Isle of Wight Steam Railway:
A Day Trip from London

12 August 2007

Today we took a day trip to the Isle of Wight by railway and catamaran ferry for a ride on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway and just generally a day out. Despite some frustrations with ticketing and inaccurate information, the day went very smoothly and we had a good time.

The advice from the Isle of Wight Steam Railway's website was to buy an "Isle of Wight Steam Railway Day Rover" ticket from any staffed station in London and the South-East. Safely armed with the knowledge from the National Rail Enquiries website that the ticket office would be open from 0700, we went to get our ticket, only to be told that it wasn't, and the two men in the information office (apparently not open until 0900 according to NRE) were unable to sell us a ticket, nor were the four people on the platform: perhaps not the best distribution of labour. We therefore had to buy travelcards to get us to Waterloo, where we could buy the full ticket for the rest of the way. However, the queues at the ticket office at Waterloo were enormous, and so we decided to get a ticket from the ticket machine to Smallbrook Junction (on the Island Line) and get the steam railway ticket there. The ticket machine declined all knowledge of Smallbrook Junction, but did deign to sell us a ticket to Brading, the next stop on the line, thus adding further to the costs as we were now buying three tickets instead of one, and to a destination further than we wanted.

The train from Waterloo did, however, run reasonably to time, and we were at Portsmouth Harbour ready for our 1115 ferry.

The FastCat catamaran ferry service from Portsmouth Harbour station takes just 18 minutes to travel across to Ryde, much of that at a sedate pace in Portsmouth Harbour itself, but once out on the open water the throttle is opened and they travel at a great pace - according to the Wight Link website their passenger service speed is 34 knots (compared with 12.5 knots for the ordinary car ferry). Here we pass the other ferry on its way from the island.

There were lots of boats about, including this Dutch boat.

The passenger ferries disgorge their passengers at the end of the pier, from where the railway can take you to land (or you can walk). Sadly the railway is reduced from what was once four tracks on the pier - two for steam trains and two for an electric tramway - to just one in use. Here we look along the line of the railway (a disused line - that in use is under the canopy) to the town of Ryde.

The sea between the rusting rails.

Lucy waits for the train from Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin

Ryde and the hovercraft from Portsmouth

The Island Line train comes along the pier to meet us. The trains are refurbished former London Underground tube trains dating from 1938: these will continue in service until at least 2016, when they will be almost 80 years old.

Having taken the Island Line from Ryde Pier Head, we get off at Smallbrook Junction, the junction being with the steam railway. Stephen waits for the train from Havenstreet to arrive.

And here it comes, with the driver holding out the token for the signalman.

Arriving at the station, the locomotive is about to be uncoupled

And is now running round the train ready to take it back to Havestreet and on to Wootton.

The engine shed at Havenstreet

The locomotive runs round at Wootton at the western end of the line.

The signal box at Wootton.

At Havenstreet, and while some passengers continue on to Smallbrook, we disembark for lunch in Granny Winters Pantry.

After the main course, we cross the line to visit the shop and museum

The 1321 from Smallbrook Junction arrives at Havenstreet

One of the features of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway is the quality of the coaching stock

And it holds lots of people, too!

Traction engines crossed the railway, possibly arriving (very early) for the steam weekend on 24-27 August.

Looking down the line to Smallbrook Junction.

After a cream tea and ice-cream, it was time to get the train back to Smallbrook, here arriving from Wootton.

A very appropriately designed climbing frame.

Lucy at Smallbrook Junction as we watch the steam train getting ready to depart while we wait for the train from Shanklin.

The locomotive runs round, ready to make the 1511 departure.

From the original promenade pier, we look across the remains of the second pier which was originally a horse-drawn tramway and later converted to electric operation, to the third pier built for steam trains and now carrying the electric-powered ex-Underground stock, with the pier head station and the pavillion now the ferry waiting area, café and offices.
We got the 1533 from Smallbrook, a train that National Rail Enquiries denied existed, though fortunately the Island Line website had the correct timetable even if NRE didn't. We got off at Ryde Esplanade, and walked along the pier to the ferry terminal.

Looking across the Solent to Portsmouth, with the Spinnaker Tower prominent.

Looking back along the pier to Ryde

As the train we'd taken from Smallbrook returns towards Ryde, it will soon be time to catch our ferry back to Portsmouth and the rest of the journey back to London. The final inaccurate piece of information was as we pulled into Waterloo, the train manager advised us that the Victoria Line was closed all weekend, which was wrong - we'd used it this morning, and it had been closed only yesterday.

Despite the ticketing problems, and inaccurate information from National Rail Enquiries and South West Trains, it was a great day out, and even with 12 trains and ferries taken, all connections were made and everything ran to time.


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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson