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The Lymington branch line is a railway that runs from Brockenhurst to Lymington Pier, both in the New Forest. The railway line is around 9 km (5.6 mi) long, and is single track throughout its length. It diverges from the South Western Main Line at Lymington Junction;[1] and, at Lymington Pier, trains connect with Wightlink ferry services to Yarmouth, on the Isle of Wight. The Lymington branch line is electrified using the 750 V DC third-rail system as is usual in the former Southern Region of British Railways.

Lymington branch line
Ampress Halt.png
View of the remains of Ampress Halt from passing train, looking towards Lymington.
TypeSuburban rail, Heavy rail
SystemNational Rail
South East England
Lymington Pier
OwnerNetwork Rail
Operator(s)South Western Railway
Rolling stockClass 450 Desiro
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Operating speed50 miles per hour
Lymington Branch Line
Shirley Holms Halt
Ampress Works Halt
Bridge Road
Lymington Town
Lymington Pier
(for Wightlink)
Non-geographic track plan of the branch.
Restored 3Cig unit no. 1498 "Farringford" at Lymington Pier on 26 May 2005. This unit has been repainted in 1960s-era British Railways green livery and was withdrawn on 22 May 2010. It has been preserved on the Epping Ongar Railway and has had an extra carriage added to restore its 4Cig status.
South West Trains 159 008 replacing the heritage units on the Lymington branch line on 17 July 2009
Unit no. 1497 on 18 July 2009 on the bridge between the two Lymington stations and was withdrawn on 22 May 2010.


The line had been constructed by the Lymington Railway Company, which was authorised on 7 July 1856, with a capital of £21,000. It was to be built from the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) at Brockenhurst to Lymington Town Quay. The company was authorised to purchase the Quay and the Town Bridge, and to build a jetty.[2]

The short line was constructed quickly, and an inaugural passenger train ran on 8 May 1858. However this was before the visit of the Board of Trade inspecting officer, and when he made he inspection, he expressed his satisfaction, but now the LSWR required additional work on the track before it would start operations. After this work was done, the line opened on 12 July 1858, with the LSWR working it. Goods traffic probably started on 23 July 1858.[3] The jetty was not opened until 1 June 1861.

Independent ferry operators crossed from Lymington to the Isle of Wight, and the Company tried to interest the LSWR in using Lymington as a ferry terminal, but without success. At the time there was bitter competition between the LSWR and the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, resulting in extremely cheap fares via Portsmouth.

A further Act of 21 July 1859 authorised the Company to purchase the river ferry to Boldre, and to charge tolls on Lymington Bridge. A further £11,800 capital was authorised: at this time, the original Lymington station was dilapidated and was said to be dangerous, and a new Lymington station was opened on 19 September 1860.[2][3]

A station was opened at Shirley Holms, about a mile (about 2 km) from Lymington Junction, was opened on 10 October 1860; the station was not entered into public timetables, and was closed when the Sway line opened in 1888.

In 1878 agreement was reached for the LSWR to purchase the line, and this took effect on 21 March 1879.

Lymington's own commercial activity declined steeply during the existence of the railway, and the steamers that ran to the Isle of Wight assumed an increasing importance; but silting in the Lymington River often prevented ferries from berthing at the quay, and the walk to and from the jetty was dirty and inconvenient. When the Freshwater, Yarmouth and Newport Railway got its authorising Act in 1880, the LSWR determined to extend the Lymington line to reach a deep water berth. On 22 August 1881 they obtained powers to extend the line to a deep water location; the extension to Lymington Pier was 34 chains (684 m) long, and opened on 1 May 1884.[3]

The principal ferry operator had been the Solent Steam Packet Company; on 1 July 1884 the LSWR purchased the paddle steamers Solent and Mayflower as well as numerous smaller vessels.[3]

Twentieth centuryEdit

In 1967, the Lymington line was the last steam-hauled branch on the British Rail system, and was then very briefly operated by diesel units before electric services began (as on the main line as far as Bournemouth) on 10 July. The branch line celebrated the 150th anniversary of its opening in July 2008.[4] Between 2005 and 2010, it was promoted as a 'heritage' route, making use of older rolling stock that had been retired from elsewhere on the UK rail network.

