Note: 22 May 2010. Since writing this article the slam-door units have been withdrawn from service and are being preserved.
They have been replaced by a two-car class 158 diesel unit from Mondays to Fridays, and a four-car class 450 Desiro electric unit at weekends and on public holidays. Back in 2006 I wrote:
It is easy to be cynical about South West Train's decision to re-brand the Brockenhurst to Lymington branch as a Heritage Line and to see it as no more than a marketing exercise and excuse to run time-expired rolling stock. After all, 'sentimental' is probably not the first word that springs to mind when most people think of Brian Souter and Stagecoach, the owners of SWT.
That said, it is good to know that somewhere on the network the old slam-door 4 CIGs (or 3 CIGs as I suppose we should call them, now they've been reduced in length) are still strutting their funky stuff. There are two sets: one in British Rail blue livery, the other in Southern Region green.
I found it surprisingly nostalgic riding the green train, given that only a few years before slam-door trains were the mainstay of the south of England's railway services.
The only disappointment was that they hadn't restored the Southern Region wooden interior; it was still British Rail Formica and aluminium. Still you can't have everything.
Even without the old trains, there is always something enchanting about a rural branch line, and the short stretch between Lymington Town and the Pier offers some fine views over the harbour.