Picture by Ben Brookbank from wikipedia commons

In the current OS style map you can see course of the branch line still there but today, like many former railways, it is a footpath



There were originally four separate railways on the island shown in the map below, all being merged into the Southern Railway in 1923. The section between Ryde Pier Head and Shanklin currently remains open run as the Island Line, within the South Western Franchise.


The line from Smallbrook Junction to Wootton is run by the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.


Ongoing is the decision making process regarding what to do with the Island Line, which needs to be factored in to the current Franchise bidding process.


It is forecast to take £40 million to keep the line running over the next three years. The infrastructure is in an extremely poor state. It has been reported that the three electrical substations that are supposed to produce the 600 volt DC power supply along the line have at times been down to a tad over half this, affecting train running speeds and reliability.


Add to this the fact that the former London Underground rolling stock is now between 82 and 93 years old and cannibalisation of units for parts is reducing the number of units available.


The RRA says that it is insulting to the Island and its people to be proposing yet another hand-me-down solution, such as UK Tram's Geoff Inskip, who it seems was trying to do his former employers a favour by recommending the use of the recently replaced Midland Metro tram stock. We say that the Islands economy could be revitalised by installing a bespoke Ultra Light Rail solution, possibly similar to Stourbridge in the West Midlands, negating the need for electrical power feeds such as third rails or overhead wires (which incidentally might be felt to ruin the Islands beautiful scenery) therefore reducing the cost by around 40%. Visitors would definately make riding a unique rail system part of their Island experience, and would draw onto the island rail specific tourism.


If the bidding rules follow those of the Northern Franchise, necessitating at least two lines being converted to cheaper, greener technologies by the end of the new franchise period, from their own finances, then any company bidding would surely be looking at loosing this lines £40 million black hole in profits the Island line currently constitutes. No wonder only two companies are bidding for it.


Read the Report into the future of Island Line yourself and decide if you need to respond

Read the RRA's thoughts on the Garnnett Report

The Isle of Wight Railway



Being the second railway to be begin operating on the island it was opened in stages but never wholey owned by the company. It stretched 14 miles (22.5 km) south from Ryde St John's to Ventnor. The first portion of line, between Sandown and St Johns Road station in Ryde was opened in 1864. The second section from Sandown to Ventnor having been delayed due to objection from the landowner, the Earl of Yarborough, who forced a diversion through Boniface Down Tunnel; the extension to Ventnor opening in 1866


An additional branch line from Brading to Bembridge was added, opening in 1882. Following the River Yar as far as the village of St Helens, then proceding along the harbour causeway to its final stop in Bembridge.


Because of lack of space at the station at Bembridge a small turntable was used as a sector plate instead of points to allow locomotives to get access to the run-round loop A similar system was used briefly at Shanklin when it was the terminus, and then for many years at Ventnor after the main line was extended.


In 1875 the Isle of Wight Central Railway (IWCR) opened lines from Smallbrook Junction and Sandown towards Newport, which provided connections with the IWR's services. The Smallbrook to Wooten section now being preserved by the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.


A rail freight ferry link between the Bembridge branch line at St Helens quay and the Hayling Island Branch line at Langstone started in 1884. To provide this link the rail ferry PS Carrier was moved from Scotland. The project was unsuccessful and the service ended in 1888, despite having been acquired by the LB&SCR in 1886 by the Isle of Wight Marine Transit Company .


In 1888 a route was engineered by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) creating an additional 0.75 miles (1.2 km) of line from St John's Road to Ryde Esplanade. Then a year later the final 0.5 miles (0.8 km) from there to Ryde Pier Head. This section was built and owned jointly by the LB&SCR and the London and South Western Railway.Trains along the line were operated for them by the IWR and IWCR.


The IWR was the most successful railway company on the Isle of Wight, with heavy summer passenger traffic from the mainland. Special express trains were run from Ryde to Ventnor in order to transport arriving patients of the Royal National Hospital for Diseases of the Chest. The railway also carried significant freight traffic, particularly to the large harbour at Bembridge and coal merchants in the caves at Ventnor.


