Meon Valley Line: West Meon Station, Viaduct and Tunnel

Crumbling away, still very apparent in most places, the Meon Valley railway line ran between Alton and Fareham in Hampshire. The dismantled railway passes a few miles from my home, near West Meon Hut and at the village. It was quite an engineering undertaking considering the small populations along its route, serving only villages along its 23 miles. This is probably why it only lasted 50 years or so – that and Gosport and Stokes Bay not taking off as tourist destinations. Most of the bridges remain, as does the station platform just south of West Meon. Nothing is left of the iron viaduct except some foundations, abutments and the mighty embankments either edge of the river Meon. Here’s my tour:

First up, the north end of West Meon Tunnel. This is near West Meon Hut. The tunnel entrance is locked and it’s used to store caravans. It’s private property but some bloke fixing his motorhome said I could take some photos.

West Meon Tunnel North-2

West Meon Tunnel North-3

West Meon Tunnel North

Just to the north, Vinnels lane crosses the old line, now infilled almost to the height of the bridge, by soil and by trash:

Road Bridge at Vinnels Lane

Road Bridge at Vinnels Lane, cutting filled in

West Meon Station building is dismantled. It was situated just south of the village along, yes, Station Road:

WM

Some views of the old platform, being eaten by nature:

West meon station

West meon station platform

Platform wall

West Meon station platform-2

At one point the platform lowers to allow people to walk across the line:

Lowered platform for pedestrians

The platform runs under the road bridge of Old Winchester Hill Lane:

Road Bridge at north side of station

Road bridge West Meon station

Road bridge over old station at West Meon

Road bridge arch

The northern end of the station

A few hundred meters north of the station is the site of the viaduct, crossing the Meon Valley. The river here is just a stream. It crossed between two 20m embankments:

West meon embankment south of viaduct-2

West meon embankment south of viaduct

Looking down to the road

West Meon embankment

All that is left is some foundations and the abutments either end of the viaduct, with huge slots for the iron girders:

Southern end of West Meon viaduct

Looking down to the road

West Meon viaduct foundations

West Meon viaduct abutment

West Meon viaduct abutment-2

West Meon Viaduct foundations-2

West Meon Viaduct Foundation Pedestal

West Meon viaduct northern abutment

West Meon viaduct foundations, north side

Steps to side of West Meon viaduct foundations

West Meon viaduct girder slots

North of the viaduct is not open to the public, but I followed the line through some woods, probably overgrown in summer, the embankment turning into a cutting as it approaches the hill:

Dismantled railway north of West Meon

Cutting north of West Meon

Less than a km from the viaduct, the hill is too steep and one reaches the southern end of West Meon Tunnel. It’s closed off with earth, metal and blocks. Where the blocks have been knocked though, bars and wire prevent access. There was a damp breeze coming from the hole, and a strange atmosphere about the place. I was drawn to it, wanted to stay, but at the same time I was slightly spooked:

West Meon railway tunnel south

West Meon railway tunnel south arch

West Meon railway tunnel south-2

Cutting south of West Meon railway tunnel

West Meon railway tunnel south-3

I then walked back to the village via the footpath in the spring sun to shake the mood. Here’s where the viaduct crossed the river and lane, and how it once looked:

Site of West Meon Viaduct

West Meon Viaduct

West Meon Viaduct

Back at the station, the road bridge and looking down to where the station was, and a similar view in the old days:

West Meon Station Road Bridge

Meon Valley Station from bridge

At the former West Meon goods yard next to the station:

Goods Yard Siding, West Meon Station

Former Good Yard, West Meon Station

Site of West Meon Station building

I then drove north out of the village along a little-used gravelly lane over the hill towards Arbor Trees farm where there’s a bridge of the consistent black engineering/red bricks. I find these quite charming. MEL = ‘Meon Line’?

Stocks Lane bridge, near West Meon Hut-2

Stocks Lane bridge, near West Meon Hut

Stocks Lane bridge, near West Meon Hut-3

And another bridge just to the east, probably taken down to allow farm vehicle access:

Peak Farm Lane railway bridge

Peak Farm Lane railway bridge-2

There’s no footpath here, but I couldn’t resist following the old line to the A272 tunnel, for a very different view of a familiar road:

Meon Valley Line above A272-2

Varied textures, colours and crumbly brickwork of the road tunnel:

Meon Valley Line A272 Tunnel

Meon Valley Line A272 Tunnel-4

Meon Valley Line A272 Tunnel-3

Meon Valley Line A272 Tunnel-2

Meon Valley Line A272 Tunnel-6

Meon Valley Line A272 Tunnel-5

Meon Valley Line A272 Tunnel-7

Finally, a romantic image of the viaduct, and a brand new station once upon a time:

West Meon Viaduct

Privett Tunnel

Train tunnel, raves and BMX in the middle of nowhere…

Today I walked in the area north west of Privett in Hampshire, following some of the old railway line. I started at the Angel, a restaurant and hotel, originally built for rail users:

The Angel, Privett

Not sure why there was a station a mile from the nearest village. Rumour has it that the owners of Basing Park next door insisted on it. There’s a fancy station building opposite the hotel, which is now a house:

Privett Station-2 Privett Station-3 Privett Station

The line led under the A32 here and you can climb down a steep cutting and see through to the old station. The area is used for fly tipping, next to the railway cottages:

Railway Cottages, Privett

Having followed the disused railway north to Woodside Farm, where some work was being done on the site of an old rail bridge, I headed east then south, circling Basing Park. Just past the house and Broom farm, on Hempland lane, is the north end of the tunnel:

Privett Tunnel North

The tunnel is sealed apart from a gap at the top to provide for a bat sanctuary.

After just 50 years of use the Meon Valley Railway Line was closed in 1955. Sometime in the last twenty years, the deep cutting to the north has been filled in:

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Back in 2008 I found the south entrance to the tunnel:

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Apparently it’s owned by a local builder. When I visited five years ago, the door had been left unlocked, so I ventured inside, calling out first to see if anyone was in there, my voice echoing far within. No reply.

It looked like the entrance area was part of the late 80s rave scene:

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Further in, past some building supplies and a skate ramp, there was… nothing. I made my way deeper. I had no torch and checked the way was clear using my camera flash. After a while though, I started to be concerned that someone might come to lock the door and so didn’t go any further. I read that in the middle is total darkness due to the S shape of the tunnel.

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I also read that one man died building it, and another dug himself out after a partial collapse while digging the 1000+ yards.

Back home, during internet searches, a Nike video kept popping up in the results. I ignored it thinking Google was just emphasising the word ‘tunnel’. But no, a year after I was there, Nike 6.0 sponsored the building of cutting edge BMX ramps in the tunnel and held the Tunnel Jam competition. The best BMX riders in the world, in a tunnel in the Hampshire countryside! Here’s some photos by Nuno Oliveira:

Tunnel Jam Nile 6.0 Privett Tunnel Jam Nile 6.0 Privett Tunnel Jam Nile 6.0 Privett Tunnel Jam Nile 6.0 Privett

Apparently it’s still all in there, usable only by those who know who holds the keys…