Those of you who follow me on twitter (@LocoYard) will know that on 20th April, Mrs Locoyard and I had a fantastic evening on board the Watercress Line’s “Real Ale Train!” Although the railway is not a million miles from where we live, we decided to stay the night in Alton as it meant we would need not worry about getting home a after a few ales.
Before we look at the train itself, a special mention needs to be made to the wonderful Bed and Breakfast and delicious food served at the Indian Restaurant we went to. With the frequency of blog posts published about the Watercress Line, you may well be tempted to visit the area, so this may well be of use to you! Although a little small, the Balti Tandoori served the most incredible curry dishes. So much so, that I’m sure we’ll frequent this fine establishment again in the future. Equally, St Mary’s Hall Bed and Breakfast was a great place to stay; it was friendly, comfortable and served a very tasty “Full English” breakfast; just the thing after an evening on a Real Ale Train!Happily we were pulled by the magnificent Southern Railway’s 850 Lord Nelson. When Maunsell designed this locomotive to be (at the time) the most powerful express locomotive in the country, he probably didn’t think that in around 85 years time it would be used to haul a merry load of passengers with one purpose – to drink ale!
So what, I hear you ask, is a Real Ale Train? Many preserved railways run these special services, but on the Watercress Line they usually depart in the evening and consist of two return trips. On board is a fairly standard train with one differenc -; one of the carriages is converted into a real ale bar, where Ale’s from two local breweries are served – a choice of 5-6 varieties of beer.
Itchen Valley Brewery and West Berkshire Brewery were featured on this service. Now I am by no means a professional taster, but both mine and Mrs Locoyard’s favourite Ale was (appropriately enough) Itchen Valley Brewery’s Watercress Line Bitter. It was very nice indeed!
The evening was a lot of fun and the atmosphere was great and very different (I would imagine) from the silver-service dining train that we passed! If you are celebrating an occasion and do not mind the banter that a train full of merry revelers has; I would thoroughly recommend catching a Real Ale Train! I am not alone in that recommendation – these trains get fully booked weeks and months in advance, so plan ahead!