A visit to the Mid Hants Railway, Alton, Hamsphire, England
Also known as the ‘Watercress Line’ this preserved steam railway runs for 10 miles (16km) from the town of Alton to Alresford, through green Hampshire countryside. The ‘Watercress’ tag comes from one of the major agricultural activities in the area. Trains took the crop to London. Watercress is still grown in the area.
My visit was on Sunday afternoon 14th September, a cloudy day but luckily it didn’t rain. I stopped in Winchester for a couple of hours. It was packed with visitors and as everyone has pictures of the place I saved my batteries. I decided to take a bus to Alton and come back on the steam train.
The Mid Hants Railway originally ran from Alton to Winchester. It was closed to passengers in 1972. The line between London and Alton had been electrified as part of the London commuter network as long ago as 1937, but the rest of the line remained a backwater. Diesel trains started running in 1966 but the line was a victim of the massive railway closures of the period. The preservation group bought the line between Alton and Alresford, but the remainder has been lost to building and will never re-open.
The official website for the line is at http://www.watercressline.co.uk/ and there is a Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watercress_Line charting the history of the line from its opening in 1865 to closure (to scheduled service) in 1972, purchase in 1975 then gradual re-opening until the present day.
For the visitor without a car or who does not wish to drive, it’s easy to get to and a nice day out. Alton is the terminus of a commuter line from London Waterloo operated by South West Trains, with service every 30 minutes every day except Sunday mornings when the trains run only once each hour. Connections are possible from a huge variety of other places. For train times in detail see http://www.nationalrail.co.uk or http://www.southwesttrains.co.uk/
Alton station is shared between the private and public railways, so there is no problem with local transfer and access.
There are buses every 30 minutes weekdays and Saturdays from Winchester to Alresford at the other end of the line, about every hour on Sundays. (The bus station at Winchester is several minutes walk from the railway station.)
Ropley is the centre of the line´s preservation and restoration activity. Most weekends the timetable is sufficiently frequent to allow an hour or two between trains to have a good look around. There aren’t any pubs close by. The village centre is about a mile away. Alton and Alresford stations are in the middle of town with all the usual facilities close at hand.
I hope you like my pictures which are at http://1drv.ms/1xucMcu
The low sun was getting in the way, so some are not as good as I would prefer.