On Saturday 22nd October, the Mid Hants Railway 'Watercress Line' played hosts to local MP's Steve Brine and Damian Hinds plus their families. As the 'Watercress Line' runs for a distance of 10 miles crossing the two constituencies represented by Steve and Damian, it was only fitting that both attend, giving them and their families the opportunity to let off some steam!
The visit follows an earlier reception arranged by the Heritage Railway Association at Westminster in June this year, where officials of heritage railways all over the UK were invited to meet with Theresa Villiers Minister of State for Transport and their respective MP's. The purpose of this was to impress on Parliament the importance, scale and positive economic contribution the heritage railway industry make, MP's then invited to visit their local railway and see and experience it for themselves.
This was Steve and Damian's first official visit to the Watercress Line and coincided with that of guest locomotive Tornado, the first main line steam locomotive to be built in this country for 60 years, star of BBC Top Gear and Royal Train fame. Tornado was busy hauling trains that day with both families enjoying a ride behind her. Tornado will be playing a starring role in the forthcoming Autumn Steam Spectacular 28-30 October along with a long list of illustrious locomotives, including Dominion of New Zealand, sister to world steam speed record holder Mallard.
They were both given a guided tour by railway officials and shown all the development work that has been and still is underway along the length of the line, specifically the site development at Ropley locomotive shed, part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as our 'safeguard the future' Apprentice program. With over 3000 society members and some 600 active volunteers, the Mid Hants Railway 'Watercress Line' has been putting the Big Society into practice since 1977, next year being the railway's 35th anniversary.
Both Steve and Damian were suitably impressed with all the railway had achieved in this time and commented on how much fun they and their families had had during their visit. They hope to return later this year for the Santa Specials where they will get to meet Father Christmas on a steam train!
Steve said:"The whole Brine family had a lovely time here today. This really is one of the most delightful aspects of our heritage here, and I particularly enjoyed seeing Tornado."
Damian said:"The Watercress Line is a key contributor to our local economy, bringing in many visitors, as well as being such a wonderful cultural icon. It was great to see the new facilities and hear more about the apprenticeships programme, passing on vital skills. The Watercress Line is a marvellous, unique day out and I pay tribute to all the volunteers who are involved with it."
Pictured; Steve and Damian at the Watercress Line with their families