New visitor experience at the Watercress Line

New boards at Ropley
Credit: Mid Hants Railway

The Watercress Line’s National Lottery Heritage Fund supported Canadian Pacific restoration project has spent £46,000 to improve the visitor experience at its Ropley station.

The improvements included new interpretation panels, which are to be installed in the viewing galleries and outside around the site to educate, inspire and capture visitors’ imagination.

The brand new displays and hands-on activities are to be installed in two phases.

With Phase 1 being already completed in May 2019,  Phase 2 is expected to be finished by the end of July 2019.

Phase 1 included new display boards to educate visitors about the site at Ropley, home to the Watercress Line’s Engineering Workshops.

Along with the Viewing Gallery on Platform 2 which has been transformed with a new welcome board along with a timeline showing the development of the railway all the way up to the present day.

A wider range of dressing-up options including costumes through the ages are now available for children and adults too.

There has also been a new backdrop installed for visitors to take their photographs against.

What did the officials have to say?

Dr Becky Peacock, Outreach and Interpretation Officer for the Canadian Pacific project at the Watercress Line, said:

“The Canadian Pacific project is not just about restoring our flagship steam locomotive here on the Watercress Line. The funding that we have received from the National Lottery Heritage Fund has allowed us to look at our sites and how we can better educate and inspire visitors.

“Ropley station was chosen as it is the home of our Engineering Workshops, and is a great place to explore and learn about what we do here at the railway to maintain these magnificent engines.

“We want visitors to get off at Ropley station whilst travelling on the railway and view the galleries and yard, learning about engineering processes and being inspired to learn more.

“Phase 1 installation was really about setting the scene for Phase 2 where we will see new hands-on displays and activities put in place around the site. But there is already plenty to see.

“Why not come along and dress up as an engine driver and take photos in front of our booking hall backdrop, or try your hand at guessing what items of steam engines are in our feely boxes?”

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Emma Holden avatar
I have been around trains at heritage railways all my life. In particular, the narrow gauge trains in Wales, and spent many Duncan days at the Talyllyn Railway when I was younger. I have been a volunteer author for RailAdvent since 2019