John Speller's Web Pages Andover & Redbridge Railway

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The Andover & Redbridge Railway (affectionately known as the "Sprat & Winkle Line") provided a route between Andover on the London & South Western Railway's West of England main line, and Redbridge where it connected with the L&SWR's original Southampton main line. It was thus the link between the Midland & South Western Junction Railway, Southampton and Portsmouth.

The Andover & Redbridge Canal had been completed in 1793, but falling revenues led to a decision in 1857 to convert their canal to a railway, and as a result the Andover & Redbridge Railway Act was passed in 1858. The Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, cut the first sod on 28 September 1859. Thereafter ensued an unholy and very expensive battle in Parliament between the Great Western Railway, who saw the line as their last chance to get an independent broad gauge line to Southampton, and the London & South Western, who were determined to keep the broad gauge out at all costs. Notwithstanding that the Mayor of Southampton, Frederick Perkins, was elected to office on a promise to try and get the broad gauge to Southampton, the L&SWR proved victorious and were responsible for running the Andover & Redbridge Railway from 1863.

The line opened to public traffic on 1865. The intermediate stations between Andover Junction and Redbridge were Andover Town, Clatford, Fullerton Junction, Stockbridge, Horsebridge, Mottisfont, Romsey and Nursling. In 1882 the L&SWR was authorized to build an additional line from Fisherton Junction through Wherwell and Longparish to Hurstbourne on the L&SWR West of England line, providing an Andover cut-off for trains Basingstoke to Southampton. The Hurstbourne branch opened on 1 June 1885. The line was made double track throughout and was used by Queen Victoria on her journeys to Osborne House in the Isle of Wight. Local trains ran from Whitchurch on the main line to Hurstbourne and thence to Fisherton Junction. Also in 1885 parts of the original Andover & Redbridge line were updated, evening out some of the sharper curves inherited from the old canal.

The Hurstbourne Branch was first to succumb to declining traffic, and in an attempt to mitigate this the L&SWR introduced railmotor service on the line in 1904. In 1913 the line was singled and 6 July 1931 it was closed to passenger traffic.

Meanwhile not all was well with the Andover & Redbridge line either. During the 1914-18 War the line had been particularly busy with traffic to and from Southampton on the M&SWJR line, and this continued to a degree with through trains on and off the Midland Railway at Cheltenham until the Grouping of 1923. After the Great Western Railway got control of the M&SWJR, however, it found itself with two other routes to Southampton via the Southern the Basingstoke Branch and the Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway, so that the M&SWJR tended to be seen as of lesser importance, and consequently the Andover to Redbridge line as well. The line did see another spike in activity with military traffic during the 1939-45 War, but after that its days were numbered. Passenger service was withdrawn on 7 September 1964, followed by goods traffic on 18 September 1967.
Map of the lines discussed on this page
Hurstbourne Viaduct on the Hurstbourne to Fullerton Line
Horsebridge Station, now happily preserved. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Romsey survives as a station on the Southampton - Romsey - Eastleigh route. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
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