The Watercress Line; an enthusiast’s guide

As mentioned in my post yesterday, I visited the Watercress Line (or Mid-Hants Railway) on Saturday.  It is the closest preserved line from where I live and I visit when I can.

Although not the longest preserved line (7 miles long), it is a pleasant railway journey.  The towns at either end of the line are worth a visit (Alresford in the west and Alton in the east), so whichever end you start your journey, you can have the satisfaction of knowing you are going somewhere.  Personally I think it a pity when lines do not have a destination as such, but maybe that’s just me!

The line is heavily graded and despite the heritage line speed limit of 25 mph, the engines are worked hard.  You may hear it being referred to as “The Alps”.  It is fairly simple to know where the gradients are too – Medstead and Four Marks is the line’s summit (it is in fact the highest station in southern England!)  If a train is going towards Medstead and Four Marks it is going up hill, if it is going away from it; it is going downhill.  Simple as that really.  So providing you know the direction the train is going, you will know if it is going to make a lot of fuss and noise – the best time to view a steam train!

The line’s website details the loco roster is very useful (  It will tell you which engines are working and which way they are facing.  However I learnt on Sunday that a phone call is worth being made beforehand, as the roster can change (hence only one video of a smokebox-first loco!)

Most of the line’s fleet, (by necessity as much as anything else) are big and powerful.  On my last visit, services were pulled by a giant 9F locomotive and the mighty four-cylinder Lord Nelson.    Other regular performers include a Black 5, an original Westcountry class pacific and a U class.

Ropley is always worth a stop to visit; as it is the home to the fleet of locomotives.  The loco yard provides a good viewing point of trains arriving from Medstead or leaving to go there.  The sun is usually behind you too, making for a good photo opportunity (see bottom picture.)  Ropley engine yard is very friendly and you’ll often end up chatting to other enthusiasts and/or volunteers.

If you venture over the footbridge to platform 1, there is a very pleasant footpath that runs along the line.  After a short distance you’ll get to some picnic tables – if you keep going and you’ll reach the vantage point where I took yesterdays blog entry photograph.

I’ve uploaded three video’s to you tube of my visit.  They aren’t brilliant but I’m pleased with them considering they were filmed by a very old Nikon compact camera!  Enjoy!

Watercress Railway – Bighton Lane – 9F class 92212 10 March 2012

Watercress Railway – Approaching Ropley – 850 Lord Nelson 10 March 2012

Watercress Railway – Ropley – 92212 10 March 2012