Riding The Rails on The Watercress Line

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There’s nothing I love better than revisiting the places that hold such fond memories for me of my own childhood. I very clearly remember our trip on the steam train on The Watercress Line, and we first took our boys last year (we’d been meant to go the previous Christmas too, but sadly Max got chickenpox, so we had to abandon that plan). When I tasked my husband with choosing an activity for us to do over the post-Christmas break, I thought his suggestion of a trip on The Watercress Line was a brilliant one. At 4, Max is very into trains, and I knew that Ben (18 months now) would love it too.

We arrived at Alton, ready to catch the first train of the day, which meant that we got a good chance to look around the station. It was all still decorated for Christmas, with pretty coloured lights everywhere, but there were none of the Christmas crowds – the train was lovely and empty and we had our pick of the carriages. We ended up in First Class!


The Watercress Line is staffed by volunteers, and it’s clear how much they love doing what they do. So many staff spent time with Max, explaining how things worked, and it made his day. We got to hop into the engine to see the coals burning, and Max loved this guard, who offered up his hat to be part of the photo.

The excitement on the boys’ faces as the train pulled away from the station was so lovely to see – their faces just lit up!


The train took us on a short journey, stopping at a few stations, before we reached the end of the line at Alresford. We’d booked a table for lunch at a pub there, but had some time before that, so we watched the engine turn around, which both boys loved – especially when it let off a huge gust of steam. Ben’s face was an absolute picture!

The highlight of the trip was when Max was asking us about how the signals worked, and we were explaining. I asked the guard if we could just peek through the door of the signalbox, so that Max could see, and he said we’d probably be able to go in and have a look. Before we’d even got there, the signalman appeared and invited us in, showing Max all of the different levers, and explaining (in much more confident tones that I had) exactly how it all worked. He even let Max push one of the levers to reset it, which made his day! He came away insisting that when he grows up, he wants to be a train signalman.

We ate lunch at The Horse and Groom in Alresford, which I highly recommend. We’d seen it was a Fullers pub, so thought it was a safe bet, but didn’t have high expectations, and it was a really pleasant surprise. Roaring fires, lovely atmosphere, and really good food.

Before we knew it, it was time to catch our return train. Max wanted to sit in a different carriage this time, so sadly no First Class for us!

Little blond boy on train on The Watercress Line, peering around seats in train carriage with a cheeky grin on his face

There is something so charmingly simple about The Watercress Line. It’s not a fancy day out, but seeing the looks of delight on the boys’ faces is what it’s all about, and makes it a winner for me.