A group of the original volunteers who helped to rebuild the Watercress Line following the closure of the railway in 1973 commemorated its 50th anniversary on Saturday, February 4.

Around 50 volunteers gathered at Alresford Station where one of the last locomotives to run on the line, Hampshire Unit no 1125, was on display at the platform to commemorate this special occasion with a photograph.

The last Hampshire Unit departure from the station was at 8.21pm on February 4, 1973. On Saturday, February 4, 2023, the horn was sounded at 8.21pm to mark the historic occasion.

Many of the Watercress Line volunteers who helped ensure the preservation of the railway after it was closed by British Railways in 1973, took the opportunity to recall their memories of the early restoration activities.

These accounts will be recorded for the Watercress Line’s archives and used at historical events.

The Hampshire Unit was on display at Alresford and the guests enjoyed relating tales of their work on the line to restore it to the heritage railway attraction it has become today.

Watercress Line chief executive Amanda Squires said: “It was such a pleasure to welcome many of our longest-serving volunteers to the Watercress Line to mark this historic milestone in the railway’s history.

“The enthusiasm and pleasure that these dedicated volunteers still feel for the Watercress Line was very touching.

“Without their hard work, pulling together to help restore the line and its locomotives to their former glory, we would not have such a wonderful piece of railway heritage to share with present-day visitors and future generations.

“On behalf of the Watercress Line, I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the restoration of our much-loved railway.”

Throughout February half-term, which lasts until this Sunday, there will be a display at Ropley and Alresford Stations relating to the story of the 50th anniversary of the closure of the line.

Opened on October 2, 1865, as the Alton, Alresford and Winchester railway. The ‘Watercress Line’ gets its name from its role in transporting the crop to London in the early 20th century. It is Hampshire’s only standard gauge heritage railway, and runs for ten miles through the idyllic countryside along the border of the South Downs National Park, between the market towns of Alton and Alresford.

Find out more about the fascinating history of the line online at https://watercressline.co.uk/our-history/