Chief Executive Officer – The Watercress Line

Job Title: Chief Executive Officer
Salary: £75,000
Location: Watercress Line Heritage Railway Trust Limited, The Railway Station, Alresford, SO24 9JG
Closing date: 12:00 am 30 November 2023

The Watercress Line is a heritage railway preserving the skills of operating and maintaining a steam railway and its fleet, operated by award-winning volunteers, and supported by paid staff; delighting visitors along ten miles of beautiful Hampshire countryside for the last 50 years.   We are looking to recruit a Chief Executive Officer to continue with this great work, educating and inspiring everyone along the way.

The CEO role combines strong business leadership with the sensitivity to work with the volunteers that support the railway.  It requires charismatic fundraising ability, supporting the Chair of Trustees and the fundraising ambassadors to raise the profile and fundraising reach of the Trust.

As the CEO, your role and responsibilities will be:

  • Leading the organisation through a landscape of change. The heritage rail sector has seen a shift in demographics and behaviours that affects it throughout its audience and volunteering business models.
  • Helping the organisation to pivot towards an experience model of operating, building on the huge success of products such as the ‘Steam Illuminations’ and making the most of the destinations and partnerships in our area.
  • Raising funds in one of the wealthiest parts of the UK, with a lively membership and an emerging network of ambassadors recruited through the launch of Canadian Pacific, a 4-6-2 Merchant Navy Class locomotive, in the early part of 2024.
  • Championing volunteering and build in the work of the Volunteer Steering Group to welcome new volunteers into new roles across the railway, building on the existing bank of 450 volunteers.
  • Leading the Watercress Line’s modernisation in business transparency and digital skills, helping to envelop our living museum in a cocoon of modern excellence.
  • Managing a railway of partnerships and networks supporting a fleet of 23 steam and diesel locomotives, 42 carriages, 88 Vans and wagons, and 3 steam cranes. You will support an engineering and operational resource of expert staff and volunteers to meet and maintain the highest standards of safety and efficiency.
  • Responsible for ten miles of ‘Permanent Way’ railway track, sidings, four heritage stations and will plan for their upkeep.
  • Helping to develop a positive and inclusive culture, welcoming, supporting, training and valuing staff and volunteers.
  • There will be a strong focus on strict cost control and sales activity to ensure that targets are met while the Railway moves out of its post-Covid challenges and into a more sustainable future.

Skills and Experience Required:

  • Finances across the heritage rail sector are extremely tight so our CEO will be financially astute and able to work to tight budgets with a high level of financial competence and acumen. Able to understand fully and manage business financial matters.
  • Successful leadership in the management of a business operation, delivered in an open and transparent manner.
  • Commercially aware, with an understanding of what makes a successful tourist business, with the ability to understand customer needs and translate these into marketing strategies and plans.
  • An understanding of the obligations arising from Health & Safety legislation and how to apply these and other industry requirements in a transport and engineering environment. Capable of identifying and evaluating issues affecting Health and Safety, including risk techniques, to determine policy and actions.
  • Capable of shaping, gaining support for and delivering a programme of cultural and organisational change.
  • Experience of the management of volunteers alongside staff with volunteering experience at an appropriate level gained from working in a public-focussed Heritage/Tourism environment.
  • Has, or is able to obtain, a sufficient knowledge of the rail industry to enable productive links with partners, regulatory bodies and other agencies
  • Excellent interpersonal skills, able to inspire and motivate a diverse team of individuals
  • Excellent influencing and negotiating skills developed at a senior level
  • Articulate and engaging communicator
  • Confident with the press and publicity including TV, radio and other media
  • Accuracy, attention to detail and the ability and drive to complete and finish tasks
  • Excellent networking skills, developed in a range of settings

Location            Hampshire, across 4 stations, Alton to Alresford, with a base in Alresford.

Salary                £75,000 – £85,000 per annum plus benefits 

About Us

The Watercress Line is managed by Mid-Hants Railway Ltd, a company that holds the authority to operate the line and owns the land.  It is supported by the Watercress Line Heritage Railway Trust, a charity.  Both the company and the charity own assets that work on the railway, along with a wide range of partners.   There is a membership of 3500 Watercress Line members who participate in the governance of the charity; and 3500 shareholders of MHR Ltd.  The Trust Board appoints the Directors of MHR Ltd.

The Watercress Line is a not-for-profit organisation funded predominantly from its train operating revenues, with funds raised from individuals, legacies, and grants.

How to apply

Please send your application FAO Watercress Line to