Wednesday, 20 February 2013


When Dr Beeching decided to axe a number of rail lines in England in the 60s, one earmarked for closure was the Mid-Hants Railway, which linked Hampshire villages between Arlesford and Alton and notably provided transport from the Hampshire watercress beds to London.  In 1973, volunteers managed to raise enough funds to buy back the line from Arlesford to Ropley, complete with its small fleet of steam locomotives.  Although a small fleet, the engines were all fairly large, powerful machines needed to pull rolling stock over the hills at Medstead,

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the highest station in Southern England.

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Although, through an extraordinary act of vandalism, or self-mutilation, British Rail had torn up the remaining track from Ropley through to Alton, the volunteers continued raising funds and eventually were able to buy back the line and indeed relay the track.  It is now possible to take the train from Arlesford, through to Alton, where the Mid-Hants has its own platform and station buildings, and then connect again with London trains.  And thus was born the Watercress Line.  

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As you can see, the watercress is still grown here.

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All the maintenance of trains and track and buildings, and indeed the running of the entire link line, is still carried out today by volunteers.  And it is very popular for days out.  What could be more fun than a run on an old steam train, a lunch at the station buffet at Arlesford,

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(and such good value!) and a leisurely run back?  So, when we heard that Wallace and Grommit were going to be on the platform too . . . well, what could stop us?!  And, as an afterthought, we decided to take the grandkids with us.

Here's Lily with Grommit.

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(and a hot chocolate). And Isaac with Wallace.

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And here are all three of them with both of them.

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Some ads on the platform:

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Luckily, when the inspector came round, we had our tickets.

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And there was even a buffet car on the train.  Note the loose chairs.

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And a grand day out was had by all.  And I think the grandkids enjoyed it too.


  1. It must be my antiquity but I love trains. They go through this village at all hours on both sides of the river and I find them soothing. Others curse the whistles, that I seldom notice. I first loved rr when as a child the conductor on the red caboose always waved to us. Now they don't even have red cabooses anymore. As a child we had lines all around our community and it was a favourite pastime to put pennies on the line and pick them up all flattend and mis-shapen after the train passed. They would be still warm and the image of the queen would be distorted which delighted us. Did anybody else out there in the world do this stuff, or was I a particularily nasty child? We also knew it was against the law, which made it more exciting to be engaged with completing the massacre of pennies. It wasn't a massacre each time. I would only waste one penny on that delight.

    1. Oh good, someone else used to do that. I'm afraid I was a bit nasty round trains too. But they are a source of delight today. I quite like riding on the modern ones too actually.

  2. What lovely memories. I thought I was one of the last that remembered Dr. Beeching, but it seems there are a couple of us still around. London itself was not hit, but the surroundings were. I remember spending holidays in Great Yarmouth. There was a train line at the end of the road and the barrier went up and down all day. A couple of years later we went on holiday again but the lines were no longer there. A market had been settled in its place, but the old place where the gates were and the railway track were still visible.

    1. Beeching wasn't that long ago, Pat. Was he?! One benefit though of line closures is the number of new walking paths that we find when out and about.

  3. Ahhh, such wonderful memories evoked!! I, too, remember Dr Beeching's 'vandalism' of the railways. Whenever I find places with restored railway lines with original steam locomotives, I just have to take a ride!! Loose chairs, that would certainly surprise the younger modern traveller!!

    1. I like ther mermories too, Mitch. But I'm always surprised when I see things like 'port 1/9d' on a station buffet menu. Apart from the idea of drinking port while waiting for the train, that's equivalent to 7 cups of tea! I wouldn't pay £14 for a glass of port these days.

  4. Ah, the romance of steam. Thanks for this picturelogue Neil. Sounds like a great day out.