Sunday, 7 August 2016

Isle of Wight Electrics

It is difficult today to imagine steam locomotives on trains of up to 6 coaches on the pier at Ryde. On 10 July 2004 007, the first class 483 to be repainted into LUL colours approaches Ryde Pier Head.

As the summer holidays are now very much upon us many many peoples thoughts will be turning to their 
006 is seen at Ryde Eplanade on 06.05.28. To the right of
the photo is the Hoverport for services to Southsea. Being
able to watch both the trains on the pier and the Hovercraft
from this spot is a particular highlight of a trip to the Island.
summer get away and for rail fans what could be a better location than the beautiful Isle of Wight? I have been fortunate enough to have always had a connection with the Island and fondly remember waving to Network South East liveried class 483's disappearing into Ryde Tunnel with a hoot from the driver. As I have grown older the ex-London Underground class 483's became a staple of my trips to the Island and over time the attractive Network South East livery was replaced by the 'dinosaur' livery (which must be one of the worst colour schemes every to grace a train!) and finally the return of the trains to London Underground red. 

The current Island Line runs from Ryde Pier Head where it meets Fast Cat ferries to Portsmouth Harbour to Shanklin calling at intermediate stations of Ryde Esplanade, Ryde St Johns Road, Smallbrook Junction (for the Isle of Wight Steam Railway), Brading, Sandown and Lake. The line is a small remainder of a once extensive network of 55 1/2 miles of line which covered this small island. Build by the Isle of Wight Railway the route from Ryde St Johns Road to Shanklin was opened in 1864 with an extension to Ventnor in 1866. The extension to Ryde Pier Head following in 1880. 

A side view of the terrible 'dinosaur' livery on 008 as it travels between Brading and Sandown on 1st August 2007. The livery was intended to pay homage to the Islands reputation of the 'Dinosaur Isle' due to the high number of prehistoric skeletons found on its south coast.

With works on the pier structure very much in evidence
006 heads towards the Esplanade on 10.07.04.
After just shy of 100 years steam trains were removed from the Isle of Wight Railways in 1966, though by this time just a shadow of the former network remained. The 8 1/2 miles which would remain were to be electrified and supplied with former 1923 'standard' tube stock re-configured to run in 3 or 4 car formations as class 485 and 486. The ex-underground units were delivered in standard Rail Blue and given the southern designation 4VEC and 3TIS (a full formation making a 7VECTIS, Vectis being the Roman name for the Isle of Wight!). The units later received Blue/Grey livery before finishing their lives in NSE in the mid 1980's

One of the prettier stations on the route is Brading, where 
007 is seen on 10.07.04. The island platform is an obvious 
indicator that this station has seen busier times- until 1957 
this was the junction for the branch to Bembridge though 
passenger traffic ceased in 1953. 

The 'new' stock was replaced in 1992 with more second hand tube trains, this time of 1938 vintage. These were formed into two car class 483's which could run together as a 4 car set in times of peak demand. Nine trains were delivered to the island (with one further set as a spare). As of 2016 just 5 trains remain with: 004, 006, 007, 008 and 009 in service with 002 also stored on the Island. The stock which is more than 75 years old is now nearing the end of it's useful life and it is likely that a decision will have to be made on the line's future within the next decade. Various options exist from replacing the current trains, converting the route into a tramway, or potentially closing the railway altogether.

009 nears Brading on 07.08.01.

As well as the regular electric trains steam services operate on the 5 1/2 mile former Isle of Wight Central railway route from Smallbrook Junction to Wooton operated by the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. This is a delightful railway to travel on with traditional Island engines and coaches and is well worth a visit.

All of the Island Line trains are maintained at Ryde St Johns
 Road depot where 006 and 004 are seen in 'dinosaur' days 
on 1st August 2007.

W11 'Freshwater' one of the two Terriers of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway is seen between Ashey and Havenstreet on 10th April 2007. 

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