From Grouping in 1923 until electrification of the remaining line in 1967, trains on the island's rail network were operated by the former Southern Railway's fleet of steam locomotives and antique carriages, many of which survive at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. Most of these locomotives came from mainland railway companies, especially the London & South Western Railway and London, Brighton and South Coast Railway.


Only one of the Isle of Wight Railway's carriages is in use on the island as of March 2009. Ex-North London Railway No. 46 was built as a 4-compartment first class carriage around 1864. Purchased by the IWR in December 1897 although not arriving until the following year. One compartment was downgraded to third class for its IWR service. The 4-wheel, second-hand and composite nature of the vehicle was typical of the coaches used by the railway.


Double track originally went from Ryde Pier Head to Ryde St. Johns, with a summer time extension to Smallbrook Junction.


Under the Railways Act 1921 the new Southern Railway took over all railways on the Isle of Wight. The IWR became part of the Southern on 1 January 1923. During the 20th century the main line was increased to double track between Brading and Sandown.[10] Despite the Island's popularity as a holiday resort after World War II, British Railways closed the Bembridge branch in the 1950s and the Shanklin - Ventnor part of the IWR main line in 1966.


At its peak the Isle of Wight had 36 railway stations and a complex 54 mile rail network. The first section of railway to open was between Cowes and Newport. The Isle of Wight Railway Company (IWR) started the service between Ryde St. John’s and Shanklin on 23rd August 1864.The line continuing onto Wroxall and Ventnor, which was only 4 miles in length took a further 2 years to complete due to landowner opposition and a 1,312 yard tunnel construction through St. Boniface Down.

At this time the east coast of the Island was fast developing a reputation for beautiful seaside resorts and the service was a success. Between 1882 and 1900 the Island network was developed extensively with IWR adding a branch line from Brading to Bembridge and other railway companies developing lines around the capital, Newport, and in stages from Newport to Ryde (1875), to Sandown (1875-1880) and Freshwater (1889). Merstone Junction and Ventnor Town (Ventnor West) were added between 1897 and 1900.

Ventnor West Station


It was in 1880 when Ryde St. John’s was linked to meet the Portsmouth ferries at Ryde Pier Head. The service has been provided by horse drawn tramway until the London & South Western and London, Brighton & South Coast Railways joined forces to build the new railway pier head and double track railway.

It was in 1923 that all the railways on the Island were amalgamated as part of Southern Railways. In the summer months the railway was hugely popular despite the advance of the motor car. During this period Southern Railway exploited the Island network to its full potential which included doubling the track between Brading and Sandown.

Nationalised railway began in 1948 and cutbacks to the Island network started in 1952 with the closure of Ventnor West. In 1953 lines to Freshwater and Bembridge were axed and in 1956 the lines between Newport and Sandown were closed.

Freshwater Station 1953


In 1964 there were proposals to close the remaining Island routes, Ryde-Newport-Cowes and Ryde-Shanklin-Ventnor. The fight to save these routes in the 1960’s became one of the most celebrated railway closure battles. The battle was unsuccessful in saving the line between Ryde-Newport-Cowes which closed in February 1966 and the line between Shanklin and Ventnor which closed in April 1966. The 8.25 miles of track between Ryde Pier Head and Shanklin ran steam trains until the end of 1966 when the Southern Region of British Rail electrified the line and began running refurbished former London Underground trains.

Ryde Esplanade


Since the 1960’s the line has been improved with the addition of a station at Lake in 1987 and a link to the Steam Railway, which reopened the route Wootton-Havenstreet-Ashey-Smallbrook, at Smallbrook Junction in 1991. Shanklin Railway Station was made a Grade II listed building by English Heritage in 1992 and the second platform has been transformed into a flower garden sponsored by Shanklin Hotel & Accommodation Association and maintained by the Green Towns Project. Today there are 2 trains an hour in and out of Shanklin Railway Station providing a valuable transport route for local residents and visitors. The line from Ryde to Shanklin was electrified in 1967. In 1987 a new station was opened at Lake. It is between Sandown and Shanklin, on the site of a halt that existed earlier in the 20th century. In 1991 another new station was opened at Smallbrook Junction. It provides a connection with the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, a heritage line operating part of the former IWCR between Smallbrook Junction and Wootton.


