mental health and travel
I like trains, they relax me, but I’m no train spotter. It was pretty special however to visit a steam railway and sheds today in the heart of Hampshire. The Watercress Line in Ropley is run by volunteers and has about 20 miles of track with two working steam engines. It’s very different to see all that smoke and steam accompanying the trains as they pull up to the platform and of course the classic chugging sound with all the bells and whistles.
Our train had six old coaches. We sat in first class with the room to ourselves – a wooden interior and six seats so springy you could bounce an egg into the ceiling if you were so inclined, but then old trains like this have a more shaky ride and need extra vibration absorption properties.
It was a bit wet and cloudy outside with little to look at on the quick 15 minute journey to Alresford unless you use your imagination. But still, very cool it was. We had 30 minutes stationary at Alresford and my mum and I had tea and a Cornish pasty at the café and one of the volunteers lifted up the velvet rope for me to have a look inside the cockpit or whatever they call them…then the guy in the blue boiler suit told me they use four shovels of coal a minute and I was surprised it wasn’t more. He also said a train such as this one uses 3 tonnes of coal every working day. He also said that health and safety rules prevent them from using regular national track because they don’t have the electronic safety equipment like GPS etc. He also said that H and S command that they don’t exceed 25 miles an hour but they don’t really listen and go faster because it’s more fun.
The cockpit was fairly standard with old gauges and the fire door was open and very interesting to stare into. They often cook bacon and eggs on a shovel held in the fiery vicinity.
So that was it really. It’s not a big operation. We steamed back to Ropley station where we had a guided tour around the massive sheds and repair workshops. The platform and workshops were filled with volunteers and workers working who were just itching to give information about all the little and big aspects of maintaining the operation and repairing the broken items. The machinery was massive, monkey wrenches on the walls about a metre long and so much stuff that was a mystery to me, and I have a good understanding of workshops and their machinery. I stopped to chat to two men filing down a big tin part to make it fit somewhere and found out as we stood beside an engine in repair that they weigh about 64 tonnes and the wheels are about six feet tall. Five minutes later the tour group had left me behind so I ambled about the workshop alone making mental notes of the stuff I had seen and the manly smell of oil and grease, and then the tour guide in his orange high vis jacket came back for me and politely asked that I pay attention and don’t leave the group again.
At the station there is a fridge where one is encouraged to take home a pack of free watercress, they apparently have more than what they know what to do with.
It was a nice little outing.
As you might be aware, my blog is a travel and mental health blog, and I’ve done the travel aspect. So – today my mental health was very good. Very happy. Thanks for reading.