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
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
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
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
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.