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Then and Now

The Isle of Wight 

1966 - 2016
A 50 Year Then and Now special 

The Isle of Wight operated steam locomotives until the end of December 1966. The rather elderly O2 class tank engines were used. Indeed one, W14 "Fishbourne" was the oldest operating steam engine on British Railways at the time.

I visited the Isle of Wight on a rather dismal November day in 1966. I went with my father and two school pals.

Almost 50 years later (49 years 11 months to the day!), I revisited the island to see and travel on the electric train service to Shanklin as well as the wonderful Isle of Wight Steam Railway. (Visit dates were 26 November 1966 and 26 October 2016)

O2 locomotive W24 Calbourne

One of the stars on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway is the sole surviving O2 tank engine no. W24 'Calbourne' seen above in 1966 and resplendent in 2016. 

Tickets from 1966 and 2016 visits

There are two surviving sections of railway on the island, the steam railway from Smallbrook Junction to Wootton (on the line to Newport) and the Island Line from Ryde to Shanklin. 

The latter line runs with former London Transport electric trains as part of South West Train's franchise. However there is discussion on the future of the line when the franchise expires in the near future.

Ryde Esplanade Station

The original electric trains were modern compared with the aging steam engines and coaches - but not exactly the state of the art. 

Former London Transport tube stock dating from 1923 was initially supplied in 1967 and these lasted until 1991. Most were scrapped but I understand one set of coaches is part of the London Transport Museum collection and are stored in the Action Depot in West London.

Their replacement were coaches from the LT 1938 stock and these still run today. There are six, two coach sets, all of which are operational except for one set which is stored for spare parts.

During the autumn of 1966, work had already started on the electrification work. This meant there was no train service from Ryde Pier Head although the Ryde Pier Tramway still operated. The tramway closed in 1969.

In 2016, the second running line, to the right (below), was no longer in use and the platform had lost it's canopy and is rather overgrown. Essentially, the line from here to the pier head was one long siding. 

Double track working started just south of the station at the start of Ryde Tunnel.

Ryde Esplanade station 1966 and 2016


Ryde Esplanade station 1966 and 2016

The pictures above show an unidentified O2 tank at Ryde Esplanade station. This was taken from the tramway platform, something not possible today, hence the 2016 shot taken from the platform. 

Ryde St Johns Road Station

This station is still the heart of the Isle of Wight railway system with the main engineering works based here.

The two pictures on the right show how things have changed over 50 years - or not. The signal box is still used and there are even semaphore signals around the station. The signal box looks smarter with new steps and replacement windows but still recognisable from the 1966 shot (which features O2 tank no. W16 'Ventnor').

Electric train at Ryde St Johns Road

Electric and steam trains at Ryde St Johns Road - 50 years apart

Ryde Motive Power Depot 

After the railways of the Isle of Wight had merged as part of the formation of the Southern Railway, the locomotive servicing and repair facilities were based at Ryde St Johnís Road.  

On the east side are the main engineering workshops. 

The buildings look unchanged (on the outside) but deal with the current electric stock rather than steam engines. 

The older building is Grade 2 listed by English Heritage.

Ryde locomotive works - 2016

On the west side of the station was a two road engine shed. This survived until the end of steam in 1966 and the site is now a car park.

Ryde MPD in 1966 and 2016

These two pictures show how the site has changed. As a point of reference, the building behind the white van on the left would appear to be the same as the one to the left of the yard lamp (above the truck).

The hand written reply to my father's letter to the shed manager requesting a visit.

Letter to/from Shed Manager, Ryde.

Although there was only a month left of steam operation, the shed was still a bustling place. The shed building itself was quite long and could house 8 tank engines on it's two lines.

The pictures below show W24 seen from the cab window of W33 inside the shed. The 2016 picture was taken from the cab of W24 at Haven Street station on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. 

Cab views 1966 & 2016

With thanks to the crew of 'Calbourne' for letting me on the cab to take the picture on my visit on 26th October 2016.

Site of Ryde MPD

The site of the Ryde MPD. The shed would have stood behind the South West Trains van, where the two lines of cars are whilst the coaling stage would have been where the white buildings are on the right.

The northbound station buildings are on the left. 

Lineup of electric trains (2016) and steam (1966)

Three of the electric trains line up at St Johns Road station (this happened quite by chance) during my 2016 visit whilst in 1966 W24 and W33 stand side by side inside the shed.

W24 and W27

50 years apart (almost). The pristine W24 'Calbourne' at Smallbrook Junction is 2016 and a work stained W27 'Merstone' at Ryde Esplanade in 1966.

Apart from visiting the sheds at Rude St Johns Road, we traveled on the steam train to Shanklin where my father took a group shot in Keats Gardens, overlooking the sea. 

From left to right, Steve Peters, Dave Tuggy and myself. Steve passed away in 1986 and I lost touch with Dave back in the 1970's. 

The 2016 picture is at the same location but I'm not sure the bench is original although the design is very similar.

Des Shepherd 50 years apart

Published 27 October 2016

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