brighton Railway
Wikipedia - London and Southampton Railway
Wikipedia - Brighton and Chichester Railway
Wikipedia - Gosport Railway Station
Wikipedia - Fareham Railway Station
Wikipedia - Portsmouth Direct Line
Wikipedia - Parliamentary Train
Southern E-Mail Group
Past and Present Publications
Portsmouth Papers - Railways and Portsmouth Society 1847-1947