First visit to the Watercress Line 2013 – Chasing a Schools Class and Exploring Alton

2013 - Watercress Line - Bowers Grove Lane - SR Schools class V - 925 Cheltenham

December 2012 was an excellent steam-filled month, with three visits to the Watercress Line, two mainline tours and a visit to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway (see the Steam Diary to read more).  With the exception of a visit to Eastleigh’s miniature railway (click here to read), January has been much quieter, but today’s visit to the Watercress Line went a little way to redressing the balance!

2013 - Watercress Line - Bowers Grove Lane - SR Schools class V - 925 Cheltenham

One service train was in operation, hauled by schools class 925 Cheltenham.  The two pictures above show Cheltenham heading tender towards Medstead and Four Marks from Ropley at Bowers Grove Lane; an excellent vantage point.  The aim of today’s visit was to find a decent vantage spot further east between Alton and Medstead and Four Marks.  In the past I’ve had little luck in finding many decent vantage points along that stretch as it is heavily wooded.  Trains running towards Medstead and Four Marks have to tackle the line’s steepest gradients, so naturally it has potential for being great.

Unfortunately I had little success today and whilst driving along the line I was pulled over by the police who were looking for someone else and wondered where I was going!  It seems a car seemingly randomly stop-starting and pulling into car parks looks quite suspicious to an observer.  When telling the police officer my quest, naturally he chuckled and let me on my way!  I have to point out that he was very polite and understanding.  However it did hamper the search somewhat and Cheltenham arrived at Alton before I did.

2013 - Watercress Line - Alton - SR Schools class V - 925 CheltenhamThere is a footpath that follows the Watercress line from Alton station – along the car park (west) side.  It is here that I captured Cheltenham running around its train (see above).  It has very high fence with barbed wire that makes taking a good picture very difficult and potentially painful!  I carried on my search a decided on getting a snap of the return train passing over Lower Turk Street.  However, this spot only provided a partial view of the locomotive and extreme contrast between the light on the locomotive and the dark forested foreground/road.  The resulting picture was, unfortunately, not fit for publication.  Lesson learned… find another spot next time!

2013 - Watercress Line - Alton Signal BoxReturning on the opposite side of the line to Alton station next to King’s Pond (a small lake), a few possible locations were to be found, such as the spot above where a good view of the signal box was to be found.  On the subject of boxes, I bumped into my first “Golden” letterbox (see below); painted by Royal Mail in honour of local (Equestrian) Olympian Peter Charles.  Funnily enough, this letter box was incorrectly painted gold – Peter Charles is actually from Bentworth – about four miles away!

2013 - Alton - Gold Letter BoxA couple more shots  were taken; firstly (below) of the water tower from Paper Mill Lane (there’s not much scope of taking pictures of trains here.

2013 - Watercress Line - Alton - Water TowerSecondly (below) a decent view of the station can be found from “The Lamports”, although this is a limited vantage point for passing trains.

2013 - Watercress Line - Alton StationOne good potential spot for future photographs was from Ashdell Road (below), where a view of trains can be had.  From here I snapped “Thumper” class 205 DEMU Hampshire Unit 1125 on a test run, with the before-mentioned King’s Pond in the foreground.

2013 - Watercress Line - Alton Kings Pond - Class 205 DEMU Hampshire Unit Thumper - 1125After this, I headed to Ropley – click here to read more.  Thanks for reading folks! 🙂