It could be argued that the whole railway is a living, working museum! Over the years a collection has been built up of the smaller artefacts which all contribute to our understanding of the development of railways on the Isle of Wight.
Items may range from small uniform buttons to the large signs seen on station platforms. The many facets of railway operations are portrayed.
On display is a selection from the different railway companies of the cast iron chairs used to secure the rails to the sleepers, together with other items used in the construction and maintenance of the permanent way.
One should not forget that anybody travelling to or from the Island probably did so on a ferry operated by the railway and a selection of the chinaware from the golden age of paddle steamers can be admired.
For many the main attraction at the railway is the locomotives and on display are nameplates and maker’s plates from some of the earliest locomotives to run on the Island.
Also on show around the gallery are panels which describe the development and history of the Island’s railways, together with their decline and how they may be explored now that some of them have been converted into footpaths and cycleways.
In addition to the artefacts on display, the railway has archive and photographic collections and the displays are changed from time to time by taking materials from these valuable study resources.
The museum is located within a building of significant industrial archaeological interest - the former Haven Street gasworks retort house built by a local benefactor John Rylands and whose monogram above the entrance can be seen. Like all museums, regrettably only a proportion of the material held can be on display in the gallery at any one time, but, as mentioned at the beginning, we consider the whole railway to be a museum and so many items are in normal everyday use around the site.
During the past winter and spring the Gallery has undergone phase one of a much needed refurbishment. Environmental problems with the building have been addressed and redecoration has been carried out. Although now reopened, not all displays have yet been replaced and relabelling of the exhibits is gradually taking place. We ask for your forbearance as we continue to upgrade the displays.