The Watercress Line gets its name from its role in transporting the crop to London in the early 20th century. It’s Hampshire’s only standard gauge heritage railway. It runs for 10 miles through the idyllic countryside along the border of the South Downs National Park, between the market towns of Alton and Alresford. Opened on the 2 October 1865 as the Alton, Alresford and Winchester Railway, it became part of British Railways until its hotly-contested closure in 1973. The line and services were quickly reinstated by a dedicated preservation group and today the Watercress Line is one of the south’s premier visitor attractions, attracting 125,000 visitors annually with a turnover in excess of £2m.
The railway employs 50 staff and five engineering apprentices and is supported by over 500 dedicated volunteers without whom it could not function. It is committed to preserving Hampshire’s railway heritage and maintains a fleet of steam and diesel locomotives, rolling stock and infrastructure, creating the essence of a bygone age. As a living history attraction, it provides a comprehensive steam-hauled train service from February to October and throughout December with standard running days and many special activities including ‘Day Out With Thomas’, War on the Line, Wizard Weekend, Steam Galas and Steam Illuminations. Other popular services include the famous Real Ale Train (RAT), The Watercress Belle and the Countryman Dining trains.
The Watercress Line also has a long record spanning several decades as a versatile location for film, television and photographic productions, ranging from photoshoots, adverts and television dramas to feature films. Past productions include Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast, BBC Countryfile, Great British Railway Journeys, The Wrong Mans with James Corden and many historical documentaries.