A quirky local train that became known as the ‘noisiest and most rickety railway in England’ is the subject of a talk by veteran West Sussex County Record Office archivist Bill Gage.
The railway was the Selsey Tramway, although its official name was the Hundred of Manhood and Selsey Tramways Co. Ltd. It opened 120 years ago in August 1897, and ran from Chichester to the holiday resort of Selsey. Initially operated by vintage steam locomotives the line was essentially a light railway which local people referred to as ‘The Tram’.
Constructed without parliamentary order, it had no compulsory powers for purchasing land and hence made some inconvenient detours by skirting fields. In some places the track was laid on to the bare ground and the resulting rough ride earned the railway the nickname the Bumpity Bump. The seven mile line with its eleven stations or halts was built for the meagre sum of £21,000.
The Tram never ran on time; even the first train was an hour late departing with its official guests. Thereafter every other train was late as it was well known that the driver carried a shotgun on the footplate of the engine and would stop the train to go shooting rabbits for his Sunday dinner.