Public transport comes to Waterlooville


In 1880 there was a plan to bring public transport to the Waterlooville area by extending horse trams over the hill from Portsmouth. The scheme fell through. Another scheme a few years later succeeded and by the summer of 1896 we find horse-drawn buses operating between Cosham and Waterlooville.

Horse-drawn buses

Three horses normally drew the buses, a trace horse added on for the steep section from Cosham up Portsdown Hill to "The George" for extra power, during the busy summer period. The horses for the buses were kept in the stables behind "The Heroes" pub, at Waterlooville crossroads.

Light Railway constructed

6 miles of track

In 1897 the Portsmouth Tramways, a subsidiary of the Provincial Tramways Company, incorporated a new company, Hampshire Light Railways (Electric) Co. Ltd., who applied for a Light Railway Order the following year. This was to run a tramway from Cosham to Horndean a distance of six miles, the order was granted in September 1898 authorizing the tramway.


It took five years before opening, due in some extent to problems of electricity supply, and also to decide and agree on the width of track to be used. Finally the standard tramway gauge 4ft 7¼ inches was adopted. Dick, Kerr and Company, Ltd. constructed the new tramway, starting in 1902, the cost had been estimated at £30,000. The track was mainly single running with passing loops.

The launch - 1903

Trial run

On 2nd March 1903 with due ceremony, Mr A. J. White, General Manager of the Provincial Tramways Company, and promoters of the scheme, invited over 200 people to take part in the initial run.

100 volunteers

A line of six trams left Cosham at 11am carrying over 100 willing volunteers. They proceeded in convoy up Portsdown Hill and onto Purbrook, Horndean and back to the newly constructed depot at Cowplain for all the speeches. Sadly, the weather was awful, the wind blew and the rain came down in torrents. One tram broke down and was returned to the depot.

Cosham - Purbrook

The line ran from Cosham, just south of the railway station. It proceeded by bridge over the railway following the line of the present day Northern Road, in those days just open fields. Passing Queen Alexandra Hospital over another bridge constructed over Portsdown Hill Road, it climbed the side of the hill until it joined the road at "The George." The track passed through Purbrook, where the Portsdown and Horndean Light Railway power station was situated, just south of the "The Leopard" pub.

Waterlooville - Cowplain - Horndean

The line continued into Waterlooville and then on through Cowplain, where the massive tram depot stood. Today Lidls store stands on this site. The line then continued up the old main A3 road until its terminus, outside the Primitive Methodist Chapel opposite Merchistoun Hall, Horndean. The bodies of eight old horse tramcars were used as shelters at the tram stops. When the service started it was a 20-minute service, which increased to 10 minutes during the summer. The trams were painted green and cream and were locally known as the "Green Cars."

The last tram - 1935

Fares and timetable

In 1906 the cost was 1d from Cosham to the top of the hill, 2d from Cosham to Purbrook and 5d all the way to the terminus at Horndean. From 1923 the Portsdown and Horndean Light Railway penetrated Portsmouth and by 1927 it ran to both the Clarence and South Parade Piers.

End of the railway

The system had quite an influence on the growth of the Waterlooville, Cowplain, and Horndean areas. In early 1930s the introduction of trolley buses in Portsmouth led to a significant reduction of available routes for trams to run and so it was decided to abandon tramways in the area, and the Light Railway Company was sold to Southdown Bus Company. The last tram of the Portsdown and Horndean Light Railway ran on the 9th January 1935.

For more images of the Portsdown and Horndean Light Railway try a search on some of the subjects mentioned in this theme.

Geoff Salter, 2004

Last amendment date: 02/07/2015

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