FAWLEY FINALE

For more than 80 years, ExxonMobil and its predecessors used rail to move oil products from the Fawley refinery, but all traffic ceased in September. Nick Lera charts the history of this Hampshire industrial site.

Born of the oil industry and now discarded by it, the 9½-mile Hampshire branch from Totton to Fawley has stopped carrying refinery traffic; ExxonMobil has turned its back on a railway that was essential to Fawley’s operations for more than 80 of its 91 years.

On August 8, 2016, DB Cargo’s No. 66124 passes under the signal gantry at Marchwood with crude oil from Holybourne to Fawley. The driver has given his loco a home-made headboard slightly prematurely named ‘Fawley Finale’, but we are grateful to him for giving us a title for this article. Marchwood at 86.15 is the junction for the MoD port at Cracknore Hard, on Southampton Water, which will keep this part of the Fawley branch in business for the foreseeable future, especially if potential lessee Solent Gateway develops a civilian side, which could generate new rail traffic. Manual signalling predominates, almost unique on Network Rail in southern England these days. RALPH MONTAGU
On August 8, 2016, DB Cargo’s No. 66124 passes under the signal gantry at Marchwood with crude oil from Holybourne to Fawley. The driver has given his loco a home-made headboard slightly prematurely named ‘Fawley Finale’, but we are grateful to him for giving us a title for this article. Marchwood at 86.15 is the junction for the MoD port at Cracknore Hard, on Southampton Water, which will keep this part of the Fawley branch in business for the foreseeable future, especially if potential lessee Solent Gateway develops a civilian side, which could generate new rail traffic. Manual signalling predominates, almost unique on Network Rail in southern England these days. RALPH MONTAGU

A railway down the eastern side of the New Forest by Southampton Water was first planned in 1872 when the Swindon Marlborough and Andover Railway sponsored an Isle of Wight extension, terminating on the Solent at Stone Point, near Lepe, with a ferry to Cowes offering the shortest possible sea crossing. However, insufficient capital was raised, and despite periodic attempts to revive it the scheme foundered. Even a 1906 pioneer motor bus service failed in 1908 due to poor roads that weren’t improved for another 10 years.

Then, shortly after the First World War, the establishment of an oil refinery on the western shore of Southampton Water changed everything.

The Anglo Gulf West Indies Petroleum Corporation (AGWI) was formed in 1920 and acquired a square mile of marshland at Fawley.

Read more in November’s issue of The RM

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