WHY WAS THE VIADUCT BUILT?
The London & South West Railway (LSWR) was concerned that the Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway (DNSR) had reached Winchester by 1885 and offered to build a link to their Waterloo-Southampton line at Shawford, as they were well aware of the DNSR’s parlous financial position.
W.L.Galbraith, the LSWR’s Consulting Engineer was responsible for the viaduct after his experience of using mass concrete in the West of England on much smaller viaducts during 1890. Hockley or Shawford as it was known by the railways was his magnum opus consisting of piers constructed of mass concrete clad in brick. Each pier weighed about 650 tons and the actual arches were built of brick. Jos T. Firbank was the contractor.
The line was opened in October 1891 and was worked by the LSWR from Southampton to Winchester Chesil station. The Great Western Railway (GWR) locomotive took over the haulage north to Newbury & Didcot.
The GWR worked the DNSR from the beginning under contract. In 1923 the Government set up the “Big Four“ (GWR, Southern, LMS & LNER) resulting in through working of GWR locos into Southampton Terminus station.
© John Thorn [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
During the First World War Southampton was the main supply route to France. Huge camps sprung up around Winchester with a branch line to Avington. With peace the DNSR reverted to a stopping service to Didcot albeit with a through coach to Newcastle.
World War II saw the line closed to passengers in 1942 whilst it was doubled between Didcot and Newbury, rebuilt and re-signalled to Winchester to carry the military traffic for the invasion of Europe. In the year prior to D-Day 16,000 trains crossed Hockley Viaduct’s single track joining the main line to Southampton at Shawford Junction onto the new loop line to Eastleigh.
A new link line was constructed just North of Winchester from the existing Southampton to Basingstoke line. The remains of this junction can be seen today just after the A34 road passes underneath the present line. After WWII the line again reverted to its pre-war service. The Newbury to Winchester and Southampton passenger service finished in March 1960. Freight services lingered on into the mid 1960’s when the line closed to all traffic.
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