8th Feb 2017
This year the Mid-Hants Railway Watercress Line celebrates its 40th Anniversary since reopening as one of the UK’s most popular heritage railways, with a year-long programme of events. The foremost of these will be the spectacular Summer Steam Gala, an event for enthusiasts and families alike. The event is celebrating 50 years since the end of southern steam, it takes place over two weekends this year (1st & 2nd and 7th-9th July) and boasts an intensive timetable with a fantastic line up of locomotives - with 4 guest engines already confirmed and special station activities for all the family.
Other family favourites make a return in 2017, with the ever-popular Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends returning twice during the year. ‘Day Out With Thomas’ will be taking place on the 14th to the 23rd of April and the 5th to the 13th of August. In addition to riding the trains there will be lots of free activities at stations along the line. Children also get to ‘live’ their literary and cinematic dreams with the return of the ‘Wizard Weekend’ during October half-term.
Grown-up family members aren’t left out, with two 1940s living history events which bring everyday experiences of the Second World War vividly to life. ‘War on the Line’ on 10th and 11th of June evokes life on a WWII steam railway with service men and women dashing about, loved ones saying their goodbyes and evacuees boarding trains to live with new families. Other never-to-be-forgotten wartime sights and sounds throng the stations along the line.
‘Christmas Leave’ on 26th & 27th December brings the bitter-sweet atmosphere of the time back, with its recreation of the bustle of military activity, families uniting and departing and those quiet, intimate moments in the tearooms between hello and goodbye.
There will also be a number of other events for enthusiasts, including the Pre-Spring Steam Gala in February, Diesel Weekend in October, Alton Bus Rally (the biggest bus rally in Southern England) and a variety of freight train days throughout the year.
No year on the Watercress Line would be complete without the ‘Santa Special’ and while it may seem early to start thinking about Christmas, families are urged to make a note in their diaries – Santa Specials will run on various days from 2nd of December to the 24th.