The Last Day of Steam on the Lymington Branch Line by Malcolm Surl from Cornwall
 
Steam on the Lymington Branch Line in the 1960’s - The 5½ mile line from Brockenhurst to Lymington Pier formally opened to passengers on 12th July 1858 and by the time of its centenary, services were push-pull operated in the hands of the capable but ageing London & South Western Railway M7 class of 0-4-4 tanks. Designed by Dugald Drummond in 1897, one of the class heading a couple of almost equally aged coaches (phased out between 1959 and 1963) is seen here under the unusual overall roof at Lymington Town (demolished 1967)

M7s were still operating in push-pull mode to Lymington in early May 1964 but by the end of that month, Bournemouth’s stalwarts were withdrawn and replaced either by Ivatt class 2 2-6-2 (“Mickey Mouse”) or Riddles BR standard class 4 2-6-4 tank engines. Neither of these batches was fitted for push-pull operation so the locos had to run round their trains at each end and the norm was bunker first from Brockenhurst / chimney first from Lymington.
  Photo: LSWR M7 class Lymington Station
 
 
Sadly I missed the M7s by just a few weeks because on my first encounter with the branch in June 64 (as a 16yr old Property News Lymington and the New Forestschoolboy from Margate making good use of a Southern Region Rail Rover ticket), Ivatt 41314 was in charge. Some wag had amended the “Do not lean out of the window” command above the droplight to read “Do not clean soot off the window” so my conscience was clear for the on-train photo.  
  Photo of Ivatt class 41314 Lymington to Brockenhurst line ©1967 Malcolm Surl
 
 
With the inclusion of the Lymington branch in the Bournemouth electrification plan, the writing was on the wall for steam on what by early 1967 had become the last branch line in at least the southern half of the UK to be exclusively scheduled for steam haulage. Although the main Waterloo to Bournemouth & Weymouth line retained steam until 7th July 1967, the Lymington Branch switched to a ‘Hampshire’ diesel unit from April 3rd until the 3rd rail was energised during the Summer. Presumably this was done to permit removal of the run-round loop at Lymington Pier and other track changes in preparation for electrification.
Photo of Ivatt class 41314 Lymington Pier ©1967 Malcolm Surl
 
 

 

Photos of the class 4’s on the branch during week commencing 29th March show that they carried a small headboard reading “Last Steam Branch” but when I visited for the last rites on a rather wet Sunday April 2nd two Ivatt 2’s, 41320 and 41312, were doing the honours. 41320 on the early shift Property News Lymington and the New Foresthad been tarted up a bit with some white paint and carried a much bigger and more detailed headboard on its bufferbeam titled “Last Day of Steam” with dates 12th July 1858 and 2nd April 1967 either side of the LSWR shield then beneath it “Brockenhurst – Lymington : Last steam hauled branch on British Railways”

 

 

 
  Photo of 41320, Lymington Pier ©1967 Malcolm Surl
 
 

 

41312 took over for the late shift with small headboard fitted to the top lamp position. By the time of the last train of the day from Lymington Pier, the rain had stopped and a good crowd had gathered to witness the sad occasion. With much hooting and exploding detonators as the loco ran over them, the train cautiously departed into the night and that was it. Two weeks later, both locos were reallocated from Bournemouth to Nine Elms (London) although 41320 subsequently returned to Bournemouth. Both survived at their respective sheds until the very end of steam on the Southern in early July 1967 then 41320 was unceremoniously scrapped but, very fortunately, 41312 was purchased for preservation and is currently on the Mid-Hants Railway.
MGS 8/10/16

 

 

 
  Photo of 41312 ©1967 Malcolm Surl
 
 

   
Photo of 41312 ©1967 Malcolm Surl
 
 
Photo of 41312 ©1967 Malcolm Surl
 
 

  Link to a Railway Magazine article from February 1956 about the line in the 1950s