CHRISTMAS has officially arrived at the Watercress Line with the launch of its Steam Illumination train.

Visitors to the Hampshire attraction can enjoy the dazzling event in the lead-up to Christmas, offering the perfect festive treat for all the family.

I was thrilled to be invited along to a preview of the event, particularly as my four-year-old train-mad son could accompany me.

We arrived at Alton Station at 3.30pm when it was light outside but were still wowed by the impressive locomotive decorated in a dazzling display of coloured lights, the full effects of which would not be appreciated until darkness fell.

My son and I admired the train from the outside, watching the coal being put onto the fire and the steam pouring out across the platform.

He was super excited to board the train. We found a table with our own individual LED wristbands that flashed in time with the train lights.

As the train chugged through the Hampshire countryside on its 10-mile return journey to Alresford, we marvelled as the lights lit up the surrounding trees and houses.

Christmas music played in the carriages, along with a voice-over cracking jokes, which added to the party atmosphere and festive feel.

Soon it was time to enjoy our high-tea – which can be added to tickets for an extra cost – consisting of a turkey and cranberry roll, satsuma, cheese and crackers, and mince pie.

The food kept my son entertained for the journey there before it was time to disembark at Alresford Station.

Darkness began to fall during our half-an-hour stop at Alresford, giving us the chance to really enjoy the stunning display of lights on the steam train, twinkling and changing colour in a spectacular display.

We stood on the bridge to admire the magical festive show where we were joined by none other than Father Christmas, who happily posed for photos with children and adults.

My son loved watching the engine detach and make its way along the tracks to the other end of the train for the return journey.

He watched in fascination as it was gently bumped onto the carriages.

The journey back was even more magical, as the full effects of the lights could be enjoyed in the darkness.

We were even treated to a shower of ‘snow’ as we passed under Ropley bridge, which famously features in the Harry Potter films.

I noticed people peeking out from windows in homes along the line watching us pass.

As we arrived back at Alton, we had one last chance to admire the beautiful train covered in lights before heading home.

The steam illumination was a truly magical experience and the perfect start to the festive celebrations.

The Watercress Line has added extra dates for the event this year allowing more people the chance to enjoy the festive treat.

Watercress Line general manager Simon Baggott said: “The fantastic Steam Illuminations has proved more popular than ever this year and so we are delighted to announce more dates for people to come along to enjoy the spectacular festive train rides.

“It promises to be a wonderful highlight of the festive season. Please book your tickets early so you don’t miss out on magical memories.”

The light show runs from November 26 through to January 8. Tickets are on sale at

A table for two costs £48; a table for four is £96; and a compartment for up to six people costs £150. Children under two-years-old are free.

The high tea which we enjoyed is £9.50 per person or £4.50 for a child. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options are available.