Phil of ESNG fame recently had a significant birthday (a large number with a ‘0’ – just the one – on the end) and for a present his family bought him a footplate ride on the Mid Hants Railway, the Watercress Line. I was delighted, and a little privileged, to be asked to chauffeur him for the day. Let’s face it though, I’ll do almost anything for a free train ride and a free lunch.
So, Thursday 17 May saw us driving down to Arlesford from Horley, and despite some difficulty in parking – it was market day and there was a big funeral on at the church near the station – we were soon pottering around a rather quiet Arlesford station. I was impressed by the careful conversion of the goods shed into a shop, meeting room and rest rooms.
The station was very quiet, the first train of the day having departed, and apart from a few coaches and an Southern Region DEMU, the only thing moving was an O8 and Southern Railway CCT. This had to move out of the run-round before the train returned from Alton.
We wandered along to the signal box, and Phil invited himself in. So I did likewise. Although it was off-season and mid-week, I was most impressed by the friendly Mid Hants staff, and how quick they were to spend time with you, explain things, and even invite you to have a closer look.
Probably a typical small signal box, no doubt with a few Southern Railway (or even LSWR) details. It always interests me how a simple track layout accumulates so many levers for points, signals, and facing point locks (the blue ones). But the signals do go all the way up to the end of section approaching Ropley, next station up the line.
And just to prove that I was actually there…. Inspecting the block token instrument.
We retreated to the station buffet for an early lunch – on my part the old standby of ham, eggs and chips (and very good it was too) – and failed to see the train come in from Alton. The locomotive on the front, and our locomotive for the day, was a BR 9F 2-10-0. This monster was a bit of overkill for the Mid Hants, but a 9F with a passenger train was reminiscent of the final days of the Somerset & Dorset Railway. This magnificent machine was built in 1959, and worked for less than 10 years before the end of steam on BR.
Uncoupling the coaches – mainly BR Mk 1 carriages. In some ways these standard carriages are as much as a design classic as the HST125 units currently celebrating 40 years of use. Mk 1’s have been around for over 60 years, now, and are still a mainstay of the preservation movement.
Running around the train, and that’s where we’ll leave things today.