Celebrating the Legacy of the Billy Line
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Half a century ago on a crisp, clear November Sunday in 1963, two antiquated and diminutive black tank locomotives hurried their train of green passenger coaches, over the creaking timber bridge across Langstone Harbour. Much as they had done many times before on their way between Hayling Island and Havant. On reaching their destination however, they brought to a close almost a century of railway history in southern Hampshire, as the ‘Hayling Billy Line’ as it was affectionately known locally closed finally and forever.

Despite attempts by preservationists to save it for posterity in the style of the already thriving Tal-y-lyn and Bluebell railways, not much remains today of this much loved and sadly missed byway. In the 21st century only the concrete pillars which supported the bridge timbers remain in mute testimony to that ‘last train’, along with so many before them carrying happy holidaymakers to the Hayling seaside, as well as local islanders going about their daily business in peace and in war. Elsewhere part of Hayling Island station is now lovingly restored to become a successful local theatre. The trackbed itself, long devoid of rails and sleepers, is now put to good use as a popular footpath, cycleway and nature walk known appropriately as the ‘Hayling Billy Trail’. While of the line’s famous Victorian ‘Terrier’ locomotives, the only ones light enough to cross the bridge to Hayling, no fewer than ten have survived to the present day, in locations as diverse as the Isle of Wight, Kent and Canada.

The aim of ‘Hayling Billy 50’ is to work with railway enthusiasts, environmentalists and local community groups to ensure that throughout 2013, the 50th anniversary of closure of the Havant to Hayling Island branch line is suitably commemorated. To achieve this by putting together a series of activities, projects and events to serve as a nostalgic reminder of times past for those old enough to remember those far off days, while acting as a valuable education to those for whom such wonderful times are but a faded old photo in a history book or family album. We hope you enjoy exploring the following pages and links, and join with us to remember and celebrate the memory of the old ‘Hayling Billy’.

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