Isle of Wight, England

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Isle of Wight Island Line train at Ryde Pier Head. Photo by Simon Billis, January 2000.


The Island Line runs between Ryde and Shanklin on the Isle of Wight. This small island sits about four miles off the coast of Hampshire in England. The line is unique in that it uses ex London Transport 1938 tube stock.

The 8.5 mile line provides an arterial link along the East Coast of the Island linking the two main centres of population. Connecting with the ferry to Portsmouth it also provides a link with the mainland.

There are plans for upgrading the signalling and for re-painting the trains, one of which will be restored to former LT colours for all enthusiasts to enjoy.

We shall start our tour having just got off the Fast Catamaran service from Portsmouth. We travelled to Portsmouth in a Class 423 electric multiple unit. As usual the weather is not too kind. Just across from the Ferry terminal we see our 38 stock unit at Ryde Pier station, lights welcoming. The doors can be opened and closed by passengers and luckily the previous passengers have closed them and the cars are warm and cozy. The driver spots our cameras and asks if we would like a look round the rather spartan cab of which he is rightly proud.

The first quarter mile of the journey is across the water on elevated tracks as we travel the short distance to Ryde Esplanade station. This station serves the town of Ryde. It is hard to believe on this cold wet winters day that in the summer time the place is swarming with holidaymakers. The station has retained its canopy but like others on the line has weathered in the harsh saline environment.

We trace a route around the back of the town and then dive into the darkness of Ryde Esplanade tunnel. It is due to the gauge of this tunnel that non standard stock has to be used, ex LT tube stock fits the bill perfectly. The first tube stock used was pre 38 standards, first introduced in 1967 the present 38s starting their twilight years on the island in 1990. The units are wired so that the return current runs through the running rails rather than the centre fourth rail employed by The Underground.

Ryde St. Johns is where the main workshops are and maintenance is carried out. A river runs past the sheds and occasionally floods the site. On the opposite side of the lines and just outside the station is a yard where several surplus units reside. Having been stripped of useful parts, these Londoners await their fate, quietly rusting away, never to run again. The station retains three platforms, one is which is used for stabling. The large canopies dwarf the tube size stock. The station has the air of a main line station which is contrasted by the size of the rolling stock.

As we pull away, the line takes on the distinctly rural character of a small branch line as the track goes single and we pick up speed to the lines maximum of 40 mph. We cruise through Smallbrook Junction which is the connection point with the Isle of Wight Steam Railway (restricted opening). The sound of the screaming traction motors gives way to that of compressed air as we slow for the station at Brading.

A smart station stop and we are on our way again to Sandown, the passing place on the single line track. With raining coming down like stair rods a snatched picture from the train window including bystanders is all we dare take. After a short wait to allow the other train to pass we are on our way again towards Shanklin. Lake station which is barely a platform, is the penultimate stop before the end of the line.

The last station provides transport for the inhabitants of Shanklin as well as bus connections from other parts of the island. A small refreshment room and toilets are comfort for the weary traveller waiting for the train back to Ryde.

As of August, 2014, six sets of 1938 stock remain on the island. Set 002 is long term out of use; set 004 under repair; sets 006/007/008/009 used to run the half hourly services. In 2020-2021, the last of the 1938 stock is scheduled to be retired and replaced with surplus D Stock from the London Underground.

Photos By Location

Photo locations: Ryde Pier Head, Ryde Pier, Ryde Esplanade, Ryde Tunnel, Ryde St John's Road, Ryde Depot, Smallbrook Junction, Brading, Sandown Road, Sandown, Lake, Shanklin, Wroxall (closed 1966), Tunnel under St Boniface Down, Ventnor (closed 1966), Rolling Stock Interiors

Photo Gallery

Five Random Images

Image 10389

(103k, 960x654)
Photo by: Simon Billis
Location: Ryde Pier Head

Image 10390

(106k, 960x654)
Photo by: Simon Billis
Location: Ryde Pier Head

Image 10393

(113k, 960x654)
Photo by: Simon Billis
Location: Ryde Depot

Image 10397

(127k, 960x654)
Photo by: Simon Billis
Location: Sandown

Image 10404

(101k, 960x654)
Photo by: Simon Billis
Location: Ryde Esplanade

More Images: 1-24

Page Credits

By Rob Morel and Simon Billis.

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