THE most famous steam train in the world is in Hampshire today.

For the first time, the Flying Scotsman is running the ten miles of the Watercress Line between Alresford and Alton and then back, to celebrate the full reopening of the railway.

It has been partially closed for around a year because of the building of a new bridge at The Butts in Alton.

The iconic machine has conquered the one-in-60 'over the Alps' climb to the summit at Medstead and Four Marks, in each direction. It is one of the steepest portions of line in southern England.

It is operating a special service today for invited guests, who have included the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire Nigel Atkinson, TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh, actors Sarah Parish and James Murray and local dignatories.

Basingstoke Gazette:

Mr Titchmarsh performed the opening ceremony. He talked of his lifelong love of the railway. Referring to the Flying Scotsman he said “I can think of no finer celebrity to open up this extended line”.

Around 300 local schoolchildren were due to wave flags as The Flying Scotsman passes Butts Bridge near Alton, which has been painstakingly rebuilt.

The works, which closed the line between Medstead and Alton and were completed last month, were originally expected to take nine months but overran due to problems with Victorian foundations.

Detonators will also go off as the train crosses the bridge.

The Flying Scotsman will break a banner as it arrives at Alton Station ahead of passengers disembarking for an opening ceremony, speeches and a plaque unveiling.

The sold out journey on the iconic locomotive will be followed by four further Flying Scotsman running days on Saturday February 29, Sunday March 1, Saturday March 7 and Sunday March 8.

Enthusiasts are encouraged to buy tickets in advance for the events, which are expected to be extremely popular.

Bosses at Mid Hants Railway, which runs the line, say the locomotive’s visit will be hugely important in helping to attract more visitors.

The Flying Scotsman was built in 1923 and became the first locomotive to make an 100mph run in 1934.

It was retired from service by British Rail in 1963, underwent a £4.2m refurbishment between 2006 and 2016 and returned to the mainline.

The timetable

Alton: Departs 1pm

Ropley: Departs 1.25pm

Alresford: Arrives 1.33pm and departs 2pm

Ropley: Arrives 2.08pm

Alton: Arrives 2.33pm and departs 2.55pm

Ropley: Departs 3.20pm

Alresford: Arrives 3.28pm and departs 4.05pm

Ropley: Arrives 4.13pm

Alton: 4.38pm arrives and departs at 5pm

Ropley: Departs 5.25pm

Alresford: Arrives 5.33pm and departs 6.10pm

Ropley: Arrives 6.18pm

Alton: Arrives 6.43pm