(All 24.6.1976 copyright Rail Thing)
Back in 1976 Alresford had not long been part of the Watercress Line and I don't think trains were running at this time. Whilst there is a Southern tender engine all the other locos on site were industrials. It's sometimes easy to forget that many of today's flagship lines started off very small and some didn't even make it (though 97% did!) Of course back in the 70s, or at least in the first half of the decade, there were still a few lines being closed by BR, which is perhaps easier than rebuilding a line from the trackbed up, but remember that the track through Medstead HAD been lifted at this time (photos will follow!)
When I hear people today questioning the viability of new build lines I think they need to remember that some of our biggest and busiest lines nearly didn't make it. Swanage struggled for years and all the track was lifted. The Kent and East Sussex had terrible problems with level crossings. The Festiniog lost part of its line under a reservoir. All were overcome.
The Third Wave of railways is now happening. These are lines that mainly closed before 1970 and have been lifted. Most of these new schemes have a community railway element, some (like the Waverley) have even been taken over by governments and built. The S&D of course falls into this category and who would have thought that this line now has a group that plans to restore the whole route, and that there are now five separate restoration and operating sites along the line?
I think it's a good idea to sometimes look back at the early days of some of the stars of the heritage (1st and 2nd wave) restorations!