Watercress Line

Lights, Camera, Action…

Last year we worked with Southampton Solent University’s Media Production students to create a series of short films about the railway. After the success of last year, we embarked on working with the university and their new set of first year students to create more short films about the railway. If I thought dealing with 37 students last year was hectic, I was really in for it this year, when their lecturers informed me there were 58 students taking the course. This was going to be interesting.

All the students visited Ropley in February for an initial visit of the site before they started filming in March. The students were taken on a tour of the workshops and yard to give them an idea of the environment and the sort of areas they would be filming in. For many the railway was a huge shock, as the majority did not know about us or the work that went into restoring and maintaining a heritage railway. At least this year’s students heeded my warnings about the site being cold and came suitably attired.

Two filming visits were planned in March with the group of 58 students divided into two groups. The first group was to visit us on 2nd March but we had to cancel due to the snow and so this was rearranged. In the end the students visited us on 9th March and 16th March. The students worked in groups of 2 or 3 on work packages, which specified a particular area/topic they were to film. The first visit on 9th March saw the group split between Ropley and Medstead and Four Marks, a bit of a logistical nightmare, but we managed to get the students to the right sites. Those situated at Medstead and Four Marks were tasked with filming about the Wagon Department and creating a film about ‘Delivering the Goods’ to go in the Goods Museum (which is now on show in the museum).  At Ropley groups were filming about the carriage restoration, the boiler shop, the role of the driver and fireman, keeping the railway running today, how a steam engine works, the work of the station staff, and stories of our engines (focusing on Canadian Pacific and Swanage). One team also worked with Sheila Love, Education Officer to film about being evacuated by rail during WWII, in order to help her teach schools about the importance of the railway in evacuating children during the war. Another team of students were charged with documenting the filming taking place (or making a meta-documentary, as it’s called in the film industry).

The 16th March saw us prepare for another group of students, this time split between Alresford and Ropley. The group at Alresford worked on creating a film about the history of the Watercress Line and Peter Cutler kindly agreed to be interviewed as part of the film. Those at Ropley filmed about the machine shop, the Urie Locomotive Society, 75079 Standard 4, and stories of our engines (focusing on 30506 and 30499). Again, there was a team of students documenting the filming taking place. At the end of a long day we were all able to breathe a sigh of relief that we had managed to pull this off…again.

A few weeks later myself and Sue Dixon (one of the volunteers on the Canadian Pacific Project) found ourselves sat in Southampton Solent University film editing suites. The course had been developed so that the railway was a ‘client’ in order to provide students with some ‘real world’ experience.  Our role as the ‘client’ led to us spending a day with the students before their submission deadline to advise on changes to their final films.  This gave us our first glimpse at the variety of films that we would eventually end up with. It was interesting to see how each person edited the footage differently. 

The students’ submission date quickly came around and we were surprised to receive 53 films in total. I was then tasked to watch through all 53 films and select 5 films to be screened at Southampton Solent University and to choose a winner of the ‘Mid Hants Railway Choice Award’. It was tough to pick only five films to be shown, and even tougher to choose one overall winner. The screening and awards ceremony took place on 11th May at Southampton Solent University’s the Spark. The films were shown to volunteers, staff of the university and friends/family of the students as part of a wider awards evening at the university. It was great to be able to show everyone a selection of the films made by the students. The winner of the ‘Mid Hants Railway Choice Award’ was Peace Olabode for her film about the Carriage Workshop (to watch click here).

A huge thank you goes to all the staff and volunteers that I roped into being part of the films and helped to look after the students while they were on site. I would not have been able to pull this off without your help. I would like to thank the staff and students of Southampton Solent University for being so enthusiastic about this project. It was a pleasure to share our love for the railway with a new audience and watch them grow as film makers. 

Here are some of the films already on You Tube:

Daniel Halliday – ‘The Old Girl’ – Restoring 75079

Patricia Santos – The Machine Shop

Maria Carolina Soares – Wagon Department

Peace Olabode - Carriage Restoration at Ropley

Rory Jackson - History of the Watercress Line

Edward Alardice - Delivering the Goods

All the films created by the students will be uploaded onto the Watercress Line’s You Tube channel in the next few weeks. 


Thanks for reading,

Becky Peacock, Project Supervisor

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