The topics of Worting Junction and the Battledown Flyover can be approached together. First, a brief recap of the situation so far. The ''London & Southampton Railway Company'' had been incorporated on 25th July 1834 to construct a 77-mile line between its namesakes. Building work was arranged to commence at both ends of the line, thus two sections of track would eventually meet in the middle to complete the through route between the capital and Hampshire. Train services commenced between Nine Elms (then the company's London terminus) and Woking Common on 21st May 1838, and this was followed on 24th September of the same year by the commissioning of a westward extension to Winchfield & Hartley Row. On 10th June 1839, through running between London and Basingstoke began, whilst on the same day, services commenced between Winchester and Southampton on the western portion of the route. Finally, continuous-running between Nine Elms and Southampton was possible from 11th May 1840.
In 1844, the LSWR (as the company had been known since 1839) had set its sights on invading the West Country, with branches stretching out as far as Exeter, Plymouth, and Penzance. In this year, powers were obtained for a branch line from Bishopstoke (Eastleigh) to Salisbury, which would make a trailing connection with the main line at the former. This arrangement meant that trains from London would not have direct access to the line, but the LSWR Board was not fazed: a more direct route to the cathedral city was already in the pipeline. Plans had been devised to create a cut-off line between Winchester and Salisbury, now that a line to Exeter was very much on the agenda. In 1846, Royal Assent was granted for the ''Whitchurch Cut-Off'', the plans of which had been revised in order to have the line leave the Southampton trunk route at Worting, three miles south west of Basingstoke, rather than at Winchester. The Salisbury branch opened to goods traffic on 27th January 1847, and for passengers on 1st March of the same year. The Cut-Off line was over ten years away from completion: work had started, but was later abandoned as a result of a financial crisis. Construction resumed in the early 1850s, and the route eventually opened in two stages:
- Worting to Andover: 3rd July 1854
- Andover to Salisbury: 1st May 1857
Worting Junction was born. The Salisbury line was single-track throughout, and construction of an extension to Yeovil, and ultimately Exeter, soon began. The ''Salisbury & Yeovil Railway Company'' had been incorporated on 3rd July 1854 to proceed with the first stage of the route. The independent concern initially floundered as a result of money trouble, but construction formally began on 3rd April 1856, with the cutting of the first sod at Gillingham (Dorset). The route was opened in three stages:
- Salisbury to Gillingham: 1st May 1859
- Gillingham to Sherborne: 7th May 1860
- Sherborne to Yeovil: 1st June 1860
As per the section between Worting Junction and Salisbury, the line was single-track throughout, and the LSWR had already pressed ahead with the Exeter extension. In fact, so advanced was the latter that through running between Waterloo and Exeter (Queen Street) was possible from 19th July 1860 (Waterloo had superseded Nine Elms as the LSWR's London terminus on 13th July 1848). The line was profitable at an early stage, and double-track working along the entire route from Worting Junction to Exeter commenced in July 1870.
From the outset, a flat junction was provided at Worting, which saw Southampton and Salisbury routes converge on the level. Naturally, this caused conflicting movements, for trains from the alternate routes had to cross each other's paths, a situation which became more problematic as traffic increased. Nearing the end of the 19th Century, the LSWR sought to resolve this bottleneck: within an Act dated 6th July 1895, powers were obtained for widening on the north side of the route between Basingstoke and Worting Junction. This three-mile-long section was to be quadrupled to provide dedicated pairs of tracks for the two routes, and a ''flying junction'' installed to eliminate conflicting movements. Of the four lines, the central tracks were to form the approaches of the Salisbury route, whilst the outer tracks would be for Southampton traffic. The new ''up'' line from Southampton was raised upon an embankment and carried over the double-track from Salisbury upon a lattice girder bridge. The latter was of roughly semi-circular cross-section, comprising a pair of partially staggered lattice girder sides of 145-feet length. A brick-built signal-box, similar in design to that which still exists at Yeovil Junction, emerged on the ''up'' side of the junction, north of the flyover. In the earliest years, the signalman had been housed in a hut beside the line, and would step over the tracks to pull the levers to change the points. This latterly led to the recommendation of having all leavers on one side of the running lines, to save the signalman the trouble of hopping over tracks to switch the direction of travel. Battledown Flyover was brought into use for regular traffic on 30th May 1897.
The Bournemouth electrification, approved in September 1964, sought to extend third rail from Brookwood, Surrey, to Branksome, Dorset (just west of Bournemouth), and replace the existing mechanical semaphore signalling with colour lights controlled from new panel boxes. This scheme replaced an earlier proposal to electrify as far as Weymouth on the Southampton trunk line, and to Salisbury on the West of England Main Line, using a system of overhead wires. At Worting Junction, the lines were re-laid using continuously welded rail clipped to concrete sleepers, and a substation housing a 2-MegaWatt rectifier installed at the site. Control of the junction then passed to a new panel at Basingstoke on 20th November 1966, coinciding with the commissioning of colour aspect lights and the abolition of the mechanical signal box.
BR Standard 5MT 4-6-0 No. 73086 "The Green Knight", formerly a Stewarts Lane (73A) engine on the South Eastern Division, is seen about to pass under Battledown Flyover, Salisbury-bound, Bulleid coaching stock in tow.
© David Glasspool Collection