3 enthusiasts who dedicate their time to The Watercress Line in Alresford
PUBLISHED: 12:44 01 May 2015 | UPDATED: 12:44 01 May 2015
Over 400 volunteers help to keep the steam trains on track at The Watercress Line in Alresford. Here, we meet three enthusiasts who love dedicating their time to this unique attraction
Richard is 66, from Chandlers Ford, and has been a volunteer for the past seven years. He says: “Today I’m a signalman, yesterday I was a guard; last weekend I was company secretary and director and next Saturday I’m foreman on station. It’s fair to say I have a lot of different jobs.
“I’ve never worked on the railway, in my past life I ended up as a program manager in defence - putting computers on Navy ships. I did try when I left school to be a signalman, but I was told I was too clever, and needed to work in the drawing office. In the old days, signaling was a blue-collar job. If you went to grammar school you couldn’t do a blue-collar role.
“I’ve always loved steam trains though. My grandfather was a guard at southern railway, at Waterloo and before him my great grandfather was guard for the South Western railway. That was one of my motivations to become a volunteer here, I now bring my grandkids here – they love ‘Thomas’ (the Tank Engine).
“Seeing the children and meeting the public is my favourite thing about spending my time here - seeing their faces light up when you speak to them, that makes it worthwhile; the recognition from the public means so much. We recognise what each other do, but when the public acknowledge it, it’s even better.”
• What not to miss: “If there’s one thing you should do it would be to go to Ropley yard to see all the steam engines and get up close. It’s the hub for the railway, so if you’re interested in steam that’s where you head for.”
• What I would save in a fire: “I would rescue the new wooden coaches we have from the south coast. They are irreplaceable - built in the 1880s, they’ve just been donated to the railway to restore.”
Rosemary is 67, from Bordon, and has been a volunteer for the past 11 months, she says: “I’m new to Hampshire, we’ve been in Bordon for just 16 months having moved from Norfolk to be closer to our family. Here at the Watercress Line I work in the office, mainly in the educational side of things. I help to organise the children’s groups. When schools come they have topics and projects to do here, and a lot of the time they also dress up - we had refugees the other month.
“The Watercress Line is one of the places where both my husband and I can volunteer together. He’s in the workshop in Ropley, in his element, and I like office work, so it fits perfectly. We’re here two days a week and on our drive home we love to talk about our day – it’s just like being back at work.
“Our time here keeps us out of mischief, plus I’m learning more and more about steam trains the longer I’m here, just to see them pulling into the station is exciting – it’s very nostalgic.”
• What not to miss: “If you could only see one thing here it would be the steam train engines when they arrive in Alresford. I think everyone should discover steam trains.”
• What I would save in a fire: “It would have to be the engine, but there’s also lots of memorabilia here too, so I’d scoop it all up in my arms and run for it.”
Richard is 69, from Colden Common, and has been a volunteer for the past 32 years, he says: “I’ve been volunteering here off and on since 1983. I worked for the main line at the same time too. I was on the platform, then a guard, then inspector – I worked my way up learning the trade. Over the years I have to say it’s all been interesting work, I love the railways.
“As a kid I would always be trainspotting because we lived next to the railway. When I was just five my older cousin would take me to the train sheds when it was steam, it was quite frightening at five years old. But steam is really a life long love.
“I’m a people person, and after retirement there’s a big gap where work used to be so the best thing about being here is working alongside such great people. It’s great to be involved in different things here; part of the week I will be on the P-Way and the rest of the time I’m chief bottle washer here in the Buffet car.”
• What not to miss: “I would take the train to Medstead and Four Marks to visit the waiting room there – it’s full of interesting bits and pieces showing the history and transformation of the railway.’
• What I would save in a fire: “The station clock that we’ve just got back in the last six months. It was stolen eight years ago and turned up at a car boot sale - the police called to tell us someone had spotted it. It’s the original one from this station as it has a unique serial number.”
Did you know?
• On October 2nd, they will be celebrating 150 years since the railway opened. The original line belonged to the Alton, Alresford and Winchester Railway Company.
• It took four years to build the 10-mile stretch of railway between Alton and Alresford. The 100m cutting at Alresford filled roughly 75,600 wheelbarrows full of chalk!
• Today, the only original signal box to the railway is at Alresford, the other three have come from Bentley, Wilton South in Wiltshire and Netley.
• All of the footbridges have been late additions to the line; the original railway would have only used foot crossings. The most famous of our footbridges is the Kings Cross Footbridge at Ropley. This bridge was used during the filming of the Harry Potter movies.
• During the 10 miles it takes a train to travel from Alresford to Alton, it will go over or under 31 bridges.
Mid Hants Railway Ltd ‘Watercress Line’, The Railway Station, Alresford, SO24 9JG, 01962 733810, www.watercressline.co.uk
Cost: Adult tickets are £16, children (up to 16) £8, under 2 free, family tickets are £40.
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