A longstanding candidate for reopening to passengers is the branch line from Totton, just west of Southampton, to Hythe, which forms most of a route to Fawley that lost its passenger services in February 1966 and most of its freight traffic in early 2016, when the last train of oil tanks bound for the huge refinery arrived from Holybourne, near Alton.
While most of the 9.5 mile route now stands mothballed, there is still the chance to see action on the line, with occasional freight traffic serving Marchwood Port. This once vitally-important military facility, which boasted its own extensive railway system, is reached by a spur off the Fawley branch immediately south of the former Marchwood station, 3.5 miles from Totton.
For a station which has been closed for more than 50 years, Marchwood remains remarkably intact, with its single platform and station buildings surviving, along with its fine collection of semaphore signals – five brackets with two home signals on each – which are controlled from a small signal cabin within the station building that also oversees a number of barrier crossings between Marchwood and Totton.
Having failed to see any activity on my two previous visits, its was a case of third time lucky on Monday, 10 December 2018, when Freightliner-liveried 66534 OOCL Express appeared light engine at 09.48, paused briefly in the station, then headed off to the nearby Marchwood Freightliner Terminal.
Around 45 minutes later it returned, hauling a long line of empty container flats. On reaching the south end of the station it paused to allow the signaller to head out from his cabin to close the four level crossing gates, before pulling off up starting signal MW21 and allowing 66534 to continue on its short journey to the container terminal at Southampton.