Passenger services on the surviving part of the IWR are now operated by Island Line Trains, part of South West Trains.




Situated at the end of the town's pier, it is adjacent to the terminal for the Wightlink fast catamaran service connecting the island with Portsmouth on the mainland. Passengers can use this to connect with the rest of the National Rail network at Portsmouth Harbour station, which is adjacent to the Portsmouth terminal. Through rail tickets for travel via Pier Head station are available to and from other stations on the Isle of Wight. These include travel on the catamaran service to or from Portsmouth as appropriate.


Trains run down the eastern coast of the Isle of Wight to Shanklin (the Island Line), the last remnant of a network of railways on the island. Because of the restricted loading gauge, particularly through the tunnel under Ryde, services are operated by Class 483s (Former London Underground 1938 Stock).


In 1880 the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) and London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR) agreed to open a jointly-owned line north from Ryde St John's Road. Under the direction of LBSCR Chief Engineer Frederick Banister,[2] the construction of the extension included a new tunnel and a third Ryde Pier to enable the line to reach a new station at Ryde Pier Head, which provided a connection with the companies' ferry services.


When the LBSC/LSWR joint line opened, it was as a double track section from Ryde St John's Road station through to Ryde Pier Head. There was a scissors crossover situated on Ryde Pier to allow trains to access all platforms. Sets of crossovers were installed at St John's Road to enable trains to change from the joint line's left-hand running to the single-track sections on the Isle of Wight Central Railway's Newport line and the Isle of Wight Railway's Shanklin line (now known as the Island Line).


The station originally consisted of three platforms in the form of a pair of islands; a fourth track was added later, opening in 1933. The station was rebuilt on electrification of the remaining line in 1967, and the new layout consisted of two tracks with three platform faces. One of these tracks is now out of use, so only one platform currently operates. This is the track which runs along the western side of the pier; a double track section commences immediately to the south of Ryde Esplanade railway station.




The station serves the town of Ryde on the Isle of Wight, and forms part of the Ryde Transport Interchange. Located on the sea front, it is the most convenient station for the majority of the town. Ryde Esplanade is also the location of the principal ticket office and all lost property facilities for the Island Line. The larger St John's Road station houses the area office and is next to Ryde depot, where all in-house maintenance for the line takes place.


A station has existed on the site since 29 August 1864, when a horse-drawn tram service began operation along the new Ryde Pier. This service, and the line it ran along, pre-dates both the railway line and the current facilities on the site. The tramway was extended to St John's Road in August 1871, but in 1880 this service was replaced by the railway line and current station. The station was originally known as Pier Gate. Trams continued running under various power sources until after the Grouping of Britain's railways in 1923, right up to January 1969.[2] The tram lines and the remaining terminus platforms for them are still visible at the western end of platform 1.



There are two tracks through the station, and therefore two platform faces. The southern platform 1 is used for all regular passenger services, meaning that on departure trains may run in either direction. Platform 2 has previously been used for additional shuttle trains from the Esplanade to the Pier Head, but has fallen into disuse. Part of this second platform was due to be demolished in March 2007 under a separate Network Rail project.[3] Access between the two platforms was by means of a subway. This subway is no longer open to the public and is regularly flooded to a depth of several metres. There is a canopy over platform one, while platform two has a simple shelter over the subway entrance. All passenger facilities, including the ticket office and access to Ryde bus station, are found next to platform one on the south side of the site.





The station is 1.25 mi (2 km) south of Ryde Pier Head—the Island Line's northern terminus. When the station opened in 1864,[citation needed] it was known as Ryde railway station, as it was the northern terminus of the Isle of Wight Railway at the time. Rather than a railway, a tramway continued northwards to where the current Ryde Pier Head railway station stands; the railway was extended to Ryde Pier in 1880.


Adjacent to the railway station is Ryde depot: the Island Line's traction maintenance depot, where the maintenance and storage of the Island Line's Class 483 trains takes place. Since 1989, signalling for the Island Line has been centralised to the station's signal box.


