Isle of Wight


map by Peter Richards

The Isle of Wight was one of those places in Britain that were by-passed by the age of "Railway Mania", despite the populous lobbying for a line. In 1852 a meeting was convened in Newport to press the cause for one to be built but powerful landowning interests, as so often on the mainland, managed to muster much support opposing the proposals. A Bill did reach Parliament butfailed to gain the support necessary and died.

02 class W27 leaves Shanklin station and moves on to the single line to Sandown on a Ventnor - Ryde train in 1963. Trains invariably ran smokebox first on outward services from Ryde and bunker first on return.

photograph by Keith Harwood

Not to be deterred, further attempts were made and in 1862 the first line, the Cowes & Newport Railway, opened between those two towns. The Isle of Wight Railway opened from Ryde to Shanklin in 1864 and on to Ventnor in 1866, then opened a branch from Brading to Bembridge Harbour in 1882. The isolated C&NR was connected to the rest of the system when the Ryde & Newport Railway arrived in 1875, having left the IoWR at Smallbrook Junction (no station) and travelled west to Newport via Haven Street. These latter two companies merged to form the Isle of Wight Central Railway in 1877, which also included the virtually bankrupt Isle of Wight (Newport Junction) Railway that was promoted from Newport, via Merstone, to Sandown on the IWR. During 1888/9 the Freshwater, Yarmouth & Newport Railway opened and was worked until 1913 by the IWCR, after which date it worked the line itself. The FY&NR had grand schemes for a tunnel under the Solent to the mainland, but all it managed was a ferry connection at Yarmouth!
Pier A typical Island train. O2 class Nº24 Calbourne with a train of old rolling stock long retired from mainland duties.

photograph by Mike Morant

The connection at Ryde (the main entry point) between the ferry from Portsmouth and the Railway station was either a long walk or an inadequate horse, later electric, petrol and finally diesel, tram ride the length of Ryde Pier, something that caused extreme annoyance to the LB&SCR and the LSWR, providers of the mainland trains to Portsmouth. The trams were two pairs of four wheel cars. In 1880 the LBSC and LSW took matters into their own hands and built a joint line, worked by the IWR and the IWCR, from Ryde Pierhead to an end-on connection with the IWR station. The tramway closed in 1969. Finally, in 1900 the IWCR opened a branch from Merstone to Ventnor West where the station's siting, being more convenient for the town than the IWR's station high above it, did not lead to capturing much traffic from the rival route. The island, just 24 miles by 14, now had some 56 miles of standard gauge railway operated by three independent companies, plus the two mainland companies along the pier.
On a clear winter's day in 1963, 02 class W28 climbs slowly towards Sandown on the double track section from Brading. This was one of only two double track sections on the IOW system (the other was from Ryde Pier Head to Smallbrook Junction, during the summer months).

photograph by Keith Harwood

W30 Nameplate All the locos that worked on the Island during Southern and British Railways days continued the practice of most of the original railways and were named after places on the island. Here is the nameplate from W30 Shorwell photographed during BR days.

photograph: Mike Morant collection


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IoW Page 2 | Ashey | Brading | Cowes | Haven Street | Mill Hill | Newport | Ryde | Ryde MPD | Ryde Pier | Shanklin | Ventnor | Wroxall

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This page was last updated 14 April 2003

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