Passenger Stations serving Southampton Docks

[Source: Dave Marden]

Southampton Docks has a long history associated with the railway and for many generations the docks and railways were inseparable. From the earliest days the docks, just across the road from the Town (latterly Terminus) Station, had rail connections to its quays. The Southampton Dock Company had close liaisons with the London & South Western Railway which, after some years of financially supporting them, eventually purchased the docks in November 1892.

After that date, rail facilities within the docks and connections to the main line developed rapidly. Although much freight was carried through the port, one of the main sources of revenue was the handling of passenger trains to and from the many quayside terminals. Most of these were built with facilities to enable travellers a smooth transition from ship to shore
and vice versa. In fact, it could be said that many of these terminals were stations in their own right, with platforms, baggage handling, waiting halls, buffets and newsagents - all the usual paraphernalia associated with rail travel.

Obviously, some were more prestigious than others, especially those built around the White Star (later Ocean) Dock for the transatlantic services, while many others served vessels whose destinations were worldwide.

From the earliest days, the Outer Dock had close ties with the Royal Mail Lines and the ships of P&O, then later extensions incorporating the Empress Docks and the Quays along the rivers Itchen and Test, saw many more berths equipped for passenger handling, culminating in the building of the Ocean Terminal at the Ocean Dock.

The huge dock extensions across the West Bay in the 1930s produced four more passenger terminals, each with twin transit sheds incorporating a central waiting hall on a mezzanine floor.

This 1931 photo shows the Old (Eastern) Docks in the foreground with the Empress Dock at bottom left and the Inner & Outer Docks on the bottom right. At the centre is the Ocean Dock with several Cunard White Star ships and just beyond them is the floating drydock which was sold to the Admiralty in 1939. In the top distance can be seen the construction works of the New (Western) Docks reaching phase two across the West Bay.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection


The Continental Booking Office in 1953
The outer, or open dock was the first tidal dock built by the Southampton Dock Company and was opened in August 1842. It was used by P&O vessels who carried mail to the Channel Islands. The South Western Steam Packet Company (a subsidiary of the LSWR) was formed in 1843 and began running paddle steamers to Le Havre and St Malo, then from 1845 to the Channel Islands. At that time there was a rail connection between the quaysides and the Town (Terminus) Station.

The South Western took over operations in 1892 and began running passenger services from the outer dock to St. Malo, Le Havre, Cherbourg, Honfleur, Caen and the Channel Islands from 9 berth but it wasn’t until 1925 that a new Continental Booking Office was built on to the existing terminal shed. The 1920s saw something of a boom in passenger services and boat trains were a regular feature until 1961 when passenger services were transferred to Weymouth. Cargo services continued at Southampton until 1972 when they went to Portsmouth.

A USA 3F dock shunter is seen leaving Berth 9 in the 1950s. 30070 was built by Vulcan Ironwork (USA) for the US Army Corps in 1943 for services overseas. After the war, it was purchased by the Southern Railway, numbered 70 and put to work at Southampton Docks where its short wheelbase was ideal for working round the tight curves. Passing into BR service as 30070, it was withdrawn from the docks in 1962 and passed into departmental service at Ashford Wagon Works and renumbered DS328 and named 'Wainright'. It lasted until 1967. It was sent to Barry Scrapyard along with 30065 but never got that far, running a hot axle box (a common fault with these locos), at Tonbridge and both locos stayed on the site of the old loco shed until they were sold to the Kent and East Sussex Railway for preservation.
hoto from Dave Marden collection

The whole area of the Outer Dock was given a revamp in 1967 when new ferry terminals were built and the dock renamed Princess Alexandra Dock. The new terminals were relocated at opposite ends of the dock and the old Channel Island sheds were largely unused. When the new ferries pulled out in the 1980s the whole dock fell into decay and was finally sold off

  for redevelopment.

The Continental Booking Office c.1984.
hoto by Dave Marden

1933 1:2,500 OS map of Outer Dock

The transformation of leisure and sailing facilities, plus some very upmarket housing, did away with virtually everything – except the Continental Booking Office which still stands today as part of the Ocean Village complex.

The Continental Booking Office in March 2010. The building is now incorporated
into the Ocean Village complex.
Photo by Peter Trimming. Reproduced from Geograph under creative commons licence


The Itchen Quays were the first extension to Southampton Docks after the Inner and Outer Docks. Berths 30-33 offered and additional 2000 feet of quaysides and were completed in 1905. The ships of Canadian Pacific and Rotterdam Lloyd were accommodated there as well as those of Royal Mail and P&O. When the passenger trade declined, the
  berths were, in part given over to car ferries

The Itchen Quays berths 31 - 32 in 1934.
Photo from Bert Moody collection


The Empress Dock was officially opened by Queen Victoria in July 1890 although some of the quayside sheds had yet to be completed by that date. It was then capable of taking the largest vessels afloat.

Empress Dock with the Royal Mail Lines vessel Atlantis at Berth No.26.The sheds across the bottom of the photo are berths 20/21.

The Elders & Fyffes banana trade flourished at berths 24/5 from the 1930s and the terminal was rebuilt and re-equipped in the 1960s. Passenger facilities were then transferred to berths 26/7 where a small waiting hall was provided to accommodate travellers to and from the West Indies. In later years British Rail ran cross channel cargo vessels from Berth 22/3

Following the demise of the banana trade the berths were redeveloped as the Southampton Oceanography Centre which opened in April 1996

1897 1:2,500 OS map of Empress Dock

The northernmost point of the Empress Dock in the early 20th century looking north towards the main dock gate (now No.4). At centre right is the former coaling stage at berth 13 in the Inner Dock with warehouses at the top right. Beyond these is the South Western Hotel adjacent to the former Terminus Station to where the passenger train is headed.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection


The Ocean Quay, initially named the Prince of Wales Quays, were constructed south of the entrance to the Empress Dock and were completed by August 1895 and numbered as berths 34-36 and became home to Union Castle vessels bringing imports of fruit, wool grain and animal skins from South Africa, as well as significant passenger numbers to and from the corner of the Empire. Trade was such that the quays were widened in from 1939 and reopened in 1940. While this work was in progress, Union Castle ships transferred their operations to the New (Western) Docks at berths 106 and after moving to berths 102-104, remained there afterwards.

Union Castle Quays at 34 berth in 1927.
Photo from Bert Moody collection

The four funnelled vessel is alongside berths 35/6 - the former Prince of Wales Quays (part of the Ocean Quays) along the River Itchen. The Empress Dock is the diamond shaped basin beyond it.


The South and Test Quays were the next extensions north and west along the River Test and completed by 1902. The South Quay (berth 37) was used by vessels of Rotterdam Lloyd and the Netherland Royal Mail lines, while Union Castle ran their continental steamer from that berth while the Test Quays, berths 38-41 were home to both passenger facilities and a huge cold store. The sheds at 38/9 were rebuilt as the Queen Elizabeth II Terminal which opened in July 1966 and became primarily the home base of Cunard’s QE2 and is still use by others today.

Queen Elizabeth II terminal at berths 38/9 in 1966


Click here for 50 Berth flying boat terminal

Click here for more passenger stations serving Southampton Docks




[Source: Dave Marden]

Last updated: Thursday, 18-May-2017 17:22:44 CEST
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