Rolling stockEdit

Services on the line are currently operated by South Western Railway using stock based at Bournemouth depot. Previously, rolling stock had been restricted to Classes 411, 412, 421 and 423.

Following the withdrawal of slamdoor stock from the rest of the SWT network in 2005 it was expected that by May 2005 at the latest the operation of the line would have been taken over by the new Class 450 "Desiro" units. However, SWT considered that due to the self-contained nature of the branch it would be more cost effective to continue Mk 1 operation. On this basis SWT bought and refurbished two British Rail Class 421 units to exclusively operate services on the line. Work carried out on the units included the fitting of central door locking and other safety features to allow them to remain in service beyond the November 2005 deadline for the withdrawal of slam-door stock and the reduction of the 4 carriage units to 3 carriages (3Cig) to address the extreme height difference between the train and the platform at Lymington Town.

The final two units of this type to work the line were numbered 1497 and 1498 and officially named Freshwater and Farringford respectively at a ceremony at Brockenhurst railway station on 12 May 2005. They were also repainted into an approximation of their original liveries. The "heritage" service commenced on 12 May 2005 and an exemption was obtained to enable the use of the 3Cig units until 2013, at which point they were estimated to be life expired.[5]

A Lymington Flyer headboard was made by Malcolm Ellis of Parkstone station, for use on the slam-door stock by local traincrew.

In Summer 2009[citation needed] South West Trains announced plans to replace the heritage EMUs with more modern units; Class 158 Sprinters[6] on weekdays and Class 450 on weekends (the latter were also used on occasion when the 3Cigs were unavailable, initially with the 4th carriage locked out of use to overcome the platform height issue at Lymington Town).[7] This change took place on 23 May 2010, with the final 3Cig service departing from Lymington Pier on 22 May 2010 at 22:14 and arriving at Brockenhurst at 22:24.[6] As of Dec 2018 a Class 450 is now used all week.

Unit No. Class Type Unit Name Livery Dates In Service Disposal
New Previous From To
1199 2326 411 3Cep Lucy[8] South West Trains 01/2003 06/2004 Scrapped at Immingham RFT in 07/2004.
1198 2314 411 3Cep Linda[8] South West Trains 06/2004 12/2004 Preserved on Dartmoor Railway in 01/2005, then at Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway, moved to Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway in 08/2013.
1499 1394 421 3Cig Lisa[8] South West Trains 12/2004 05/2005 Preserved on Dean Forest Railway in 07/2005. Scrapped at C.F Booth, Rotherham 2013.
1497 1883 421 3Cig Freshwater BR Blue/Grey 05/2005 22/05/10 Preserved, for use on Mid-Norfolk Railway.
1498 1888 421 3Cig Farringford BR Green 05/2005 22/05/10 Preserved, for use on Epping Ongar Railway.
- - 158 - - South West Trains 23/05/10 - In Service (Weekdays)
- - 450 4Des - South West Trains 23/05/10 - In Service (Weekends)
In service

External linksEdit


  1. ^ Network Rail – Route 3 (SWML) Route Plan
  2. ^ a b R A Williams, The London & South Western Railway, volume 1, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1968, ISBN 0 7153 4188 X
  3. ^ a b c d R A Williams, The London and South Western Railway, Volume 2: Growth and Consolidation, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1973, ISBN 0 7153 5940 1
  4. ^ South West Trains – Lymington Line marks 150th anniversary Archived 1 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ South West Trains Lymington Branch Request for Exemption from Railway Safety Regulations (1999) Archived 12 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b Jones, Robin (2010). "End of line for Lymington slam-door stock". Heritage Railway (134 (18 February – 17 March 2010)): 61.
  7. ^ (PDF) Retrieved 21 August 2009. Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  8. ^ a b c Staff at Bournemouth depot have unofficially named each unit.