Watercress Line

IMG_7185_1024After all the excitement of the summer holidays a leisurely trip on the railway was just the ticket to finish it off. Starting at Aylesford where I boarded the 11:00 train which took me the 10 miles to Alton. Stopping here for a while, while the engine, a magnificent class 9F 2-10-0 was shunted from one end of the train to the other so that it could pull me back to Aylesford.

The class 9F series of locomotives were the pinnacle of steam train engineering. Built by British Railways at the very end of the steam era, they represented all the technological developments of the previous 100 years.
On the way back, I got off at Ropley station for a look around the train yard and carriage works. There is also a very nice grassed bank here where you can see the site and have a picnic while watching the trains. Thomas was waiting in the yard trying not to get into trouble.

IMG_7236_1024After lunch I boarded the second steam train “Cheltenham” which is a Schools Class engine. This is because all the engines in the class were named after public schools. With a 4-4-0 wheel arrangement it is small for a passenger train but this was because they were designed for the Tonbridge to Hastings route which had a very narrow loading gauge as well as a weight restriction. The livery is pre-war southern green with gold lettering, this was so that you could see the train in the London smog.

IMG_7313_1024This wasn’t a special event day, but it was a diesel running day. This meant in addition to the two steam trains that were in operation there was also a diesel engine running. The diesel was a small class 33 Crompton. This name is from the Crompton Parkinson electrical equipment installed in them. The coach set forming the train was set up as the Real Ale Train and as such the guard’s van, and therefore the disabled access, had been converted into the Real Ale bar (hic).

Admission for the day was £16 and the disabled access is excellent particularly because the staff are very helpful in getting wheelchair users across the line and on-and-off the trains. They have one set of coaching stock which is fully accessible, another where you travel in the guard’s van, and (hic, hic) you can just about squeeze into the Real Ale bar of the third set.