Watercress Line

It’s all change at Ropley

Most of the blogs focus on the restoration of Canadian Pacific and the wooden framed carriages but occasionally I deviate and throw something else into the mix. This is one of those occasions.

Since the end of 2018 we have been working with Abound Design and Interpretation to create a new interpretation plan (the fluffy stuff as I like to call it). The one that was included with the original bid focused heavily on enthusiasts but we have since decided that we want to capture the imagination of the general visitor and hopefully some budding engineers. Therefore, we have been glancing a critical eye over the site at Ropley as to what we could do to better improve the visitor experience. Many visitors don’t get off at Ropley and so we considered how we could encourage people to hop off the train. The behind the scenes tours have helped to get people to Ropley but without a tour guide to explain what they see in the workshops it quickly becomes a place filled with grubby engines and rotten carriages (as one visitor pointed out to me). Ropley provides the railway with a great opportunity to inspire and engage all ages with the amazing engineering works that we complete on a to keep these wonderful (grubby) engines working.

Sheila (Education Officer), Russell (Abound) and I came up with designs for new display boards and exciting new hands-on interactives. We decided to split this into two phases to make life easier and not disrupt the use of the viewing galleries. Phase 1 was installed in April right after Day Out With Thomas.

Phase 1 saw a more welcoming entrance and stair well being completed, with a new entrance sign and timeline up the stairs to draw visitors. Come along and see if you recognise any of the staff and volunteers used in our entrance graphic!

A few changes were done to the Main Viewing Gallery (or Education Room) with vinyl facts applied to the windows. A new backdrop for the dressing up has been installed and this has changed the feel of the room. Under the worktop we have installed 3 feely boxes…put your hand inside and see if you can guess the loco part…no cheating! We have also utilised some equipment which has been hidden away behind boards and now a once disused video player has 9 new films for viewing.

Its not just the Viewing Gallery where changes have taken place. Around the site we have installed new display boards to educate visitors about all the things that they can see. On Platform 2 just outside the shop we now have a large map of the site showing visitors what they can see – its been useful for directing some of the staff around the site! There are other boards describing what you can see in the yard and facts about coal. Did you know that our fireman shovel 1,300 tons of coal a year!

We managed to sneak a fun interactive into the Goods Museum at Medstead as part of Phase 1. Ever wondered how vacuum braking works on our carriages? Pop into the Goods Museum and have a go at causing the vacuum braking to stop our wheels travelling.

There are a few bits which are still to be finished for Phase 1, a working crane model will be installed at the entrance of the Viewing Gallery. Loco items will be placed near boards along the pathway to the Kings Cross Bridge, with the help of the Building Group. There will also be flip books installed in the Viewing Gallery to go through all the locos that call the railway home. My volunteers will be happy to note that I have managed to hide some elephant weight facts in there!

Phase 2 will be installed in July 2019 with a whole host of fun interactives added to all the Viewing Galleries at Ropley. Keep your eyes peeled!

If you get chance to wander around Ropley and check out the developments we have made to the site. We would love to hear your comments about what we have done so far, so please send these to canpac@watercressline.co.uk.

Thanks for reading, 

Becky (Project Supervisor)

Photo gallery

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