Future developments

It has been suggested that the Isle of Wight Steam Railway might be extended from Smallbrook Junction to Ryde St John's Road in the future,[citation needed] but there are currently no official proposals.





Opened in 1991 the station here is unusual because it has no public access but was built purely to provide a connection between the Island line and the Isle of Wight Steam Railway when it was extended to reach the former junction between The Isle of Wight Railway and Wight Central Railway starting from Newport. Both companies ran their services through to Ryde Pier Head.


If the Isle of Wight Steam Railway achieves its long term aim of extending to Ryde St. Johns Road, it is likely that Smallbrook Junction station would close


In October 2000, flooding near the station washed away much of the track ballast on the Island Line. Due to the dangerous state of the line, and the damage caused to trains by related flooding at Ryde depot, Island Line Trains had to suspend their services for several days.


Similar events occurred in December 2013, closing the line for many weeks.



opened in 1864 by the Isle of Wight Railway on the Ryde-Shanklin-Ventnor line. In 1882 it became a junction station, when the Brading-Bembridge branch line as part of the Brading Haven reclamation scheme. The branch line closed to passengers in 1953 and completely in 1957.


Under Southern Railway ownership, the passing loop was extended southwards from Brading to Sandown in 1927, forming a second section of double track on the Island Line.

By the early 1980s Brading was one of the last stations on British Rail to retain gas lighting. In 1985 this changed; although the fittings were retained, they were converted from gas to mercury vapour usage. A few survive in 2010, now using compact fluorescent bulbs.


Brading signalbox closed on 28 October 1988. At this time, the passing loop at Brading station was removed, meaning that only one platform remained in use. This meant the end of 30-minute interval service on the line for over 25 years.[2] By 1998 the signal box and branch platforms were very overgrown and the buildings were threatened with demolition.[citation needed] Brading Town Council stepped in and with the help of grants and volunteers the restored signal box and station buildings are home to a heritage centre, museum and Tourist Information Point.


In August 2007 Brading Town Council announced a plan to revamp the exterior of the station buildings and former signal box.[3] The station building houses a café, visitors' centre and bike hire shop. There is no railway staff presence at the station, tickets are issued from an automatic machine or from the guard on board the train. Trains for both directions leave from the same platform, as the line is presently single track.


In an online discussion, South West Trains' Managing Director Stewart Palmer stated that the company hoped Network Rail might reinstate the passing loop at Brading station by the middle of 2014, although the exact timescale depends on the line's resignalling.

In this 1961 OS map you can see the branch line still there but marked disused being closed fully in 1857




opened iSandown station is a double platform-faced through station. However, from the mid 19th until the mid 20th century it was a junction station, also served by trains to and from Horringford, Merstone, Newport and Cowes. These lines used to be run by separate companies, the Isle of Wight Railway (Ryde-Ventnor) and the Isle of Wight Central Railway (Newport-Sandown).


The adjacent land, which used to be occupied by coal-yards, is now a housing estate and the former Terminus Hotel pub opposite has long been a private house. The line from Ryde to Shanklin was constructed between 1862 and 1864, and opened to passenger traffic on 23 August 1864. The original station building was extended between 1870 and 1871 through the addition of a two-storey extension to act as station offices.


In 1923, with the Grouping, came the formation of the Southern Railway. This brought all the railway services on the island under one management, and considerable modernisation. At first, it did not affect the services offered, but eventually the line from Ryde gained a more frequent service whilst the Merstone line declined. One particular feature of the Merstone line was the School Train, which was subsidised by the local authority, and for a significant time meant that the line remained viable. When the line was closed, children from outlying villages going to the Sandown Schools were then transported by bus, the current situation.


The present level of service is normally two trains per hour (tph) each way, which must pass at Sandown. However, due to the reduced trackwork at Brading, the frequency does not produce a predictable 30-minute service. Instead, in common with the rest of Island Line, trains run separated by a 20 or 40 minute gap.



Lake railway station is a station on the Isle of Wight serving the village of Lake. Until the construction of an interchange station with the Isle of Wight Steam Railway at Smallbrook Junction in 1991, this station was the newest on the island having opened by British Rail in 1987. The Station is formed of only a single wooden platform with a shelter.



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