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What’s happening at the Railway?

What’s happening at the Railway?

What’s happening at the Railway? 2560 1153 Isle of Wight Steam Railway

We may not be open to the public, however there’s lots of activity around the Railway as we get ready for the 2023 season.

New Track laid

Each year we relay a section of track as part of our rolling programme of renewals. Our intrepid track gang have been out in all weathers replacing the track immediately to the east of Havenstreet station. We’re using brand new bullhead rail – these come in 60ft lengths which cost around £1,000 each.

A tamper will visit the line in late February – this specialist self-propelled vehicle will travel along the line, carefully packing the ballast under the track. This should restore the track to its correct line and level, resulting in a smoother ride for our passengers. In preparation our team is busy replacing wooden sleepers and delivering 15 lorry loads of ballast to strategic locations along the line.

Waggoner Overhaul

The overhaul of Hunslet ‘Austerity 192 Waggoner continues to make good progress. In mid-January the cab and chimney were lifted into position, and the team are now busy adding the pipework and fittings, and completing the painting. There’s still work to do, however the finishing line is in sight and we’re looking forward to seeing Waggoner in action during the 2023 season.

The pictures also show two of the Railway’s newest acquisitions which are making light work of the many heavy jobs around the railway. Our JCB telehandler is seen here lifting the chimney into position. On the right is our Komatsu road-rail vehicle which was used to lift the cab into place. This has been busy with our track gangs where it has made a big difference to teams replacing sleepers. One curious feature is its method of propulsion, with the road wheels turning the smaller rail wheels – its therefore driven forward when on the road, and in reverse when on the track!

Signal Box Repairs

During 2022 extensive work was undertaken on the station building at Havenstreet. After nearly 100 years of use the building was starting to show its age, and needed a new roof, repairs to the front wall, and a major repaint. One job that we couldn’t tackle at the time was the signal box ceiling. Having safely removed the old asbestos ceiling, we operated for most of the 2022 season with a temporary blue plastic sheet to protect the machinery below. This Winter, a gap in passenger services has allowed contractors to add the new lime plaster ceiling. Following a re-paint, our signal box will once again look as it did when it opened in 1926.

100 Years of the Southern Railway

Our Heritage & Learning team have been busy preparing for a year of celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the Southern Railway, which came into being on 1 January 1923.

The Southern Railway era only lasted 25 years, with most of last decade hampered by war and post-war austerity. During its heyday in the 1920s and 30s, the Southern had a transformative impact on the Island’s rail system. Recognising the need to replace outdated rolling stock, the Southern brought over new locomotives and carriages. These included 23 members of the O2 class which were to become synonymous with the Island, of which our own W24 Calbourne is the sole survivor. Victorian 4-wheeled carriages were replaced with newer bogie coaches cascaded from the mainland.

Look out for our exhibition around Havenstreet station, and a Southern Railway themed Spring Gala.

Drewry Railcar trailer

Drewry Railcar 2, formerly of the Ryde Pier Tramway has been a popular addition to the Railway with passengers greatly appreciating the superb views it offers up and down the line. The plan is for it to be used on more days in 2023, adding extra journeys for special events, and giving visitors extra opportunities for another ride. One of its limitations, however is its capacity of only 20 people and lack of wheelchair access.

Work has now started on construction of a replica trailer car, enabling the railcar to operate a 2-car unit as it did on Ryde Pier. The metal underframe has already been completed by Alan Keef Ltd, and the wooden frame for the body is now being built by local boatbuilders Clare Lallow Ltd. Final glazing and painting will then be finished in-house by our own team. Look out for the trailer car being assembled at Havenstreet this Summer.

Carriage & Wagon Restorations

Carriage 4168 is in the workshop for a re-paint and re-varnish. The team are also using the opportunity to adjust a number of the ‘sticky’ doors. The plan is for carriage 2403 to follow it into the workshop for roof repairs. On the other side of the workshop, work continues on the longer-term restoration of LCDR carriage 4115 – this now has all the floor in place, plus 8 or the 16 doors.

Outside, volunteers have started to re-assemble the ex-Midland Railway crane. This veteran, dating from the 1860s, has a long history on the Island, and was saved for preservation in the late 1960s. In the early days of the steam railway, the crane was used for work on the line and at Wootton station. Now gracefully retired, the crane will become a key exhibit inside our Train Story Discovery Centre.

What else is happening?

  • Our Estates Team are busy around Havenstreet station with gardens being tidied, picnic benches being painted, and additional drainage being dug beside the Events Field
  • At Smallbrook Junction the team replaced numerous platform boards in November. Work is now underway on the platform canopy.
  • The Refreshment Rooms look much smarter following a repaint – look out for the relief map of the Island’s railways, which is now on display.
  • Our Wootton group have been busy at our western terminus, tidying the station and working on the landscaping.
  • We’re fitting new LED lighting in the shop – creating a better experience for our customers, and reducing our electricity bills too!