What from your childhood gives you a sense of calm? For me it’s hearing story tapes I listened to or familiar children’s television shows. In particular, the narration on Thomas the Tank Engine in the 80s brings complete joy and relaxation. Yes, I was a Ringo fan before I could pick him out of a Beatles photo.
And I still can’t shake the raw nostalgia of steam railways. We have been tempted onto steam railways all over the country and with The Watercress Line just a few miles outside of Winchester we can step back in time whenever we want.
We were invited to visit when Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends were working the railway. The Day Out With Thomas experience is joyful for children and adults equally. The trains are pulled by engines from the Island of Sodor and staffed by the usual dedicated team of volunteers.
We visited in the Easter holidays and hopped on at Alresford for the first train of the day. After making friends with Bulgy Bus and Trevor the Traction Engine we showed our tickets to the guard and headed onto the platform. Everything here has been lovingly preserved and the vintage signs in green Mid Hants Railway livery give you a sense of happiness that few stations give me these days.
We clambered aboard, slammed the door and found springy seats in a wood-clad carriage. The train pulled out of the station and across the Hampshire countryside with big clouds of steam puffing past the windows.
We took a break at Ropley to enjoy some of the Thomas themed crafts and to collect our certificates (such a small thing but just look at Monty’s face!). At Ropley you can see the engineering works and watch the team working on the trains which I *love*. Here we also saw Thomas running through the station and I don’t care what anyone says it is totally OK for a middle aged woman to lose her cool over it.
The line continues to Medstead & Four Marks where you can turn around and enjoy the return trip. As you ticket gives you a whole day of access there is no limit to how many times you can ride the trains or how long you can stay. I think this makes it a good option for a day out, ride the line in the morning, have lunch and a mooch in Alresford and then return to the trains for more fun.
You can tell by this post that I had a lot of fun photographing the trains and stations. There are bridges (including the one from Kings Cross which was in the Harry Potter films) where you can get shots of the trains from above if you’re looking for impressive shots.
Of course it’s not about my enjoyment (honestly) but the children’s and they really loved seeing the trains from our books in real life. Screams of joy when we spotted Thomas were shared by all the children on the platform which was just magical.
Day Out With Thomas is returning to The Watercress Line this Easter and you can book your tickets on their site.