Friday, 6 September 2013
Isle of Wight Steam Railway, IW, United Kingdom
The Isle of Wight Steam Railway passes through five miles of unspoiled Island countryside between Wootton, Havenstreet, Ashey and Smallbrook, recapturing the days of the branch line railway. Brought to life again are those perky tank engines and quaint, wooden-bodied carriages which were once such a familiar sight when, up until the 1950’s, the Island boasted some 55 miles of railway lines connecting the Island’s towns and villages … But it's not just the trains that are preserved, for here too is all the associated infrastructure, from traditional operating practices and equipment through to old railway buildings recovered from long-closed lines.
For more than a century the Island’s railways operated with near life expired locomotives and carriages sent over from mainland railways. As a result the Island became a repository for a magnificent collection of 19th and 20th century steam locomotives and carriages. After extensive and skilful restoration, a number of these vehicles are again back in service with the IW Steam Railway.
Operated by a dedicated team of volunteers backed by a full-time workforce of twenty, the Railway has received several prestigious awards including ‘Independent Railway of the Year’ on no less than three occasions, despite fierce competition from a hundred or so other preserved railways throughout the country. Film and television crews have used the line extensively for programmes ranging from period dramas to documentaries.
It took its first tentative steps into operation in 1971 at the then semi-derelict Havenstreet Station on the former Ryde to Newport line. For 20 years the Railway operated a mile and a half section of this line from Havenstreet to Wootton, but in 1991 opened its three and a half mile extension to Ashey and Smallbrook Junction. The IW Steam Railway is unique in offering travel exclusively in wooden-bodied Victorian and Edwardian carriages all of which formerly ran on the Island system. It offers a rare chance to experience branch line travel not just of yesterday ... but also of the day before that!
Pictured here is steam loco no 11 "Newport" at Wootton Station.