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Hythe Pier Heritage Association announces the completion of 45-metre railway track replacement project at the Grade II listed structure

THE first phase of the restoration of the historic railway track at Hythe pier has been completed.

As reported in the A&T, Hythe Pier Heritage Association (HPHA) has been carrying out a programme of renovations at the Grade II listed pier.

The replacement of the first 45 metres of track, as well as points and sidings, was finished earlier this month.

The unloading of track and points (picture: John Greenwood)
The unloading of track and points (picture: John Greenwood)

Preparatory work was carried out by volunteers from the Hythe Shed and engineers from the Hythe and Southampton Ferry Company, formerly known as Blue Funnel Ferries, before narrow gauge railway experts Alan Keef Ltd undertook the main works.

The project had commenced during the summer of 2022, but progress was subsequently delayed by an number of issues including the need to submit a planning application to remove a non-functioning Victorian beam.

The issue was eventually resolved, with HPHA installing a new support beam alongside the original beam, which received long-term protection with several coats of high-quality paint.

A HPHA spokesperson said this allowed the group to then proceed with the removal of the existing track and decking in advance of replacing a jumble of “old and not-so-old” cross beams and the laying of new deck boards.

Aligning of track and points (picture: Alan Titheridge)
Aligning of track and points (picture: Alan Titheridge)

However, before the new track could be laid, investigations had to be carried out to find a level surface, following movement in the structure having been installed more than 102 years earlier.

Volunteers pressed on, removing concrete at the seaward end of the shore station, and shuttering was put into place to housing the reinforced bars to strengthen the concrete that was subsequently poured.

With the date for the arrival of the new track fast approaching, work to remove the old points and sidings followed.

The spokesperson added: “At the beginning of December, despite the inclement weather, the new rails, points and buffer were unloaded from an articulated vehicle and craned into position over the ticket office roof, overhead cables and pedestrian walkway, all without disruption to the ferry traffic.

“Once the track was in position and alignment and gradient confirmed, the task of securing it was carried out in driving rain. The new points and sidings were similarly secured.”

Installing the third rail (picture: John Greenwood)
Installing the third rail (picture: John Greenwood)

The third rail that provides the power for the world’s oldest continuously operating electric train on a pier had been shut down at the beginning of the works.

During this short period of inaction, train staff reverted to using the former method of transporting bulky passenger luggage and goods to the ferry by handcart, as was the way before the introduction of the railway in 1922.

It has now been replaced and following final checks, the service resumed in time for the late afternoon commuter rush.

HPHA director Alan Titheridge said the association was “thrilled” to have completed the work.

He added: “Now that we have established the track level, we can get on with constructing a new platform and see the train once again bring its passengers into the station.”

Work on the new platform is expected to be complete by early 2024.

The restoration work is funded by grants and donations. To donate visit www.hythepierha.org.uk

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