You are never far from a steam railway when you are in Great Britain. Yesterday, I decided to take advantage of the good weather and head off to the nearest of those railways for a day of serious photography. Except it wasn’t a serious day at all. The Mid Hants Railway had put on a Thomas the Tank Engine event, and hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of kids and their enthusiastic parents had invaded the line. Photos of locomotives with smiley faces on the front wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for my blog post. But as I had endured a difficult journey through the holiday traffic, I decided to go with the flow and see what the day would bring. I was very pleasantly surprised!
The Mid Hants Railway is also known as the Watercress Line because it was used to transport the locally grown crop to markets as far away as London. Now it is a tourist attraction run by volunteers, and when I was there yesterday, they put on a super show for the kids. I met some very friendly volunteers, including one who showed me around his signal box at Arlesford, and another who allowed me to climb aboard ‘Schools’ Class Locomotive No. 925 to photograph the footplate. He asked me about steam railways in Germany, and I told him that there is a spectacular steam railway that takes you to the top of a mountain. He immediately said ‘The Harz’, which was correct and which I had previously written about here. I asked him how difficult it was to become a driver, and he told me about the training and exams, but he also told me that he qualified within 10 years of joining the Watercress line. Now there’s an idea for when I am a little older…
As I travelled along the line, we stopped at a station called Ropley. I have never seen so many people on a platform and decided to give it a miss and travel to the next station. Then I realized Ropley was a must see for anyone interested in trains. So on the return journey, I got off and spent an hour or so there. I am so pleased I did. The station has beautiful gardens and lots of interesting railway engineering stuff. Sorry, that’s about as technical as I get. 🙂 I stood on top of an old metal footbridge that originally crossed platforms 1 to 8 at London’s Kings Cross Station. From this bridge, I was able to get my best photos of the day. The atmosphere at the station was lovely, and the kids were able to ride on two different trains that were continuously moving up and down the station sidings. In addition, there was a miniature railway, bouncy castle, and loads of fun activities such as a magic show in the gardens where many people were picnicking.
I have to say that the stations really impressed me. They are not cluttered with vintage railway memorabilia, which I have seen on some other lines, but there is enough to take you back in time; letter boxes from Victorian, Georgian and Edwardian times; Enamel signs advertising products from the first half of the last century: GPO phone boxes; the visiting double-decker bus and steam traction engine. And in addition to this, the railway clearly has some very talented gardeners, and the grass, shrubs and greenery match perfectly with the livery of the station buildings to create a very relaxing atmosphere.
I left the railway feeling extremely happy about my day out, and thought that Thomas and all of his friends would have slept well last night! 🙂 Here are a few of those photos that I took.
All pictures and text. © Chris Robinson 2016. All rights reserved.