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The Mid-Hants Railway (Special Events)

Feature by Lizzie Guilfoyle

The Mid-Hants Railway has a number of special events during the summer months. They include:
Fathers Day (June 17, 2007)
War on the Line (June 23 and 24, 2007)
40th Anniversary of the End of Southern Steam (July 7 and 8, 2007)
Bus Rally (July 15, 2007)
Day Out with Thomas (August 11 to 19, 2007).

Previously Posted: If like me, you love steam trains, you’ll certainly enjoy a trip on the Mid-Hants Railway, or the Watercress Line as it’s also known. And a trip is probably easier than you think. All you have to do is hop on a train to Alton at London’s Waterloo, and in a little over an hour, you can swap your ‘electric machine’ for a wonderful old steam locomotive.

The journey actually begins in Alton where, before boarding one of the retro-coaches (what memories those slamming doors evoke!), you can watch the engine being topped up with water – an unenviable task, particularly on a cold winter’s day.

The whistle blows and you’re steaming towards a gradient of 1 in 60 just ahead of the first station Medstead & Four Marks (hands up all those who remember the rhyme about the little train that puffed “I think I can, I think I can…” all the way to the top of a steep incline?) where the stationmaster’s house is a separate structure rather than part of the platform buildings. Yet even here, there are reminders of the past, such as milk churns and olde world baggage carts.

Then it’s on to Ropley, a popular place to stop off as it’s here that the Mid-Hants Railway has its engine shed and workshops. There’s also a picnic area, with playground facilities, providing grandstand views of the shed yard and departures on the main line. And if you’re really lucky, you might even spot Thomas and James in the sidings.

From Ropley, the line drops down almost as steeply as it rose going into Medstead & Four Marks, to Alresford and it’s here that you can see evidence of the watercress industry which still thrives on the pure chalk-spring waters of the River Arle.

For almost a century the cress was packed into large wicker baskets and transported to London markets by rail from Alresford – the reason it became known as the Watercress Line.

Finally, on the approach to Alresford Station, the line enters a steep-sided chalk cutting.

With its two steep gradients, drivers often referred to taking their trains ‘over the Alps’ which interestingly, is the title of a book on the Mid-Hants Railway by Michael S Welch. Full of facts and photographs, it’s a lovely reminder of a great day out.

I travelled back in time just two days before Christmas on a Santa Special which came complete with wine, mince pies and, of couse, Father Christmas. Even so, the star of the show was the train itself, pulled on this occasion by a 9F Class Number 92212. Pure magic…..

As well as Santa Specials, the Mid-Hants Railway operates weekends from January to October and mid-week from May to September. While from April 6 to April 15, and again from August 11 to August 19, 2007, kids of all ages can enjoy a Day Out with Thomas.

For more information call 01962 733810 or visit the website.