Railways on the Isle of Wight (IOW) have shrunk from 55 miles in the sixties to about 13½ miles now. The railways on the IOW tended to be the poor relation of their neighbours on the English mainland. Hence, the IOW often became the repository of cast-offs from the railways on the mainland. This certainly happened with the steam railway; hence, the present heritage line - the IOW Steam Railway (IOWSR) - inherited Victorian and Edwardian rolling stock, which of course, nowadays, is much cherished and appreciated. Indeed, this very Victorian and Edwardian inheritance was a strong incentive for me to visit the IOWSR. Bank Holiday Monday seemed an appropriate choice, partly because of the more favourable railway time table compared to Tuesday and Wednesday, and partly because Osborne House, which I also wanted to visit, would probably be a tad quieter on a day other than Bank Holiday Monday.
At Smallbrook Junction, the engine runs around its train for the return journey to Wootton.
To put things in perspective, I hope you will allow me to give you a little bit of history. The first steam railway on the IOW was opened in 1862 and ran from Cowes to Newport. This was followed in 1864 by the Ryde St John's Road to Shanklin railway which turned out to be the most profitable of all the IOW railways. After 104 years' service, the Island's steam operated railways closed in 1966.
The IOW Steam Railway was reborn as a heritage line in 1971. In 1991 it achieved its present 5-mile length from Wootton via Havenstreet and Ashey to Smallbrook Junction; here there is an interchange with the 8½ mile electric "Island Line" from Ryde Pier to Shanklin.
IOW Railways: Steam Railway and electric Island Line
Axes(°): Longitude -1.25 to -1.05 and Latitude 50.62 to 50.76
Newport Bus Station is essentially the present day public transport hub of the IOW. I caught the number 7 bus, changing at Newport for the number 9 to Wootton. On the way, I took a few pictures from the bus. Before I left, I also took a few pictures of our hostel and its immediate surroundings.
This model boat in the hostel greeted us every morning,
as if to remind us that sailing is certainly very much part of the IOW scene.
The hostel is actually a privately owned Victorian house, ...
... but functions as part of the YHA organization.
The Catholic Church appears to have a strong presence on the IOW.
"Saint Saviours" is almost opposite the hostel and was built last century.
Its "campanile" gives the building an Italian flavour.
Here is Yarmouth marina. Today, the leisure industry, in the guise of sailing, predominates.
Freight comes and goes in a less visible form, in the lorries on the ferries.
On leaving Yarmouth, the road hugs the coast for a while,
before turning inland to Calbourne and Carisbrooke.
My first encounter with the IOWSR is its present western terminus at Wootton. The station, after its demolition by British Railways, was rebuilt by volunteers. And once I was on the platform, I could admire the result of their careful and diligent efforts. My first aim was to get an overall idea of the railway, by travelling the whole length from Wootton to Smallbrook Junction. Eventually, the steam-hauled train arrived. The vintage coaches, and the effort volunteers had put into them to bring history back to life, were indeed impressive.
Wootton Station is the present westernmost terminus of the IOWSR.
Nice sign, but not yet!
The ticket office is at hand and manned!
"Whisky", I think, is Scottish, and "Whiskey" is from elsewhere, So I am puzzled. Maybe it's because we have a "liqueur" and not the real "Whisky". Anyway, enough preoccupation with the names the producers of these alcoholic beverages think they should use.
Importantly, for my visit today, there is ...
... time to soak up ...
... the atmosphere of a time past ...
... before the train arrives.
It is headed by "Royal Engineer", one of two locos built in 1953 and eventually presented to the IOWSR by the Army. These were welcome and useful gifts the IOWSR could not refuse!
"Royal Engineer" runs around its train
All aboard! (This is NOT a "CLOGgie"!)
This is in a compartment of one of the several 4-wheel carriages.
When is the last time you travelled in one of these?
The IOWSR tried to match the original seating cloth. The new cloth seems to appear in most of their carriages.
In my humble way, I think the pattern is attractive and very much fit for purpose.
Maps and adverts of long ago embellish the compartment walls.
The "Southern" Railway was in charge on the IOW up to Nationalisation in 1948.
The IOW once boasted 55 miles of railway. There are tentative plans to restore the line to Newport (a good deal of the track bed still exists) and to let the IOWSR run into Ryde. Good for tourism, it is said, but as always, the finances must add up.
Havenstreet is the main base of the railway. Museums and workshops are based here.
I shall stop off here after my first return from Smallbrook Junction.
We are about to head east to Smallbrook Junction.
Finally we round the curve into Smallbrook Junction
The "Southern Railway" used this style of nameplate widely throughout its network.
It seems to be related to the "London Transport" logo.
The engine uncouples from its train, around which it is preparing to run.
In the background you can see the end of the line.
Who knows? Perhaps one day, running in to Ryde may become reality. This would give the IOWSR an immediate toe-hold in a larger centre of population.
Here are the engine's erstwhile military credentials.
