Branch out at the Watercress Line’s Autumn Steam Gala

August 30, 2023

Get ready to explore the Watercress Line at its annual Autumn Steam Gala event, which steams into action from Friday 6th to Sunday 8th October, with a ‘branch line’ theme.

Visitors to the three-day gala will have the opportunity to ride behind home-fleet and visiting locomotives, go behind the scenes to find out more about the fascinating restoration projects and view various exhibits. 

There will be an enhanced timetable offering unlimited rides behind the range of steam engines, so there’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy the glorious Hampshire countryside, adjacent to the South Downs National Park. 

The popular Autumn Gala will showcase two of the Watercress Line’s own engines – 41312 LMS Ivatt, which spent much of its working career on Southern region lines, and the 53808 7F, courtesy of the S&D Railway Trust, which was used as a local goods train.

Visiting locomotives will include: 

No. 72 ‘Fenchurch’, courtesy of the Bluebell Railway. This gave rapid acceleration on suburban trains of lightweight carriages on the South London line.

LNWR coal tank no. 1054, owned by the National Trust and courtesy of the Bahamas Locomotive Trust. Originally designed to haul freight (predominantly coal traffic).

The GWR Class 5205, 5239 ‘Goliath’, courtesy of the Dartmouth Steam Railway, Devon, will also be in operation. This engine was used to haul coal from the mines in South Wales to the ports for export.

The gala weekend will give visitors an insight into restoration projects at Ropley workshop and yard. Driver experiences will be available with ‘Kilmersdon’ 1788, and opportunities to take Queen Mary Brake Van rides on the Goods Train. The delightful miniature steam railway will also offer unlimited rides for all the family to enjoy.

Visit the Goods Shed exhibition at Medstead and Four Marks, and browse the society stands and displays at Ropley Station. Some fascinating Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust artefacts will be on show at the Old Goods Shed Museum at Alresford.

Watercress Line CEO Rebecca Dalley said: 

“Most of our trains are operated by tender engines, so this is a rare opportunity to travel along the line by a variety of tank engines, smaller engines that tended to travel on branch lines, which ‘branch off’ the main line to serve local communities in rural areas.

“Our Autumn Steam Gala provides a fascinating day out for anyone interested in steam engines. It’s a great opportunity to ride behind these steam locomotives, see behind the scenes as restoration is in progress and find out more about the history of the railway.

“Discover the Watercress Line’s picturesque heritage stations along the 10 mile line, visit the exhibitions and chat to our volunteers and staff. We look forward to welcoming you.”

Book ahead for the Autumn Steam Gala and find out more at

Don't miss out! Sign up to get offers, competitions and days out ideas!

Don't miss out! Sign up to get offers, competitions and days out ideas!

Sign up to the Hampshire's Top Attractions enewsletters. We'll send you an email once or twice a month, with ideas for days out, upcoming events, discounts at attractions and special competitions across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight with Hampshire's Top Attractions.

Thank you for signing up to the Hampshire's Top Attractions enewsletters! Remember to pop us on your safe senders list.