With all but one very special advent calendar blog post on its way, today we look at the full set of pictures taken on the Watercress Line whilst it operated it’s Santa Services just over a week ago. Steam motive power was provided by the ever reliable BR Standard 9F 92212 and ex-LMS Black 5 45379, with two class 37 locomotive’s in support. It was to be a day without riding on trains (as they were full of children excited to see Santa Claus!)
The day started at Medstead and Four Marks station where I awaited the first service to climb up the hill from Alton. Arriving in plenty of time in the morning winter sun gave a good opportunity to take in this picturesque station. Since researching for a model railway I have come to appreciate the specific colours of buildings located in different regions and Medstead is lovely example of a southern country railway station.
Before long, 92212 marched up the hill and came through the station without stopping. The steam engine had some assistance from a class 37 on the rear of the train, that I captured on its way out.
I then chased the train towards Ropley, following by car. The sight of this locomotive with its family-filled carriages from the car was really special, but obviously I have no pictures to prove it!
I arrived at Ropley at the same time as the 2-10-0, so had to improvise (above) in getting a picture from the road next to the station. After that I had time to walk onto the platform to get a better look whilst the locomotive ran around its train (I think I should point out that Santa Specials do not run the full length of the line as otherwise two trains might cross, which could mean a certain individual be spotted in 2 places at the same time, which rather spoils the illusion!)
Father Christmas was clearly enjoying the steam trains himself!
After 92212 went on its way back towards Alton it wasn’t long before the Black 5 arrived from Alresford.
Venturing around to the loco yard, I watched 45379 pull out of Ropley in a cloud of steam, the scene tinged a golden colour in the low winter sun.
It left with support of another class 37 diesel, that passed next to the former mentioned example that had detached from 92212’s train previously.
Having a look around the yard, a volunteer kindly stopped to tell me that BR Standard class 7MT 7000 Britannia was wrapped in a tarpaulin to protect it whilst repairs take place. I was pleased to find a real steam engine wrapped up for Christmas, making a nice image for the Advent Calendar!
I also stopped to have a look at the two N15 boilers that were there awaiting installation in the future on two S15 class engines. It was then that I started thinking about what makes a complete steam engine, which was the subject of a previous blog post (click here!)
Before long 45379 returned, this time at the back of the train.
Santa Specials run to quite an intensive schedule and so 92212 was back in Ropley soon.
It made for a nice shot silhouetted in front of the low sun.
I then departed Ropley to get a few shots at Bowers Grove Lane – an excellent place for a view of the line. Even though it was working tender first, 92212 was an impressive sight running uphill towards Medstead and Four Marks.
Equally, 45379 working smokebox first, (seemingly in pursuit of the standard class) put on quite a show.
I caught up with the Midland machine at Medstead, where it was running around it’s train.
Exploring the station further, I found it had a few nice Christmas tree’s, making for a couple of nice festive shots!
Leaving Medstead, I decided to try to find a decent spot between Alton and Medstead. This is the steepest section of the line, but I’m yet to find a good place for a photograph. The best I could find was from the A35 where I had parked in a designated lay-by. I’m not that happy with the picture so the search for another good spot continues!
It was great to have a day out to see steam in action and I hope this has whetted your appetite to do the same! Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!