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The Isle of Wight Steam Railway operates over 5.5 miles of standard gauge line, from Smallbrook Junction station to Wootton station, passing through the small village of Havenstreet where the line has a station, headquarters and depot.
At Smallbrook Junction the steam railway connects with the Island Line , which in turn connects to ferries and the mainland lines.
There are 4 stations and over its journey there is quite a lot of up and down gradient sections, providing some work for the trains and making them interesting to photograph.
A flavour of the line:-
At Smallbrook Junction, where this line joins the Island Line , with its underground like small trains, the steam trains start on a separate platform. As the train waits the Westinghouse Air Brake Pump on the locomotive can be clearly heard, providing compressed air to operate the brakes on the locomotive and coaches. The railways of the Isle of Wight retained the air brake system until the end of steam, while the majority of mainland railways adopted the vacuum brake system.
The engine works hard to pull the train up the gradient and around a sharp curve. As both gradient and curve begin to ease the railway enters woodland on both sides of the train. Out of the woods and into farmland, and over Calloways Crossing, this is the first of a number of similar occupation crossings provided to allow farmers access to their land and public rights of way to continue without interruption. These give photographers a good view of the line. Once over the crossing a pub, is prominent just before the train enters Long Arch Bridge, which carries the Ryde-Arreton road, 'The Downs Road', over the railway. For the engine the climb has really started now, the gradient, which is between 1 in 75-80, will not ease until the summit at Ashey is reached.
Passing under Deacons Lane Bridge the countryside opens out and Ashey and Brading Downs may be seen to the left. The large white monument visible on the top of Ashey Down was constructed as an aid to navigation for shipping around the Island. The 3¾ milepost is reached and very shortly afterwards the summit of the long climb from Smallbrook. Then dropping steeply towards Ashey Station.
Trains call by request at Ashey Station, it's rural location offers opportunities to photograph passing trains. The train continues its descent towards Havenstreet through open fields with views of the distant downs. The train rolls across Ashey Grounds foot crossing just before entering Rowlands Woods. On a steeply falling gradient the train slowing, the railway crosses the Ryde to Newport road and as the train enters Havenstreet Station.
Havenstreet is the Isle of Wight Steam Railway's focal point. The platform and station buildings incorporating the signal box were constructed by the Southern Railway in 1926, the station becoming the passing place for all trains between Ryde and Newport. Trains still pass here on high season days when a two train service is being operated. A water tower, brought from Newport Station in 1971, is located alongside the Up platform, all trains in the Smallbrook direction take water here before they depart. Here you will find a museum of Island Railway History containing many and varied artefacts from the past, including a collection of locomotive name and number plates. The Carriage and Wagon Workshop, constructed with Heritage Lottery Funding is also Located here, it has a viewing gallery which is accessed through the railway shop. Rolling stock details click HERE. Locomotive fleet details HERE.
The Mechanical Engineering Workshop, where the locomotive fleet is maintained, is located adjacent to the platform. Locomotives awaiting their next turn of duty are often to be seen standing on the 'Shed Roads', close to the coal stage.
The engine gets the train underway and immediately encounters a stiff 1 in 68 climb towards Briddlesford Bridge, which can be seen in the distance. As the train leaves Havenstreet an extensive array of sidings holding a variety of carriages, engineer's wagons and other vehicles awaiting restoration or repair can be seen. As the bridge is reached the gradient eases and the locomotive's regulator eased back for the long straight section through Briddlesford Copse, passing the Forest Crossing.
As the train bursts out of the copse, Woodhouse Crossing is encountered and once again the gradient begins to tighten as the section of line known as the Long Curve is traversed. The train rolls across Packsfield Crossing, the driver shutting off steam ready to stop at Wootton Station.
As the train drifts into the station a siding can be seen on the right hand side. The current Wootton Station was built on a new site in the 1970's and 80's by the volunteer workforce of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. The original station was located further west but its site had to be abandoned due to the unstable nature of the mainly clay ground, subsidence problems dogged this section of the railway throughout it's existence.
Having reached its final destination the train draws gently to a halt at the single platform, the engine drawing forward and then running around it's train before coupling up for the return journey to Havenstreet and Smallbrook Junction.
This is a shortened version of the text from the website, which also shows pictures along this journey over a number of pages. Their website is difficult to read being black on dark green, but if you click and drag your mouse over text it becomes easier to read.
Over each August Bank Holiday weekend, the railway organises the Island Steam Show, which combines an intensive service on the railway with displays of various sorts of steam power including traction engines and steam fair equipment, together with other attractions that vary year by year.
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