Watercress Line

Free Behind the Scenes Tours at the Watercress Line for Heritage Open Days

The Watercress Line is planning a weekend of special events for this year’s Heritage Open Days (15th – 16th September), England’s annual celebration of local history, architecture and culture, when visitors have free access to places, where they can discover hidden treasures and rarely told stories.

On 15th and 16th September come and explore behind the scenes of the Watercress Line’s Engineering Hub at Ropley Station and discover what’s involved in renovating and maintaining a steam locomotive. Tours will take you through the workshops to explore how the Railway restores the engines and carriages which run on the Line, allowing you to get up close to these magnificent machines! Tours run at 11.30am, 12.30pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.20pm.

Afterwards, visit the brand new, fascinating ‘Women on the Railway’ Exhibition in the Viewing Gallery at Ropley. Did you know that the Watercress Line’s flagship steam locomotive, the Canadian Pacific, which is currently being restored to its former glory, was built by a mainly female workforce? You can also find out about all the jobs that women did on the Railway during the two World Wars – from building carriages and wagons, making parts and putting locomotives together, to collecting tickets, laying tracks and operating the signals.

The weekend of 15th and 16th September is also the Railway’s Open Weekend, when the fantastic 1960 demonstration freight train will be operating two round trips from Alresford (departing 11.15am and 13.35pm) and Alton (departing 12.40pm and 15.00pm) in addition to its standard steam service. You can ride in the Queen Mary brake van at the rear of the train for a donation – an opportunity to really hear the engine hauling 220 tons up the 1:60 gradients and see the railway from a unique perspective! Virtually every railway station in the country had its own goods yard with a daily goods train bringing in coal, agricultural equipment, fertiliser and produce to markets in London and beyond. Alresford’s famous watercress was of course one of the items of freight transported on the Watercress Line. Visitors also have the chance to meet the volunteer groups who restore these fantastic locomotives, ask them questions and see their latest work.

In the run-up to the weekend, on Friday 14th September, the Watercress Line’s Dr Becky Peacock will be giving a fascinating talk exploring the roles undertaken by women on our local and national railways, from 1850 to the end of 1945. The talk includes a short film shot by the Southern Railway Film Department in the Second World War and will be followed by the chance to ask questions. The event takes place at Winchester Discovery Centre between 2.30 and 3.30pm.