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West Sussex Railway

Opened in 1897 from Chichester to Selsey Town station and extended to Selsey Beach in 1898. Closed in 1935.

In 1913 the directors proposed a light railway extension from Hunston to West Itchenor and East Wittering. However the First World War put paid to the idea.

The West Sussex Railway, also known as the West Sussex Railway (Tramway Section) from 1924, opened as the Hundred of Manhood and Selsey Tramway. It was built to standard gauge, but as a tramway in order to avoid having to comply with regulations that covered railways. It was engineered by H. F. Stephens, later Colonel Stephens

It was successful in the era before the First World War but gradually declined in the face of road competition.

Starting from a point a little to the south of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) station at Chichester; it left westwards and immediately turned south, running broadly southwards to Selsey. The contractor for the construction needed a locomotive for the work, and the locomotive was moved on the public road to get to the line south of the Chichester Canal. It was hauled by a traction engine, and it ran on rails, simply placed down on the road in front of the railway engine and taken up from behind it alternately. The locomotive was later named Chichester.

Whitechurch gave a description of a trip on the line in 1897:

One car stood by the little platform, ready to start. ... This was a third class car. A first class stood in a siding. ... Another car of which I caught a glimpse at Selsey completes, I believe, the "passenger rolling stock" of the little railway. ... The Company own two engines, the "Selsey" and the "Chichester", the former for "passenger" and the latter, a "six-wheels coupled" for "goods" traffic. The "Selsey", a trim-looking little side-tank locomotive, is painted dark blue with a red lining ... The boiler is surmounted with a handsome brass dome on which are two spring balances for the safety valves, while a neat copper ring is an adornment to the chimney.

Before we got away on the journey, a very remarkable operation in shunting had to be performed, albeit it was commenced two minutes after the time for starting. Two trucks were brought in from a siding, and so manipulated with engine and by hand, that finally one was attached in rear of the car, and the other in front of the locomotive!

Later we came to Hunston Station, a tiny iron building with a little platform, but a most important point of the line, in that it is the coaling and water depôt, and supplies of both were taken in by the engine, the train backing to allow this to be done, so that our car stood right across the main road during the operation. ... Chalder, another little station was reached at 10.58. We left our rear truck in the siding here ... At Siddlesham we performed some marvellous shunting operations, which occupied six minutes, and which resulted in our entering on the last stage of our journey, with three trucks in front of the engine and two behind our carriage—the very best example of a mixed train it has ever been my fortune to behold! ... Just before reaching Selsey we passed through the only cutting and under the only road-bridge the line possesses, pausing a few minutes to get rid of our five trucks at a siding.

About midway on the journey home, I, who was seated in the front compartment of the car, saw a red flag being violently waved a few hundred yards ahead. ... as the train slowed down, the individual in question, a stalwart, gaitered farmer, removed the danger signal from his stick, and calmly came aboard the car, doubtless thanking his lucky stars for the little railway that ran within a few feet of the garden of his house.

Inundation of 1910:

A fierce and prolonged storm took place in December 1910, culminating in a breach of the sea wall during the night of 15 December. 2000 acres of land were flooded, including the railway line north of Ferry. Part of the line was said to be under 12 feet of water. During the inundation, trains ran from each end of the line, and a horse bus operated in the gap, from Mill Pond Halt to Ferry station. At this time the Company was relatively prosperous, and had the resources to raise the line by up to ten feet over a considerable length.

After 1919:

Following the end of the First World War, independent operators of road lorries, and, gradually, road passenger vehicles, became numerous, and the inconvenience of using the tramway became prominent: agricultural produce and supplies needed to be carted to and from the tramway station, and the thinly distributed population were more easily serviced by a road vehicle, especially when that could run to the centre of Chichester or direct to the LB&SCR station there. Traffic declined seriously in the 1920s.


In 1921, Stephens was seeking means of reducing operating expenses, and a trial was made of a Wolseley-Siddeley petrol railcar on the line; this did not immediately lead to adoption, but in 1924, acquired two railcars built on Ford Model T chassis, with bodies by Edmunds of Thetford. They operated together, back-to-back with a truck for luggage and parcels between them; they had rails on the roof to contain additional parcels stowed there. Two more railcars were acquired from the Shefflex Motor Company of Tinsley in 1928; they too operated as a unit with a truck between. The railcars were provided with a crude timber buffer beam in front of the radiator, as protection.


The half mile of track from Selsey Town to Selsey Beach was out of use by the end of 1908 (Butt says October 1904.). The line was closed in January 1935.



Train Crash 1923.

Photos and Video of the Tramway

Colonel Stephens Society

Railfile - Selsey Tramway

Rail Thing - The Selsey Tramway


Google Images

Youtube Videos early 1900s

Chichester Station

Opened in 1897. A short distance south of the LB&SCR station. It consisted of the passenger station with run-round facilities and also a goods siding.

Chichester Station map 1930s.

Chichester Station early 1900s.

Click here for more images of Chichester Station from Gravelroots.

Hunston Station

Opened in 1897. There was a level crossing and a short siding; also a brickworks with an independent loop siding north of the station for some years.

Hunston Station, Bridge and Brickworks map early 1900s.

Hunston Station 1897 and Bridge over the Canal.

Hoe Farm Halt

A private halt and siding for the farm owner.

Hoe Farm Halt map 1930s.

Chalder Station

This was the closest station to Sidlesham village. the access was over a private farm road.

Chalder Station map 1930s.

Chalder Station.

Mill Pond Halt.

Opened in 1910, closed in 1911 and reopened in 1928.

Mill Pond Halt map early 1900s.

Sidlesham Station

Originaly named Siddlesham. There was a loop siding. The station was some distance south of the village.

Suffering from the 1910 inundation, the station was closed from 15 December 1910 until June 1911; the track level was raised by about four feet at the station level crossing.

Sidlesham Station map early 1900s.

Sidlesham Station in flood of 1910 and after new embankment.

Ferry Halt

Ferry Siding Halt or Ferry Siding at first and renamed Ferry in 1911.

Ferry Halt map 1930s.

Ferry Halt.

Bridge before Ferry Halt.

Ferry Road Crossing.

Golf Club Halt

For the benefit of members of the Selsey Golf Club, the Chichester and Selsey Tramway Authority installed a halt at the links, which was known as Golf Club Halt.

Golf Club Halt map 1930s.

Golf Club Halt.

Selsey Bridge Halt

The main road crossed the line here, the only road bridge on the line; there was a short siding and, some time after 1911 a brick works had a private siding.

Selsey Bridge Halt map early 1900s.

Selsey Bridge Halt.

Selsey Town Station

Originaly Selsey Town, renamed Selsey from 1911. The engine shed was located here, with a goods siding and run-round loop.

Selsey Town Station map 1930s.

Selsey Town Station early 1900s.

Selsey Engine Shed.

Selsey Beach Station

Opened in 1898 and closed in1904. The train service may have operated in summer only; there was a simple run-round loop and single platform.

Selsey Beach Station map early 1900s.


Wiki - West Sussex Railway
Colonel Stephens Society
Colonel Stephens Railway Museum
Rail Thing - The Selsey Tramway
Railfile - Selsey Tramway
West Sussex Record Office
Old Maps Online