Built by the Lymington Railway Company from the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) at Brockenhurst to Lymington Town Quay. The Company was authorised to purchase the Quay and the Town Bridge, and to build a jetty.[2]


Constructed apace an inaugural passenger train ran on 8 May 1858. However this was before the visit of the Board of Trade inspecting officer, and when he made he inspection, although he expressed his satisfaction, the LSWR were now demanding additional work on the track before it would start operations. After this work was done, the line opened on 12 July 1858, with the LSWR working it.


Independent ferry operators crossed from Lymington to the Isle of Wight, and the Company tried to interest the LSWR in using Lymington as a ferry terminal, but without success. At the time there was bitter competition between the LSWR and the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, resulting in extremely cheap fares via Portsmouth.


A further Act of 21 July 1859 authorised the Company to purchase the river ferry to Boldre, and to charge tolls on Lymington Bridge. A further £11,800 capital was authorised: at this time, the original Lymington station was dilapidated and was said to be dangerous, and a new Lymington station was opened on 19 September 1860.


A station was opened at Shirley Holms, about a mile (about 2 km) from Lymington Junction, was opened on 10 October 1860; the station was not entered into public timetables, and fell into disuse when the Sway line opened in 1888.


In 1878 agreement was reached for the LSWR to purchase the line, and this took effect on 21 March 1879.


Lymington's own commercial activity declined steeply during the existence of the railway, and the steamers that ran to the Isle of Wight assumed an increasing importance; but silting in the Lymington River often prevented ferries from berthing at the quay, and the walk to and from the jetty was dirty and inconvenient. When the Freshwater, Yarmouth and Newport Railway go it s authorising Act in 1880, the LSWR determined to extend the Lymington line to reach a deep water berth. On 22 August 1881 they obtained powers to extend the line to a deep water location; the extension was 34 chains (684 m) long, and opened on 1 May 1884.


The principal ferry operator had been the Solent Steam Packet Company; on 1 July 1884 the LSWR purchased the paddle steamers Solent and Mayflower as well as numerous smaller vessels.



The branch line celebrated the 150th anniversary of its opening in July 2008. Between 2005 and 2010, it was promoted as a 'heritage' route, making use of older rolling stock that had been retired from elsewhere on the UK rail network.


Rolling stock

Services on the line are currently operated by South West Trains using stock based at Bournemouth depot. Previously, rolling stock had been restricted to Classes 411, 412, 421 and 423.


Following the withdrawal of slamdoor stock from the rest of the SWT network in 2005 it was expected that by May 2005 at the latest the operation of the line would have been taken over by the new Class 450 "Desiro" units. However, SWT considered that due to the self-contained nature of the branch it would be more cost effective to continue Mk 1 operation. On this basis SWT bought and refurbished two British Rail Class 421 units to exclusively operate services on the line. Work carried out on the units included the fitting of central door locking and other safety features to allow them to remain in service beyond the November 2005 deadline for the withdrawal of slam-door stock and the reduction of the 4 carriage units to 3 carriages (3Cig) to address the extreme height difference between the train and the platform at Lymington Town.


The final two units of this type to work the line were numbered 1497 and 1498 and officially named Freshwater and Farringford respectively at a ceremony at Brockenhurst railway station on 12 May 2005. They were also repainted into an approximation of their original liveries. The "heritage" service commenced on 12 May 2005 and an exemption was obtained to enable the use of the 3Cig units until 2013, at which point they were estimated to be life expired.


A Lymington Flyer headboad was made by Malcolm Ellis of Parkstone station, for use on the slam-door stock by local traincrew.


South West Trains announced plans to replace the heritage EMUs with more modern units it is believed some time in 2009; Class 158 Sprinter on weekdays and Class 450 on weekends (the latter were also used on occasion when the 3Cigs were unavailable, with the 4th carriage locked out of use to overcome the platform height issue at Lymington Town).This change took place on 23 May 2010, with the final 3Cig service departing from Lymington Pier on 22 May 2010 at 22:14 and arriving at Brockenhurst at 22:24