The Watercress Line has honoured its ‘Fab Five’ volunteers who have worked on the heritage railway for a combined total of more than 250 years.

Long service certificates were presented to dedicated railway volunteers Brian Lawes, Mark Walden, Steve Hayden, Chris le Corney and Jim Russell at the Watercress Line’s annual general meeting in Alton on February 3.

Chief executive Rebecca Dalley and president Richard Lacey thanked all five men, who have each worked tirelessly for 50 years or more at the former Mid Hants Railway, now the Watercress Line.

Along with their good wishes, the volunteers received certificates to mark their impressive milestone.

Rebecca Dalley said: “It is a real pleasure for the Watercress Line to honour these five long-serving volunteers in recognition of their dedication and hard work at the railway.

“We are fortunate to have these men as part of our valued team of 450 volunteers, who are the lifeblood of the Watercress Line. Without their support and expertise it would be impossible to keep this much-loved heritage railway running.

“We are always keen to hear from anybody who would like to get involved as a volunteer. Please see our website for more information and get in touch.”

Between them the five volunteers have seen many rewarding changes and celebrated a number of memorable achievements over the past half century.

Jim Russell joined the fledgling heritage railway in Alresford in 1973, aged 16. He became a signalman in 1981, a foreman of signalmen in 1983, district signalling inspector in 1986-87 - and continues in the role - a guard and shunter in 1987, and passed out as a diesel driver in 2003.

He was elected to the board of the Mid Hants Railway Preservation Society in 2000 and was chairman for seven years. Jim was on the board of Mid Hants Railway Ltd as director of safety, standards and operation from 2005 to 2010, and was chairman of the rules and regulations committee until 2019. He re-joined the Mid Hants Railway Ltd board in 2019 as the director of safety and standards.

Chris le Corney became a volunteer in 1973 and has always been involved in restoring wagons and vintage carriages, and has re-created a circa 1960 freight train. Chris is chairman of the wagon group at Alton and the Mid-Hants Croydon group.

Steve Hayden joined the Mid Hants Railway in 1972 and helped to lay the track from Ropley to Four Marks, and from Alton to Four Marks, to get the fledgling railway up and running. He still works twice a week on building and gardening projects, and has been a member of the permanent way group for the past 15 years.

Brian Lawes first became involved with the railway in 1973 to fight the proposed line closure, and then worked on preserving the line. He was appointed permanent way manager, helping to get the trains running from Ropley to Alresford. He now volunteers for the miniature railway, T-Junction and shop.

Mark Walden shared an early love of trains with his grandfather and volunteered to work at the Mid Hants Railway in 1973. During his time as a volunteer, he has been manager of the building department, and he received a lifetime achievement award in 2016 from the Transport Trust.

Saved from closure in the 1970s by a passionate team of volunteers and enthusiasts, the Watercress Line was reopened to visitors as a heritage railway in 1977.

With the mission to preserve part of the country's railway heritage for the enjoyment and education of future generations, it relies strongly on its volunteers. Find out more about volunteering on the Watercress Line at