Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Watercress Line shares skills with new apprentices

A heritage steam railway in Hampshire has taken on five apprentices to help secure its future.

The students will learn engineering, carriage works and boiler skills at the Mid-Hants Railway in Alresford.

The railway is mainly run by volunteer steam enthusiasts, many of whom are aged between 60 and 80 years.

The line's Tim Beere said: "These skills are fast disappearing. Without the apprentices, steam engines like this won't be able to continue to run."

'Quite enthusiastic'

Image caption Tom Marsh has been working on the Mid-Hants Railway trains for 18 months

The Mid-Hants Railway, also known as the Watercress Line, has a workforce of 500 volunteers, 30 staff and already employs two apprentices.

Apprentice carpenter Tom Marsh, 18, has been working in the carriage works for the past 18 months as part of a scheme paid for by the Skills for the Future, Heritage Lottery Grant.

He said: "I went to work in a normal joinery shop and I thought it was a bit boring. Here it's always exciting and I come in quite enthusiastic.

"It opens everything up. I could go into construction, boat-building or work in joinery as I can make up doors and windows," he said.

The new apprentices start work full-time in April and will spend one day a week at local colleges.

Among their projects is to work on the No.925 Cheltenham steam locomotive currently being restored.

The railway operates a fleet of steam locomotives on a 10 mile (16km) line between the market towns of Alresford and Alton.

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