Alton Hampshire - It was a time for celebration on the Mid Hants Railway last Thursday with the unveiling of a National Railway Heritage Award plaque at the Ropley station waiting shelter.
The unveiling was coupled with the official launch of steam locomotive Ivatt Tan number 41312, back in service following an overhaul at Ropley, and of the Bulleid Brake S4211, refitted as a wheelchair-accessible carriage.
Carrying out the honours at Ropley station was Tim Shoveller, managing director of Stagecoach, joined for the occasion by Colin Chambers, managing director at the Mid Hants Railway, and Stevie Crowther, chairman of the Mid Hants Railway Preservation Society.
Built by a dedicated team of Mid Hants Railway volunteers to match the historic Southern Railways style and 150-year-old building at Ropley station, the new waiting shelter, complete with canopy, was officially opened on 12 May 2015 last year and, on 2 Dec 2015, won the National Railway Heritage Award Stagecoach Volunteers Award in London.
The National Railway Heritage Trust exists to help operational railways preserve and maintain their Listed buildings and structures through grants and advice.
Presented by Lord Faulkner of Worcester, the Volunteers Award, sponsored by coach company Stagecoach, recognised the achievement of a new build in the existing style of the railway's heritage buildings and the expertise and dedication of the team of volunteers who built it.
The presenter's speech announcing the award commented that the shelter was "an object lesson in how these projects should be carried out."
The Watercress Line used the unveiling of the plaque as an opportunity to officially launch LMS Ivatt Class 2MT number 41312 back into service following its 10 year overhaul.
The 66 ton loco was built in Crewe in 1952 and toward the end of its service worked the Swanage and Lymington branch lines until withdrawal in 1967.
Now privately owned, it is a staple of the Mid Hants Railway fleet.
It was also an opportunity to launch the overhauled and refitted Bulleid Brake S4211, now able to comfortably convey up to six wheelchair passengers with their guests.
This second refitted carriage ensures that the Watercress Line has an accessible carriage on each of its two service trains.