Here's another view of Small Brook Junction Station. It was built after 1966, and only has access by rail. Its sole purpose is to provide an interchange with the electric "Island Line".
"Royal Engineer" is backing on to its train
in readiness for the return journey to Wootton via Havenstreet.
Once more into a vintage compartment in a vintage carriage.
Haven Street - the line's centre of operations - is where I take a longer break in order to nose around the "Train Story" museum and learn a bit more about the line's history. Of course, I also have the opportunity to see some more of the rolling stock.
Coming in to Havenstreet
It looks as if the driver is preparing to continue on to Wootton,
but he may have some other manoeuvres in mind, as two subsequent pictures seem to suggest.
The Victorian and Edwardian carriages are a pleasure to behold ...
... and are the envy of other heritage railways on the mainland.
Here is one of the LMS Ivatt-designed 2-6-2 tank engines, actually built post-nationalisation in 1952. These tank locos were originally destined to take over on the IOW from the older O2 class tank engines
, but Beeching had other ideas.
Here are two more views of "Royal Engineer" ...
... which may have been stocking up on coal and water before continuing to Wootton.
In "Train World" I see a classic IOW loco, a Stroudley 0-6-0T "Terrier" (A1X class), originally introduced by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR) in 1878.
This loco bears the number W11 and the IOW place name "Newport".
It was a custom to name IOW locos after towns and villages on the island.
Here is another view of W11 "Newport".
This is a Stroudley 0-6-0T class E1, the last of its class. The E1 class was originally introduced in 1874, similar in appearance to, but more powerful than, the A1X class. This loco will be numbered W2 "Yarmouth" and will be the subject of a lengthy and costly restoration, possibly taking several years. Once operational, it will be a useful addition to the IOWSR's locomotive stud.
Naming the engine "Yarmouth" will recreate an original E1 class loco scrapped in 1956. This will be in accordance with the wishes of the donor funding the restoration.
Here is another Stroudley A1X "Terrier", number W8 "Freshwater", built in 1876.
This engine has an attractive (well, I think so) Southern olive-green livery.
Diesel engines are not quite so romantic,
but can be started up quickly for maintenance and emergency duties.
"Royal Engineer" powers out of Havenstreet, with its train to Wootton.
Here the first carriage clearly shows
the fruit of the dedicated volunteer labour expended on its restoration.
Here is the line's second LMS Ivatt-designed 2-6-2 tank engine, of the same class as before
Another diesel ...
... and yet another diesel.
Here are "Calbourne" and the Ivatt 41298.
I asked one of the staff to let me in to the restricted area (Restricted? Health & Safety you know.) to get this shot of O2 class 0-4-4T "Calbourne". It was nice of him to be so obliging! In 1958 there were 19 of this O2 class on the IOW. After the end of steam in 1966, only this one dating back to 1891 survived, so it's looked after with loving care.
Havenstreet in the only station on the IOWSR where trains can pass each other.
Here's another shot of Ivatt 2-6-2T 41298.
Here comes the train for Wootton.
To try and capture things I had missed before and indeed to experience again the age of bygone travel be train, it seemed - having come to the IOWSR in the first place - appropriate to repeat the 5-mile journey west to east. As expected, I found several more aspects this second time around.
The sun illuminates the compartment in the 4-wheel carriage.
The train has in fact just arrived in Wootton from Havenstreet.
The engine has just run around its train. Shortly we shall return to Havenstreet and Smallbrook Junction. The station platform looks deserted because everyone has boarded the train.
We wend our way through the sunny countryside. Summer is coming!
Another look at the colourful upholstery!
Gradually getting closer to Smallbrook Junction.
We are almost there.
We have arrived!
Time to admire the vintage carriages on the curve.
Time-honoured ritual. Engine is uncoupled ...
... and runs around its train.
Most folks have boarded the train ...
... or have made for the Island Line.
As you see, this also has a strong vintage ingredient in the shape of its 1938 London tube cars - vehicles which have made it through the perilous years of WWII.
This is my final journey, to gather last minute impressions and pictures. I shall probably not have the opportunity to make a similar journey into the past any time soon. So why not, indeed, make the most of it! Time travel through a Vectis landscape in early Summer.
Victorian/Edwardian carriage compartment
We are ready to depart for Wootton ...
... but first you can see how to drive the engine!
Here's journey's end at Wootton.
Southern style lettering on the olive green Southern carriages.
Southern style lettering on the olive green Southern carriages.
The engine runs around its train.
The last train of the day will shortly depart for Wootton.
(The timetabling of this train made me decide on Monday Bank Holiday for my visit to the IOWSR.)
This was an interesting and educative visit for me to the Victorian and Edwardian eras as well as to the inter-war years. A day well spent on learning new things and on taking new pictures, some of which you see here. I hope, dear visitor to my website, that I have been able to share some of my interesting experiences with you and indeed that your visit to this web page was for you a visit well spent!