Mid Hants Railway (Watercress Line) August 2016

On the 22nd August, I visited the Mid Hants Railway, which was my first time visiting the line, despite the links the railway has to the website. Starting at Alresford Station, which has been beautifully restored, and is a fantastic gateway to the Watercress Line.DSC01752The two locomotives that were in operation were 925 – SR Schools Class ‘Cheltenham’ and 41312 – LMS Ivatt Class 2MT, with the former being the locomotive pulling the first train to Alton station. DSC01761The railway is a 10 mile (16km) line, linking Alresford to Alton, stopping at Ropley and Medstead and Four Marks. The section of line from Alresford to Alton that can be seen today was purchased from British Rail in November 1975. Reconstruction of the line subsequently progressed in stages. The section between Alresford and Ropley re-opened on 30 April 1977. To provide engineering and maintenance facilities, the main locomotive shed and workshops were constructed at Ropley. The extension to Medstead & Four Marks opened on 28 May 1983 and the final section to Alton opened on 25 May 1985.DSC01760Just outside Medstead and Four Marks station, the line is at its highest point, at around 652 feet (199 m) above sea level, having risen from Alresford station, which is 263 feet (80 m) above sea level. The line then descends into Alton station, at 339 feet (103 m) above sea level.Because of this, the section of line became known as “the Alps”, due to the steep gradients that exist there.DSC01759After arriving at Alton station, which is right next to the mainline station, that is a direct link to London. Within one hour, you can travel from here to the capital, a Victorian invention which is still in use today, and more popular than ever. When the train returned, I boarded the train back down the line.DSC01758Finally arriving at Ropley station, I toured the sheds to see the locomotives that are currently undergoing restoration, and since visiting, it is pleasing to see the progress of 35005 – SR Merchant Navy Class ‘Canadian Pacific’, which its’ progress has been detailed by Simon Brookes Castle on the Loco Yard blog. Check them out if you have not already.DSC01765The history of the line is that in 1861,the Alton, Alresford and Winchester Railway Company was authorised to build a new railway to connect to the existing London & South Western Railway lines at Alton and Winchester. It was opened on 2 October 1865, as the Mid-Hants Railway. Trains were operated by the London & South Western Railway which eventually purchased the Mid-Hants Railway Company in 1884. The line provided an alternative route between London and Southampton, and, besides transporting locally produced watercress, was particularly important for military traffic between the army town of Aldershot and the military embarkation port at Southampton. With this, the line gained its popular name in the days that it was once transported locally grown watercress to markets in London.DSC01766Off in the distance in the picture below is the former bridge that originally was located at King’s Cross Station, which was famous for being used in the first of the Harry Potter film series, and it is now restored to allow visitors to view the yard. There is also a path to the carriage works, which were in full swing when I stopped by.DSC01762Continuing with the history of the railway, with the development of motorised transport, the line declined during the interwar and post-war periods of the 20th Century and was further compromised by the closures of the Basingstoke and Alton Light Railway in 1932 and the Meon Valley Railway in 1955. Electrification of the line from London to Alton in 1937 meant that the Watercress Line was no longer part of a through route; it became necessary to change at Alton. Electrification of the line from London to Southampton occurred in 1967, which further affected the economics of the Mid-Hants route.DSC01763The line became part of the Southern Railway in 1923 and then part of the Southern Region of British Railways in 1948. It survived the Beeching Axe in 1963, but was eventually closed by British Railways in February 1973, which during final years of operation under British Rail, passenger train services were operated by Class 205 two carriage diesel-electric multiple units.DSC01764The topiaries, which some are seen in the photo above, are of an original design, which can be seen in some postcards from the early 1900s.DSC01767After arriving back at Alresford Station, I stopped by the gift shop before returning to my hotel for the night. I can see why it regularly appeared on the Loco Yard blog since its’ inception, and I look forward to returning again soon.DSC01769Thanks for reading.

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3 thoughts on “Mid Hants Railway (Watercress Line) August 2016

  1. Nice Revue my friend ! was my local heritage line ,now sadly 1500 miles away in a heritage railway free zone ??? would you believe it ? Spain is so bad …..I blame Franco ! but i have sunshine 350 days a year. But serious thanks for a pleasant revue for a line that is loved by thousands !

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    • No problem, glad you liked the review. Spain does not have many heritage railways? I was planning to visit some in the future, which ones do you recommend?

      Like

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