23rd Mar 2020
We are sorry to let you know that, due to UK Government advice on the Covid-19 emergency, the Watercress Line is temporarily closed to the public. The safety of our people and visitors is our first priority.
Over the last forty years the railway has educated and entertained over four million visitors. They and our loyal band of over 400 volunteer who run the trains and maintain the railway have made it what it is today.
This hard work is now at risk. As a charity the Watercress Line relies on its ticket revenue to cover its operational costs which work out at more than £75,000 a month. We are minimising all costs we can, but without the money from running public services, the railway is eating into its financial reserves. These reserves were for important investments.
There are a number of capital projects that we would like to progress this year that are focused on setting the railway up for its ongoing success:
Securing Ropley Pit Road – Circa £25,000 The rails that are part of the pit road at Ropley, used for servicing and overhauling locomotives, are nearing the end of their useful life and need replacing before they give way. The wall adjacent to the pit road which stops the rest of the yard falling on to the pit road is also life expired and urgently needs stabilising. If further funds were available, we would like to spend approximately £75,000 on installing another pit road in the yard itself, which would significantly improve our ability to service and overhaul engines as the existing pit is already used to maximum capacity.
Improvement to Back Office Systems – Circa £10,000 Although we are a heritage railway, we cannot afford to run the business with heritage IT systems. This year we are looking to improve our back office systems to give us more data on how people spend their money around the railway and streamline our accounting processes.
Engineering Improvements – Circa £22,500 We would like to continue to invest in the works at Ropley; this includes a fork lift truck to move heavy items around the Boilershop, improved lighting and a lifting beam in the carriage shed to enable us to overhaul carriage bogies. We would also like to concrete a number of areas around the site to increase useful working space.
Permanent Way Renewals – Circa £155,000 The ¼ mile of track between Bighton Hill bridge to the Ropley Down Outer Home has now reached the end of its useful life and needs £120,000 to renew. We would like to replace it and use the worn track to extend the Meon siding at Alton to enable future developments in that area. We would also like to purchase enough ballast to top up the rest of the line and replace a number of worn point timbers.
Signalling – Circa £26,500 The lever frame and locking at in the signal box at Medstead & Four Marks needs to be replaced urgently. We have almost completed work on the temporary replacement but need funds to complete it. As the signalling equipment across the line has been in use for a number of years there are a number of items that need renewing.
Buildings – Circa £130,000 The roofs on the station houses at both Alresford and Ropley are in need of replacement. Temporary repairs have been completed in the past but they are now time expired. The station building at Alton is suffering from subsidence and there are a number of improvements we would like to make there to improve the layout from our visitors perspective.
Canadian Pacific Project – Circa £310,000 The engineering elements of the Canadian Pacific project are charging on. Completing the boiler, restoring the second carriage and finishing the mechanical overhaul require a final funding push to ensure their completion by the end of next year.
In addition to Canadian Pacific, we have a forecast spend amounting to £145,700 this year to press on with the overhauls of Swanage and Lord Nelson.
During the course of this year, like many we will need to make difficult decisions about which of these essential projects we will be able to do. All of them are key to the long term future of the railway. If you are able to provide support to the railway you will be helping us to preserve part of Hampshire’s railway heritage for future generations.
The easiest way to provide a donation is through watercressline.co.uk/donate. This takes you to the UK Virgin Money site which allows you to donate a single amount or pay monthly if your able to.
Thank you for continuing to support us during this unprecedented situation. We hope to be able to welcome you back warmly to the Watercress Line soon.