Spirit of the South: All aboard the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway

Watch: ITV News Meridian's Charlotte Briere-Edney looks into one of the region's oldest heritage rail lines 

The South is a special part of the country with stunning coastlines, wonderful woodlands and waterways.

ITV News Meridian is celebrating this part of the world with our annual series called 'Spirit of the South', showcasing the region and some of the hidden treasures it holds.

Nestled in the heart of Oxfordshire is one of the Thames Valley's hidden gems; the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway.

It was built more than 155 years ago, and through its checkered history, it has carried people, freight and today, visitors from across the country. 

After closing to passengers in the 1950s, the line was painstakingly restored, and is now run as a heritage railway.

The Sentinel has a top speed of about 20mph, and is a very efficient engine, but as it lacks the moving parts of a traditional locomotive, the design never really took off.

Locomotive owner Peter Mitchell said: "The reason it never really caught on, unfortunately, was because of the shape, believe it or not, because it looks like a garden shed. And people didn't understand it as a locomotive.

"At the time, they were used to the conventional engine, weren't used to this type of engine, so they never caught on, but they did in other parts of the world."

The Cholsey and Wallingford Railway

Today, trained enthusiasts help run the locomotive, and operate tourist trips on weekends.

Unlike driving, you have to turn 21 to be fully in charge of the engine. But that doesn't stop the younger generation getting their hands dirty.

Logan Kinnaird, a volunteer, said: "I just enjoy having fun with steam locos. I've always been interested in them, it's kind of my...I wouldn't say it's a hobby, it's more of a way of life for me now.

"It's hot, it's dirty. Some people might not like it but we love it. It's good fun, you're always on your toes, it's an excellent working environment really."

The Wallingford to Cholsey Railway was initially intended to go much further but money ran out, so this line is only two and a half miles long. Nevertheless it carried travellers for nearly 100 years, until passenger services ceased in 1959.

Six years later, goods services stopped too. 

Since the 1980s, a preservation society has run the railway, restoring the track and getting trains up and running again 15 years ago.

Credit: ITV News Meridian

A key part of the work here is training young volunteers, who learn everything from signalling, to maintenance, to operating the trains. 16-year-old amy has been coming here for a year, and is already a dab hand in the cab.

16-year-old Amy Lester said: "I think it's really good, it's a way of getting out and not being stuck inside all the time, and being active, because there's a quite physical part of the job as well.

"So having that side of the job is good because you keep yourself going, it's motivating. And having all the guys down here, they push you to do all the things you want to do, and it's a really good place to be."

This younger generation's excitement is infectious, and makes the railway a place where knowledge and skills that could otherwise be lost, survive.