© Geoff’s Rail Diaries 2011 These brief visits were a bonus - we were on our way to the ferry at Portsmouth for a short (no railways..) visit to Brittany, and having left home much earlier than we really needed, found ourselves with time to kill... The Exbury Steam Railway is a 1¼ mile, 12¼" gauge out-and- back line opened in 2001 in the gardens near Beaulieu in the New Forest. We had intended to take a ride - but that's only possible with entry to the gardens, although the station and loco shed are just beside the main car park. It was late in the afternoon, and there was no way we could do justice to the gardens in the time we had, so we contented ourselves with watching the arrival and departure of the 4.30pm train, in the capable hands of "Naomi", a 2002 Exmoor-built 0- 6-2 tender and tank locomotive in attractive blue livery. There are two other resident steam locomotives, twin sister "Rosemary" and newly- built 2-6-2 "Mariloo". They must have been deep inside the shed - we saw neither of them. "We'll have to come again" suggested the household authorities... Exbury arrival Signals Station Turning Signal box Standing at the station - the 4.30 departure Ready for departure Loco and train at the station, Hythe It's not far from Exbury to Hythe, on the western shore of the Solent, more-or- less at the confluence of the Test and the Itchen. A simple pier, about 1/3 mile in length, provides access to a foot-passenger ferry service across to Southampton - and a railway runs the length of the pier for the convenience of those passengers. And what a railway! Three coaches and a luggage wagon are propelled (out) or hauled (back) along the 2' gauge line by a diminutive third-rail electric locomotive*, while a spare locomotive of the same type sits in the siding beside the workshop. These Brush-built locos were originally provided, battery-powered, for a mustard gas factory at Avonmouth during the first world war, being converted to The cab! Spare engine third-rail operation for the opening of the passenger service on the pier in 1922. Yes, this is the world's oldest pier train (apparently). We took a ride out to the pier head, where a ferry service had just arrived, and detrained to have a look around and take a photograph or two. I'd intended to get a photo of the train from the locomotive end, as it trundled back along the pier - but when I turned around, it had gone, silently and without warning! By now it was time to head for Portsmouth, so perhaps another time... *Power is supplied at 220v, stepped down on the locos to 100v Ready for action Hythe Pier train Luxury accommodation At the pier Away without warning... Hythe Pier - Solent view