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Steam Trains Running Again On The Watercress Line

Published on: 13 Jul, 2020
Updated on: 15 Jul, 2020

Steam trains have run again for the first time since lockdown at the nearest standard gauge heritage railway to Guildford – the Mid Hants Watercress Line between Alton and Alresford as Bob McShee reports…

It was all quiet on the Watercress Line until Saturday and Sunday, July 11 and 12.

I had received a letter from the chairman of the Mid Hants Railway advising that as part compensation for members and shareholders, there would be an exclusive event over the weekend when the railway would be open.

I duly drove to Ropley and enjoyed the delicious smell of steam and smoke coming from two engines in the engine shed yard.

Locos: Ivatt 2MT 41312 and BR Standard Class 4MT 76017 getting ready for the working day at last!

I walked on to the Handyside Bridge to see locos Ivatt 2MT 41312 and BR Standard Class 4MT 76017 getting ready for the day’s work.

The Handyside Bridge was formerly at Kings Cross station in London where it had been made famous when it appeared in the Harry Potter films.

The engines then left the yard, with 76017 going to Alton and 41312 to Alresford to form the first trains of the day from each end of the line.

Covid-19 signs at Ropley station.

I walked from the footbridge down to Ropley station where I passed the health and safety notices which are essential during the Covid-19 restrictions.

Old advertising signs at Ropley station.

Ropley station has a number of old advertisement signs, one of which advertises ‘Sydney Bailey of Woking’.  I wonder if anyone remembers this ‘outfitter to the best-dressed men’?

On leaving Ropley station car park, I drove down to Alresford station in time to see 41312 leaving at 11am with the train to Alton.

The 11am train waiting to depart from Alresford.

Like all preserved railways, the Watercress Line is preparing to re-open with the easing of the coronavarius lockdown restrictions.

This Covid-19 crisis has badly affected the finances of the railway, which has been closed since mid-March, leaving it with no income except for the government furlough scheme for paid staff.

It has cost the railway £75,000 per month during the closure, so its cash reserves are badly depleted. Therefore, by operating trains again income can be restored.

The railway will be open again from this Saturday, July 18 on certain days. For more information phone 01962 733810 or email info@watercressline.co.uk

Or click here for its website.

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